Slovaks expand restrictions, plan more amid record surge

Slovakia has expanded strict coronavirus restrictions to nearly half of the country amid a record surge of infections

“Only vaccination can take us through the pandemic,” Health Minister Vladimir Lengvarsky said.

The measures will affect 36 of the country’s 79 counties. Indicative of how fast infections are spreading, only five counties had imposed the measures three weeks ago, and another five a week later.

On top of the hotel, bar and restaurant closures, people will be allowed to only buy takeout meals. Fitness, wellness and aquatic centers also have been shuttered.

The maximum number allowed at public gatherings has been reduced to 100 fully vaccinated people. Face masks are compulsory indoors and outdoors.

Slovakia, which has a population of nearly 5.5 million people, is one of the countries in the European Union that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. It has registered around 457,431 cases and 12,917 deaths.

Daily infections have set three new records within last week, with the most recent of 6,805 cases being set on Thursday.

The government’s advisory group of health experts has proposed new restrictions such as limits on the movements of the unvaccinated in a bid to forestall a potential collapse of the health system.

About 80% of the 2,108 people who currently need hospitalization in Slovakia were either partially vaccinated or haven’t received a shot at all. Many hospitals have started to only treat COVID-19 patients.

Slovakia has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the EU. Less than half, or 2.41 million people, have been fully vaccinated.

“The vaccination could have prevented most of the deaths,” a petition signed by some 1,300 medical personnel and the health minister said. “Amid worries that the worst is yet to come, we are asking you to get vaccinated.”

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Follow all AP stories on the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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