Bratislava, Slovakia – Slovakia has gone into a state of partial lockdown on Saturday as authorities kick-start a nationwide campaign to test its entire population for COVID-19.
As part of the measures announced by Prime Minister Igor Matovic last week, most of the schools in Slovakia have been closed until at least November 27, except for kindergartens and first-level pupils of elementary schools.
The population has also been ordered to respect a curfew and stay at home with a few exceptions: going to work or to the doctor, essential shopping or trips in the nature, taking care of a loved one. Other exemptions include going to the post office, the bank or the petrol station.
The lockdown should remain in place until at least November 1.
Tougher restrictions apply to the hardest-hit districts, including Bardejov (Presov region) and Namestovo (Zilina).
“This is the last way to avoid a total lockdown that many other countries have gone for”, PM Matovic warned. “This wave that has arrived is 100 times bigger than the first one”.
Slovakia was one of the best-performing countries during the first wave of COVID-19 in the spring, with infection and death rates among the lowest in Europe due to a strict and early lockdown. The Central European country of 5.5 million people has however seen the number of new cases rapidly increase over the past two months.
Slovakia has already declared a state of emergency at the start of the month, and introduced restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, including the mandatory wearing of face-masks outdoors, a ban on public events and on indoor drinking and eating in restaurants, bars and cafes.
In order to avoid a full lockdown, Slovak authorities also plan to test the country’s entire population above the age of 10 for COVID-19. Pilot testings already took place at two of the most severely affected districts, and will be held nationwide during the next two week-ends.
People going out to get tested are evidently exempted from the recent lockdown restrictions.
As of Sunday, Slovakia had the eight highest rate of new COVID-19 infections in the EU, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Authorities have warned that the country could soon follow in the footsteps of neighbouring Czech Republic, the hardest-hit country in Europe at the moment, if strict measures were not put in place quickly.