June 9, 2020 / 3:55 PM / 2 months ago

Localised coronavirus outbreaks in Lisbon worry authorities

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal has been hailed as a success story in its fight against the coronavirus, but localised outbreaks in poorer neighbourhoods and industrial hubs on Lisbon’s outskirts have kept cases at a worrying plateau for the past month.

FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective masks wait at a bus stop, as the country eases the lockdown due to the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Cais do Sodre station in Lisbon, Portugal May 4, 2020. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante/File Photo

The country, which has reported a total of 35,306 cases and 1,429 deaths from the coronavirus, began lifting its lockdown on May 4.

But as Lisbon’s toll refused to fall, the government ramped up testing in the region over the past week on workers in construction and part-time jobs, deemed risky industries for contagion.

A total of 14,000 tests were conducted on asymptomatic people, health authorities said on Tuesday. Of the 12,000 tests back so far, 4.5% were positive.

Next, the government plans on honing in on positive cases by providing space for self-isolation and close monitoring, though no details have been released on how this will work.

“The density of housing and workspaces means more contagion,” head of health directorate DGS Graca Freitas said.

Secretary of state Antonio Sales said it was now the most vulnerable in society who are most exposed to the virus.

Still, in Loures, a municipality within Greater Lisbon with one of the highest concentrations of outbreaks, residents felt they had seen little of the promises made by authorities pan out on the ground.

“At the beginning the police came to tell us to keep apart but they stopped. I’ve not seen or heard of any testing here,” 20-year-old Eduarda Mendes.

She lives in a run-down neighbourhood but worked in a hotel in the city centre before she lost her job because of the pandemic.

“It feels like in the rich areas they are always watching but in the poorer areas the attitude is ‘it’s on you’,” she said.

Reporting by Victoria Waldersee and Catarina Demony; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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