Portugal extends COVID-19 lockdown

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Portugal has extended a lockdown until March 1 or perhaps later to tackle its worst surge of COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began.

"The situation is still extremely serious and requires these measures to be extended not just until the end of February but probably until the end of March," Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on Thursday. "It's not the time to discuss the end of lockdown."

The country of just more than 10 million fared better than other nations in Europe in the first wave of the pandemic, but 2021 brought a devastating surge, partly due to the rapid spread of the British variant of the virus and easing of restrictions over Christmas.

Nearly 14,900 people have died of COVID-19, with cumulative infections at 778,369.

Although daily infections and deaths have been decreasing this month, an understaffed and under-resourced health service is still struggling to treat about 6400 COVID-19 patients in hospitals and intensive care units.

On January 15, Portugal shut non-essential services and schools, and made remote work compulsory where possible, its second lockdown since the initial outbreak in March-April 2020.