Slovakia plans to gradually ease most virus restrictions

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovakia is planning to gradually ease most coronavirus restrictions as hospitals appear to be coping despite a current record surge of infections caused by the highly transmittable omicron variant.

Prime Minister Eduard Heger said on Wednesday that people will have access to stores, shopping malls, various public gatherings and services, including bars and restaurants, without any restrictions. They won’t have to present any certificate that they have been vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or tested negative for the coronavirus.

Those restrictive measures should be lifted by the end of February.

As the next step, the government also plans to ease the limits on the number of people attending various public events and gatherings and most other remaining restrictions a month later, Heger said.

The government has still to announce the details of the plan.

Heger made the announcement as daily new infections in his country remain at record high levels around 20,000 cases, a level largely unchanged since the beginning of February. On Tuesday, Slovakia registered 19,955 new cases for a total of almost 1.3 million in the nation of 5.5 million.

“We have to learn how to live with COVID,” Heger said. “We have an efficient tool to protect ourselves, and that’s the vaccine.”

Only over 2.5 million Slovaks, or 50.3% of the population, have been fully vaccinated, well below the European Union average of 71%.

Despite the relatively low vaccination rate, hospitals are treating fewer patients for COVID-19 than during the earlier wave fueled by the delta variant.

Slovakia has registered 18,145 deaths linked to COVID-19.


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