Measures lifted faster than planned in Slovakia

Experts stress the importance of observing the measures as we cannot afford a second epidemic wave.

PM Igor Matovič while introducing the further liberation of coronavirus measures.PM Igor Matovič while introducing the further liberation of coronavirus measures. (Source: TASR)

Bigger shops and service providers, restaurants with outdoor seating, and cultural venues like museums and galleries will open sooner than originally planned.

Given the low number of new coronavirus cases, Slovakia's group of experts decided to merge the second and third phases of lifting the measures adopted to stop the disease from spreading. The new rules will come into force on May 6.

However, PM Igor Matovič warns of the potential risk this step may bring.

“We still have to be very careful,” he stressed at the May 4 press conference.

Changes after May 6

As part of phase 2, the group of experts decided to open short-term accommodation facilities with room service and separate bathrooms, but do not offer any other services. Hotel rooms need to stay empty for up to 24 hours after guests check out.

The group of experts will also renew masses and weddings, but certain conditions will have to be observed. Everybody entering the church will have to wear a mask or cover their face with some other piece of clothing. Benches will be separated by a distance of two metres, and people will be allowed to sit on every second bench. Moreover, a two-metre distance will be observed outside the benches, and people will be banned from shaking hands. Churchgoers will have to disinfect their hands before entering the church while churches will have to be regularly ventilated.

Matovič recommends holding separate Sunday masses for pensioners.

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One of the biggest changes comes in phase 3, since the experts abolished the size limitation for shops and service providers. Originally, only those up to 1,000 square metres in size were planned to be reopened. People will be allowed to try on clothes, but only after they have disinfected their hands. The selected piece of clothing will have to be put aside for 24 hours. Shopping centres remain closed for now and the closure of all shops on Sunday remains in place as well.

As for restaurants with outdoor seating, they will also have to observe some strict hygienic measures. A distance of 2 metres will have to be observed between the table edges, and the number of people sitting behind one table will be limited to two or to one family comprised of parents and children. Moreover, after guests leave, all surfaces will have to be disinfected.

Toilettes can be opened for guests, but hand disinfection and only single-use towels should be available. They will have to be disinfected every hour.

Kindergartens and schools will remain closed for now since they still pose a big risk, Matovič stressed.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Marek Krajčí (OĽaNO) introduced a plan to restore planned surgeries and patient examinations in outpatient departments.

Inspections to be strengthened

At the same time, the inspections of how the measures are observed will be strengthened. People should still avoid meeting one another unless they live in one shared household. Other limitations like wearing masks in public also remain in place.

“We’ll pass through this test only if we remain at least as responsible as we are now,” Matovič said.

He also said the median dictating whether or not measures will be moved one phase back will be decreased. It is set to 150 new cases but will change to 50 new cases after May 6.

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Matovič has said that there are still between 1,600 and 4,000 people that may be infected with the coronavirus, stressing that the system has detected only one-third of the total number of people who may be carrying the virus. This is why he and other experts stress the need to be careful and observe the measures.

“We can’t afford a second wave of the epidemic,” said Henrieta Hudečková, an epidemiology expert at the Health Ministry.

Krajčí reported that there is enough protective equipment for health care workers, and health care facilities are also ready to provide treatment to both people positive with the coronavirus and other patients. Thanks to those who designed special beds for COVID-19 positive patients, there are some 12,000 beds in 12 selected hospitals.

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