Highly Vaccinated Portugal Relaxes Rules on Isolation for Those With Booster Shots

Portugal, which boasts one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the world, announced Thursday that people who have received booster shots will be able to follow relaxed isolation rules when exposed to the virus.

The eased measure is among a handful of incentives the nation's government is providing to people with the extra dose to entice residents to get the shot.

Vaccine uptake in Portugal is traditionally high, and the COVID-19 shot is no exception. About 89 percent of the country's population of 10.3 million people has been fully vaccinated against the virus, Prime Minister António Costa said, and around three million have received their booster shots.

Under the new rules announced by Portugal's government, which are slated to take effect next week, people who have their booster doses will only have to quarantine if they live with someone who contracts the virus. This will allow about 270,000 of the roughly 400,000 people who are currently isolated to leave their residences when the measures take effect, Costa said.

Costa said that people who received their booster shot at least two weeks before next Monday will no longer be mandated to present a negative COVID-19 test in order to attend events and enter places where the requirement is in effect. Another requirement that people isolate when a fellow employee or school colleague contracts the virus, which had compelled workers and full school classes to remain at home, will also be rescinded for people with the booster.

"This is an incentive...to get a booster," Costa said.

Portugal Booster Measures
Portugal, which boasts one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the world, announced Thursday that people who have received booster shots will be able to follow relaxed isolation rules when exposed to the virus. Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa briefs the press to announce new mitigation measures at the end of the Council of Ministers meeting in Palacio Nacional da Ajuda during the COVID-19 pandemic on December 21, 2021, in Lisbon, Portugal. Horacio Villalobos/Corbis via Getty Images

The change addresses the problems of company staff shortages and turmoil at schools witnessed across Europe in recent times as the Omicron variant has spread and infected record numbers of people.

Negative tests will still be required for everyone arriving in Portugal by plane, Costa said, and mandatory working from home is extended from January 9 to 14.

The government is awaiting an assessment it has requested from the attorney general's office about what changes might be made to voting procedures for a general election scheduled for January 30, Costa said.

With the Omicron surge expected to continue at least into next week, potentially hundreds of thousands of voters could be in home confinement at the end of the month, and authorities are searching for ways of holding the ballot.

Detailed electoral laws govern the vote and they can be changed only by parliament, which has already been dissolved.

New daily cases hit a record of almost 40,000 on Wednesday, but hospitalizations have remained much lower than in previous surges. Portugal has been recording on average fewer than 20 deaths a day in recent weeks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Portugal Booster Shots
Vaccine uptake in Portugal is traditionally high, and the COVID-19 shot is no exception. A mask-clad health technician administers a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to a resident on December 1, 2021, in Lisbon, Portugal. Horacio Villalobos/Corbis via Getty Images