Portugal said on Saturday it only had seven vacant beds left in intensive care units (ICUs) set up for COVID-19 cases on its mainland.

Health authorities said that, out of 850 ICU beds allocated to COVID-19 cases on its mainland, a record 843 beds were now occupied. The country has an additional 420 ICU beds for those with other ailments.

On Friday, the justice ministry said its institute of forensic medicine had requested a refrigerator truck to preserve bodies, as funeral homes were not able to take them fast enough.

Portugal has so far reported a total of 711,018 coronavirus infections and 12,179 deaths. A recent surge in infections prompted the authorities to send some critical patients to the Portuguese island of Madeira on Friday, where the health system is under less pressure.

The government has attributed the surge in infections to a decision to relax restrictions over the Christmas period. It has also blamed the speed at which infections have spread on a new variant first detected in Britain. Authorities said the variant was likely to account for 65% of new COVID-19 cases within three weeks.

Meanwhile, the country has extended a lockdown to mid-February and imposed strict travel restrictions.


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