4th Mar 2021


Portugal and Spain under pressure with huge Covid spike

  • Portugal is seeing coronavirus patients queuing for beds to become available in some hospitals (Photo: Slinky2000)

Portugal and Spain are struggling to control a massive surge in new coronavirus cases, amid fears over vaccines delays and fast-spreading Covid-19 mutations.

The worsening epidemiological situation triggered the Portugese government to close the border with Spain for two weeks on Thursday (28 January).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

With more than 668,900 confirmed cases and 11,305 deaths, including a record 293 dead on Wednesday, Portugal is seeing coronavirus patients queuing for beds to become available in some hospitals.

The situation is not "bad", it is "terrible," said Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa as the country registered the world's highest seven-day incidence of new daily cases and deaths per million inhabitants.

"There's no point in feeding the illusion that we are not facing the worst moment. And we will face this worst moment for a few more weeks, that is for sure," he added.

Portugal is going through its worst moment since the beginning of the pandemic, but experts have said that the new surge of cases will peak only in mid-February - increasing concerns over the potential collapse of the country's health system, the Associated Press reported.

Costa has acknowledged that the situation had worsened partly because restrictions were relaxed during the Christmas holidays, but also due to the spread of the new more transmissible variants of the coronavirus - first detected in the UK, Brazil and South Africa.

"There were certainly errors: often the way I transmitted the message to the Portuguese… and, when the recipient of the message did not understand the message, then it is the messenger's fault, I have no doubt about it," he admitted.

Flights to and from the UK were banned last weekend, while air travelling to and from Brazil will be forbidden as from Saturday.

Earlier this month, Portugal announced a nationwide lockdown and state of emergency from 15 to 30 January, in which people are obliged to stay at home except to obtain essential goods and work, only if teleworking is not possible.

However, the stay-at-home order was lifted last Sunday to allow people's participation in Portugal's presidential elections.


Meanwhile, coronavirus hospital admissions in Spain fell on Wednesday while the country registered 591 new fatalities - the highest number of deaths since April.

During the last two weeks, more than 420,000 people have tested positive - of which some 30,810 people are being treated at the hospital.

As a result, 24 percent of all Spain's hospital beds and 42 percent of all intensive care units are being used just by coronavirus patients.

"The enormous effort of spring 2020 has been wasted. Basic lessons were not learned," Miguel Hernán, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard University, told Spanish newspaper El País.

Health authorities have refused so far to impose a lockdown, although many regions have put forward strict restrictions to curb the surge of coronavirus cases.

Moreover, Spanish chief epidemiologist Fernando Simon has warned that the UK mutation will become the dominant strain in Spain in the next four to six weeks.


Italy and Spain: worst - or just first?

Italy and Spain, the most-affected countries in the EU, have tightened their response to the coronavirus outbreak - as the pair together now account for more than half of the world's death toll.


First Covid, now McKinsey - how austerity hit EU healthcare

The marketisation of health and long-term care, the push for Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), and the public spending cuts encouraged by EU economic governance processes all contributed to the increased commercialisation, privatisation, and reduction of health and long-term care services.

Revealed: Hit to EU mental health services during Covid-19

The pandemic has both hampered access to mental health services, while increasing demand for psychological support, particularly in countries with the most severe coronavirus lockdowns. Meanwhile, experts warn that 'teletherapy' is not a universal fix.

EU to propose Covid-free 'travel pass' ahead of summer

The European Commission is set to unveil a legislative proposal on a "digital green pass" to allow vaccinated people to travel more freely for the summer. But Belgium says the pass risks discrimination against people unable to get the jab.

News in Brief

  1. EU regulator reviewing Russia's Covid-19 vaccine data
  2. Northern Irish paramilitaries pressure UK and EU on Brexit
  3. Man injures 8 people with axe in Sweden in possible terrorist act
  4. France bans far-right vigilante group
  5. EU dismayed as Lukashenko jails doctor over his diagnosis
  6. Brussels proposes EU-wide 'disabled status' card by 2023
  7. Czechs seek outside help to treat Covid-19 patients
  8. German intelligence to spy on far-right AfD party


Together Europe can beat pandemics, Alzheimer's, cancer

Let's expand the EU with a Health Union where cutting edge research and world-class applications go hand in hand. For this, it is worth being European, believing in Europe, working on Europe, writes European People's Party leader Manfred Weber MEP.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  3. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!

Latest News

  1. Austrian ex-minister joins list of EU's pro-Kremlin lobbyists
  2. Internal Frontex probe to deliver final report this week
  3. Relief in EPP group, as Orbán's party finally leaves
  4. EU capitals water down MEPs' ambition in climate law
  5. The EU's perverse agenda in Bosnia
  6. US joins EU sanctions on Russia in show of unity
  7. EU needs to 'raise price' for attacking democracy, MEPs say
  8. EU Parliament to hold Frontex probe behind closed doors

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us