Czechs and vulnerable Slovaks targeted with new restrictions
Prague The Czech and Slovak governments on Thursday approved new coronavirus restrictions that will come into effect next week and specifically target unvaccinated people amid a record increase in infections in both neighboring countries.
Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtic said most unvaccinated people will no longer be allowed to test negative for the coronavirus to attend public events, go to bars and restaurants, visit hairdressers, museums and similar facilities or use hotels.
Only people who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 will still be eligible. There are exceptions for adolescents between 12 and 18 years of age, people whose medical condition does not allow for 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 Andrej Babis said his government was affected by similar measures imposed in the German state of Bavaria.
“The situation is serious and we urge everyone once again to get vaccinated,” Babis said.
A negative test would be enough for visitors to hospitals and nursing homes.
In addition, the government is making mandatory testing of unvaccinated employees in all companies once a week. Those over 60 who have been vaccinated should also be tested.
At the same time, exams will continue in primary and secondary schools that were supposed to end on November 29.
The announcement came after the daily number in the Czech Republic 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 just one week. The country’s infection rate rose to 819 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, compared to 558 in the previous week.
In Slovakia, those who have not been vaccinated will be banned from all non-essential stores and shopping centers, starting from Monday.
They will not be allowed to attend any public events and gatherings and will be required to test twice a week to go to work.
Only in the hardest-hit areas of the country will fitness centers, restaurants and hotels be closed to all.
Prime Minister Eduard Heger described the measures as “a shutdown for non-vaccinators”. It should remain in place for three weeks, Heger said, but “we will respond immediately if we see that the restrictions are ineffective.”
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 cases on Friday.
Heger said Thursday that some of the country’s hospitals are already overcrowded.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia both have lower than average vaccination rates in the 27 European Union countries.
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