Portugal orders masks for busy outdoor areas as COVID spikes

LISBON (Reuters) - Face masks will have to be worn in crowded outdoor areas across Portugal, parliament decided on Friday, in a scramble to contain the surge in coronavirus cases.

FILE PHOTO: People cross a street at a traffic light during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in downtown Lisbon, Portugal October 9, 2020. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

The measure, valid for at least 70 days, orders residents aged 10 or over to wear masks outside whenever physical distancing cannot be guaranteed.

“It should have happened a long time ago, more than six months ago,” taxi driver Antonio Jose, 68, said, wearing a mask as he waited for his next customer. “It’s not too late.”

Most European nations are increasing restrictions to tackle a second wave of the COVID-19 disease.

“It is good to follow in the footsteps of other countries in Europe to try to kill this bug,” said 28-year-old Ulrich, from Belgium but living in Portugal.

Some Lisbon residents were not convinced all people will follow the new rule and said wearing masks inside public spaces and shops was more than enough.

“People want to show their faces, they want to breathe,” said Venezuelan migrant Francisco, 38, who moved to Portugal more than a decade ago.

Rule-breaking citizens risk a fine of between 100 and 500 euros ($592.00).

Portugal, with just over 10 million people, has recorded a comparatively low 109,541 cases and 2,245 deaths.

But on Thursday, it registered 3,270 cases, the highest daily figure since the pandemic started, although testing has also increased. Most of the new cases are concentrated in the northern region and in and around the capital Lisbon.

($1 = 0.8446 euros)

Reporting by Sergio Goncalves, Catarina Demony and Miguel Pereira; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne