Coronavirus in Slovakia: No quarantine after returning from the UK worries municipalities in the east

Hundreds of citizens from the Spiš region working in the UK are now free to return home from holiday without any quarantine or testing obligations. Their hometowns worry about potential outbreaks.

The village of Žehra was isolated after a surge of COVID-19 positive cases in mid-May.The village of Žehra was isolated after a surge of COVID-19 positive cases in mid-May. (Source: TASR)

The easier travel from the United Kingdom to Slovakia as of this week has left some eastern-Slovak municipalities worried about potential outbreaks of the coronavirus infection.

The Slovak government has put the United Kingdom on the list of less risky countries. People who come from the UK are thus not required to go into self-isolation and take a COVID-19 test five days after they enter Slovakia. Some have called it a political decision after the UK did not put Slovakia on its own green list of countries. After Slovakia lifted the limits on travel from the UK as of this Monday, July 20, the Foreign Ministry also sent a diplomatic note to the British authorities to prove its good epidemiological results.

Several eastern-Slovak municipalities are aware of dozens of their citizens who live and work in the UK and tend to return home to Slovakia for holidays every year.

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This is the case of the town of Spišské Podhradie and the village of Žehra, both in the Spiš region, where entire communities were quarantined in the spring, the Korzár daily reported. In Žehra, the local marginalised Roma community was quarantined for three months.

The Slovak Medical Chamber (SLK) has joined the concerns.

Hundreds of people may come

In the past month, 130 people returned from the UK to Spišské Podhradie. The mayor says 19 of them tested positive. A further 150 town citizens are estimated to be residing in the UK at the moment.

"Perhaps they will return home for holidays as they used to. They will come and walk around the town without restrictions," Mayor Michal Kapusta said. He suggests that the self-quarantine obligation could be reintroduced for the localities in England where "our Roma" are staying.

"Let them go into quarantine for five days. We will test them and when they are negative, it will be all fine," the mayor told Korzár. Such a system had been in place for the UK until July 20, when the measures eased.

Doctors: Quarantine those coming into "risk areas"

The nearby village of Žehra estimates that about 100 of its citizens returned from the UK. Only four of them tested positive and currently there are no positive residents in the village, according to Miloš Pacovský from the Žehra Municipal Office.

"As of Monday, the measures are more benevolent and it is hard to predict how many people will return," Pacovský told Korzár. Currently, about 400 people from Žehra work in the UK, he estimated.

The Slovak Medical Chamber voiced concerns that the municipalities in the Spiš region might see new coronavirus outbreaks due to the homecomers. The chamber has also called on the government to not just monitor but also test Slovak citizens returning from the UK to "risk areas", as they put it according to Korzár.

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