Wed, 27 Jan 2021

LISBON, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced on Wednesday a new period of general confinement as a measure to stem the exponential growth in COVID-19 infections in recent days.

With the start of the new "state of emergency" starting on Jan. 15, the prime minister noted that "the rule is to stay in a home-based retreat," as it happened in March and April 2020 early in the pandemic.

"The only relevant new exception" is that schools will remain "in full working order," Costa announced in an official statement.

Only trips to purchase essential goods and services, professional activities that cannot be performed at a distance and brief physical activities, as well as assistance to family members will be allowed.

Costa pledged that the government will provide financial assistance to companies and their employees for closing their activities during the state of emergency, which lasts 15 days and should be renewed for the same period.

Restaurants and the like may operate exclusively for home delivery or take-away, while fairs, food markets and supermarkets are allowed to operate without time restrictions.

This is the ninth state of emergency decree since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the highest civil protection classification in Portugal, allowing the suspension of rights, freedoms and guarantees.

Portugal registered 10,556 cases of infection with the new coronavirus in the last 24 hours, the highest daily figure since the beginning of the pandemic, bringing the total to 507,108. An additional 156 deaths were also reported, taking the toll to 8,326.

According the health authorities, more than 75,000 people have been vaccinated since the start of the vaccination campaign on Dec. 27.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in some countries with the already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, 236 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide -- 63 of them in clinical trials -- in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain and the United States, according to information released by WHO on Tuesday.

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