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Slovakia approves 2-week nationwide lockdown infection surge

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 24, 2021

Associated Press

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s government on Wednesday approved a two-week national lockdown amid a record surge of coronavirus infections.

Prime Minister Eduard Heger said the measures that take effect Friday will target all — both unvaccinated and vaccinated.

Under the lockdown, people can leave their homes only for some specific reasons. These include buying essential goods, traveling to work and school or to get vaccinated.

The unvaccinated will be required to get tested to go to work if they have not recovered from COVID-19.

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

Economy Minister Richard Sulik said his Freedom and Solidarity party, a member of the four-party ruling coalition, vetoed a proposal to close most schools. But it agreed that schoolchildren and students will be tested on a regular basis.

They will also be required to wear face coverings at schools.

Also, up to 1,000 service members a day will be helping the struggling health sector to deal with the pandemic, the government announced Wednesday.

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

The Health Ministry said daily infections surpassed 10,000 for the first time, with 10,315 testing positive on Tuesday. That’s over 1,000 more than the previous record registered Friday.

With 13,080 infections in the last seven days per 1 million people, the nation of 5.5 million is facing the worst surge in the world, according to Our World In Data.

The government was mulling a two- or three-week national lockdown that is supported by President Zuzana Caputova, who called it “unavoidable.” The details should be announced later Wednesday.

“We’re losing the battle against COVID,” Caputova said Tuesday.

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

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

On Monday, Slovakia already imposed new restrictions targeting the unvaccinated, who are banned from all nonessential stores and shopping malls. They’re also not allowed to attend any public events or gatherings.

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 might be forced to seek help from other European countries.

Health Minister Vladimir Lengvarsky said the capacity of hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients will be increased by 150 beds over the next two days. The ministry said almost 83% of the patients haven’t been fully vaccinated.

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

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

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