Portugal is currently experiencing a rapid increase in the number of infections. Nevertheless, a new head of state will be elected on Sunday.
MADRID taz | Portugal is going through the worst phase of the Covid-19 pandemic since the outbreak in spring these days – but despite the lockdown, the country will elect a new head of state on Sunday. Many would have preferred to cancel the campaign and the polls, but the Portuguese constitution does not allow postponement. And the constitution cannot be changed under the current state of emergency.
Therefore, on Sunday, the lockdown regulations, which have been in effect again for a week, will be relaxed to allow the polls to be held. In addition, the electoral law was changed, making it easier to vote early last weekend. However, voter turnout is expected to be more than weak.
The current President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa is way ahead in the polls. All pollsters predict an absolute majority of up to almost 60 percent for the popular 72-year-old conservative professor. Among the other six candidates, socialist Ana Gomes and right-wing extremist André Ventura have caught up in the last few days. But it is unlikely that there will be a second round of voting.
Apart from the easing for the election, there have been tightened restrictions on freedom of movement for citizens since Friday. The government under the socialist Antonio Costas had decided to close schools, universities and day-care centers for two weeks. She justifies the closure with the rapid increase in new infections. This is partly due to the British variant of the virus, which is already responsible for one in eight infections.
The situation has deteriorated rapidly since Christmas
For a week now, the Portuguese have only been allowed to leave their homes for important reasons such as work, a doctor’s visit or shopping. Home office is compulsory, if possible. Restaurants and shops remain closed. The only exceptions are pharmacies and shops with products for daily basic needs.
The situation in the country has deteriorated rapidly since Christmas. With around ten million inhabitants, around 14,000 new infections are currently reported every day. In the past two weeks, there have been 1,215 cases per 100,000 population in Portugal, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Portugal, which previously got through the pandemic relatively lightly, is now one of the worst hit countries. For comparison: In Austria, 299 cases per 100,000 inhabitants were reported in the last 14 days; in Germany 319.
In total, the Portuguese authorities have counted almost 600,000 Covid infections and 9,686 deaths so far. There were 221 new deaths on Thursday alone. 702 Covid patients are in the intensive care unit. The authorities have so far repeatedly emphasized that anything over 500 intensive care patients from the health system can only be dealt with with great difficulty.