Slovakia approves 2-week nationwide lockdown infection surge

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The Slovak government has approved a two-week national lockdown amid a record surge of coronavirus infections

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Prime Minister Eduard Hager said the measures, which take effect on Friday, would target everyone – both unvaccinated and vaccinated.

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Under the lockdown, people can only come out of their homes for certain reasons. These include buying essentials, going to work and school, or getting vaccinated.

Unvaccinated people will need to get tested in order to go to work if they have not recovered from COVID-19.

Hager called the measure “inevitable.” Its success “will depend on every single citizen,” he said.

Economy Minister Richard Sulick said his Freedom and Solidarity party, a member of the four-party ruling coalition, vetoed a proposal to close most schools. But it was agreed that regular screening of school children and students would be done.

They will also have to wear face coverings in schools.

Also, 1,000 service members a day will help the health sector struggling to cope with the pandemic, the government announced on Wednesday.

Thursday’s announcement comes after Slovakia set another record for coronavirus infections.

The health ministry said daily infections crossed 10,000 for the first time, with 10,315 testing positive on Tuesday. This is 1,000 more than the previous record set on Friday.

The country of 5.5 million is facing the worst growth in the world, with 13,080 infections per 10 lakh people in the past seven days, according to Our World in Data.

The government was considering a two- or three-week national lockdown supported by President Zuzana Caputova, who called it “inevitable”. Details should be announced later on Wednesday.

“We are losing the battle against COVID,” Caputova said on Tuesday.

Jan Mikas, the top government official leading the country’s response to the pandemic, said on Wednesday that the new restrictions should affect everyone – the unvaccinated and the vaccinated.

“The only solution is to restrict movement,” Mikas said.

On Monday, Slovakia imposed new restrictions targeting those already unaffiliated, who have been banned from all non-essential shops and shopping malls. They are not allowed to attend any public program or gathering.

With 3,200 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, which is well above the 3,000-bed level considered critical by Slovakia’s health ministry, the country may be forced to seek help from other European countries.

Health Minister Vladimir Langvarsky said the capacity of hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients would be increased to 150 beds over the next two days. The ministry said that about 83% of the patients have not been fully vaccinated.

At 45.7%, Slovakia’s vaccination rate is among the lowest in the European Union.

Overall, Slovakia has recorded 631,738 virus cases, with 14,056 deaths.

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