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Portugal to ban domestic travel, closing schools around national holidays

LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal must ban domestic travel and close schools around two upcoming holidays in an effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus before Christmas, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on Saturday.

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective mask talks to a tram driver during the coronavirus outbreak in central Lisbon, Portugal, on October 31, 2020. REUTERS / Rafael Marchante / File Photo

Travel between municipalities will be prohibited from kl. 23 on 27 November to kl. 5 on December 2 and then again from kl. 23 on the 4th to kl. 5 on 9 December to prevent movement around national holidays on 1

December and 8 December.

Schools close Mondays before both holidays, while businesses have to close early. Employers are encouraged to give workers time off to minimize travel activity.

“We still have a very large number of cases that are a threat to our health,” Costa told a news conference. “We must continue to not only halt this growth rate, but invert it.”

Masks that are already mandatory in public and enclosed commercial spaces are now also mandatory in the workplace, Costa said. Control is increased to ensure that those who can work externally.

An exit ban and interruption of the weekend after kl. 13 in 191 municipalities since November 9 will continue in 174 municipalities with particularly high infection rates for another two weeks.

Portugal reported 62 deaths and 6,472 coronavirus cases on Saturday, mostly in the northern country, bringing the total infections to 255,970 cases with 3,824 deaths.

The number of cases has increased markedly since the end of September, with average daily rates rising from around 300 in the summer to 6,000 in recent weeks despite tests only tripling, data from the Ministry of Health show.

The country with about 10 million people ranks seventh in Europe for the number of cumulative cases per capita. 100,000 people and 14th for the number of new deaths, according to figures from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

(This story corrects a wrong advisory line for compliance with the last paragraph, making it clear that Portugal is seventh in Europe for cases and 14th for deaths)

Reporting by Victoria Waldersee; Edited by Kevin Liffey

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