Friday, November 26, 2021

Czechs and Slovaks target the unvaccinated with new restrictions

PRAGUE (AP) – On Thursday, the governments of the Czech Republic and Slovakia approved new coronavirus restrictions that will take effect next week and target unvaccinated people amid record spikes in infections in both neighboring countries.

Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtech said that most unvaccinated people will no longer be allowed to show negative coronavirus tests to attend public events, bars and restaurants, visit hairdressers, museums and similar facilities, or use hotels.

Only people who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 will be eligible to participate. The exception is adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18, people whose health conditions do not allow vaccination, and people who have been partially vaccinated.

Vojtech said the aim of the measures, which will take effect on Monday, is to motivate people to get vaccinated. The measures will be in effect until the end of February.

Prime Minister Andrei Babis said his government was inspired by similar measures introduced in the German state of Bavaria.

“The situation is serious and we again urge everyone to get vaccinated,” Babis said.

A negative test will be sufficient for visitors to hospitals and nursing homes.

In addition, the government is introducing mandatory testing for unvaccinated employees of all companies once a week. Those who are over 60 and have been vaccinated will also need to be screened.

At the same time, testing in primary and secondary schools, which was supposed to end on November 29, will continue.

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The announcement came after the Czech Republic’s daily case count rose to 22,511 new cases on Tuesday, surpassing the previous record set on January 7 by nearly 5,000 and nearly 8,000 more than a week earlier. The country’s infection rate rose to 819 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past seven days, up from 558 a week earlier.

In Slovakia, those who have not been vaccinated will be banned from visiting all non-essential stores and shopping centers starting Monday.

They will not be allowed to attend any public events and meetings and will have to take tests twice a week to go to work.

Fitness and health centers, restaurants and hotels will be closed for all only in the most affected regions of the country.

Prime Minister Eduard Heger called the measures “a closure for the unvaccinated.” They should be in effect within three weeks, but “we will respond immediately if we see the restrictions are not effective,” Heger said.

Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million people, reported 8,342 new cases of the virus on Tuesday, surpassing the previous record of 7,244 set on Friday.

Heger said Thursday that some of the country’s hospitals are already overwhelmed.

In both the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the vaccination rate is below the average for the 27 countries of the European Union.

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

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