Portugal's health minister on Wednesday predicted the Omicron variant would trigger a record number of infections in the coming days as authorities reported nearly 9,000 new cases, the highest since early February and up from 5,754 the previous day, APA reports quoting Reuters.
Although the country has one of the world's highest rates of COVID-19 vaccination with around 87% of its 10 million population fully inoculated, daily infections have returned to levels last seen when Portugal faced its worst wave of the illness in the first two months of the year.
"We will most likely reach an (all-time) record number of cases in the coming days," Health Minister Marta Temido said in an interview with TVI television.
Portugal reported a record 16,432 cases in late January when the public system was on the verge of collapse.
Deaths and hospitalisations are far below levels then suffered. There are 909 people with COVID-19 in hospital compared to a peak of 6,869 patients on Feb. 1.
The 14-day infection rate has more than doubled in the last month to reach 579 per 100,000 people on Wednesday, official data showed. About half of the new coronavirus cases in Portugal are from the Omicron variant.
To limit the spread in the run-up to the holiday season, the government announced new curbs on Tuesday, ordering nightclubs and bars to shut and telling people to work from home for at least two weeks starting on Christmas Day.