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Portugal to vaccinate 1.7 million in two weeks as COVID infections rise

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A medical worker receives the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at Santa Maria hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, December 28, 2020. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes/File Photo
A person wearing a protective mask walks in Lisbon downtown amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Lisbon, Portugal, June 24, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes/File Photo

Portugal said on Saturday (3 July) it hoped to vaccinate a further 1.7 million people against COVID-19 over the next two weeks as authorities scramble to contain a surge in infections caused by the more contagious Delta variant, writes Catarina Demony, Reuters.

Cases in Portugal, a nation of just over 10 million, jumped by 2,605 on Saturday, the biggest increase since Feb. 13., taking the total cases since the pandemic began to 887,047.

New cases are being reported mostly among unvaccinated younger people so daily coronavirus deaths, currently in single digits, remain well below levels in February, when the country was still under lockdown after January's second wave.

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Portugal has fully vaccinated around 35% of its population, and those aged 18 to 29 can start booking vaccination appointments on Sunday.

In a statement, the vaccination taskforce said it would use all installed capacity to vaccinate 850,000 people per week over the next 14 days to "protect the population as fast as possible" due to the "rapid spread" of the Delta variant.

Around 70% of cases in Portugal are of the Delta variant, which was first identified in India but has led to a wave of new infections worldwide. The variant is sweeping across the country, with the Lisbon region and tourist magnet Algarve being the most affected.

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The speed-up of the vaccination rollout could lead to longer queues outside vaccination centres, the taskforce said.

The national health institute, Ricardo Jorge, said in a report the variant was putting increasing pressure on the health system. More than 500 COVID-19 patients are in hospital.

A night-time curfew came into force on Friday evening in 45 municipalities including Lisbon, Porto and Albufeira, and restaurants and non-food shops must close earlier at the weekend in some areas. Read more.

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HERA: First step towards the establishment of EU FAB, a network of ever-warm production capacities

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The Commission has published the Prior Information Notice, which provides vaccine and therapeutics manufacturers with preliminary information about the EU FAB call for competition, planned for early 2022. The objective of EU FAB is to create a network of ‘ever-warm' production capacities for vaccine and medicine manufacturing that can be activated in case of future crises. EU FAB will cover multiple vaccine and therapeutic technologies. To be operational at all times, the participating production sites are expected to ensure availability of qualified staff, clear operational processes and quality controls, allowing the EU to be better prepared and respond to future health threats. EU FAB will be able to quickly and easily activate its network of manufacturing capacities to meet demand for vaccines and/or therapeutics needs, until the market has scaled up production capacities. EU FAB will form a key component of the industrial dimension of the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), as announced in the Communication Introducing HERA, the next step towards completing the European Health Union, on 16 September. The Prior Information Notice on the EU FAB is available here.

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Commission approves €1.8 million Latvian scheme to support cattle farmers affected by the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €1.8 million Latvian scheme to support farmers active in the cattle-breeding sector affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework. Under the scheme, the aid will take the form of direct grants. The measure aims at mitigating the liquidity shortages that the beneficiaries are facing and at addressing part of the losses they incurred due to the coronavirus outbreak and the restrictive measures that the Latvian government had to implement to limit the spread of the virus. The Commission found that the scheme is in line with the conditions of the Temporary Framework.

In particular, the aid (i) will not exceed €225,000 per beneficiary; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021. The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the scheme under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.64541 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Commission approves €500,000 Portuguese scheme to further support the passenger transport sector in Azores in the context of the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €500,000 Portuguese scheme to further support the passenger transport sector in the Region of the Azores in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The measure was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework. It follows another Portuguese scheme to support the passenger transport sector in Azores that the Commission approved on 4 June 2021 (SA.63010). Under the new scheme, the aid will take the form of direct grants. The measure will be open to collective passenger transport companies of all sizes active in the Azores. The purpose of the measure is to mitigate the sudden liquidity shortages that these companies are facing and to address losses incurred over 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak and the restrictive measures that the government had to implement to limit the spread of the virus.

The Commission found that the Portuguese scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the aid (i) will not exceed €1.8 million per company; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021. The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions of the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.64599 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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