Portuguese health chief sees daily COVID-19 cases doubling at Christmas

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A staff member cleans a chair as preparations are underway for the opening of the biggest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination center in Lisbon, Portugal, November 30, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes//File Photo

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LISBON, Dec 2 (Reuters) - The wave of coronavirus infections in Portugal is expected to worsen and new daily cases could double to around 9,000 during the Christmas period, the health authority DGS chief Graca Freitas told broadcaster RTP.

The country of just over 10 million reported a total of 4,670 new infections on Wednesday, the highest daily jump since the beginning of February, when it faced its toughest battle against the virus.

However, Freitas said vaccination levels - among the highest in the world at around 87% of the population - should mean hospitalisations and deaths remain far below levels seen during previous waves of the pandemic, particularly in February.

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"It is very different to have new cases than to have lethal cases," she said late on Wednesday, even though increased movement over the Christmas period could mean a surge in infection rates.

Already in response to the rise in cases and the new Omicron variant, Portugal on Wednesday reimposed some restrictions. read more

Prime Minister Antonio Costa also said the government would increase restrictions further if needed to control COVID-19 cases. read more

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Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; editing by Barbara Lewis

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