PRAGUE (AP) – Slovakia on Monday extended stringent coronavirus restrictions, including the closure of hotels, bars and restaurants, to nearly half of the country amid a record surge in infections.
The government is expected to discuss additional measures as the country’s health minister joined medical staff treating COVID-19 patients and urged Slovaks to get vaccinated.
“Only vaccination can help us overcome the pandemic,” said Health Minister Vladimir Lengvarsky.
These measures will affect 36 out of 79 districts of the country. Indicative of how quickly infections are spreading, only five counties introduced measures three weeks ago, and another five a week later.
In addition to closing hotels, bars and restaurants, people will only be allowed to buy take-out food. Fitness, health and water centers are also closed.
The maximum number of people allowed in public gatherings has been reduced to 100 fully vaccinated people. Face masks are a must indoors and outdoors.
Slovakia, with a population of nearly 5.5 million, is one of the European Union countries hardest hit by the pandemic. There were about 457,431 cases and 12,917 deaths.
The daily infections set three new records in the past week, with the most recent of 6,805 cases set on Thursday.
A government advisory group of health experts has proposed new restrictions, such as restricting the movement of the unvaccinated, in an attempt to stave off a potential collapse of the health care system.
About 80% of the 2,108 people currently in need of hospitalization in Slovakia were either partially vaccinated or not vaccinated at all. Many hospitals have started treating only COVID-19 patients.
Slovakia has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the EU. Fewer than half, or 2.41 million, are fully vaccinated.
“Vaccination could prevent most deaths,” says a petition signed by some 1,300 medical workers and the health minister. “Amid fears that the worst is yet to come, we ask you to get vaccinated.”
Follow all AP stories about the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic