Portugal asks European partners for Covid vaccines

Government aims to vaccinate 70% of population by end of August

LISBON, PORTUGAL - APRIL 17: People wearing protective masks walk past piled up restaurant tables and chairs on a sunny afternoon in Rua Augusta during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic on April 17, 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal. According to updated data from the General Direction of Health (DGS) Portugal confirmed a total of 829,911 infections and 16,937 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. The government has relaxed confinement measures and renewed the country's state of emergency until April 30. (Photo by Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

Portugal has asked its European partners for coronavirus vaccines to help hasten its inoculation campaign, Health Minister Marta Temido said on Tuesday.

Lisbon "has made a huge effort" to receive more vaccines, Ms Temido said after a meeting of experts to review the health situation.

About 45 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, with the government aiming for 70 per cent by the end of August.

Portugal hopes to receive nearly a million doses in the next three weeks, said Henrique Gouveia e Melo, the co-ordinator of the national vaccination programme.

The country has already received about 290,000 doses from Norway and is negotiating with Italy for another 300,000.

On Tuesday it received 200,000 AstraZeneca doses from Hungary, which are intended for Portuguese-speaking African countries and East Timor.

The assistance shows the "spirit of European co-operation", said Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva, alongside his Hungarian peer Peter Szijjarto.

The Portuguese government is waiting for approval from health authorities to push ahead with plans to vaccinate 12-17 year olds before the start of the school year.

"Vaccination of children is essential. Without it there will be a peak in new cases" in the autumn, epidemiologist Henrique de Barros said at the meeting.

Some of the scientific experts consulted on Tuesday said the country should be close to the peak of the latest wave.

They called for a change in restrictions depending on the vaccination rate.

About 6.5 million people in the country of 10 million have already received one vaccine dose and 4.5 million are fully vaccinated.

Portugal has been hit for several weeks by a surge in new infections because of the Delta variant, which now accounts for more than 98 per cent of cases.

To try to contain the epidemic, the government has extended the use of a "health pass" restricting access to hotels and restaurants for the unvaccinated, and instituted a night-time curfew in the most affected areas.

Updated: July 27th 2021, 8:18 PM