BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovakia’s government decided Wednesday to ease the country's current lockdown for vaccinated people and those who have recovered from COVID-19 but the restrictions for the unvaccinated.
Health Minister Vladimir Lengvarsky said starting on Friday, all shops will reopen for vaccinated or recovered people including services such as hairdressers. Also, ski resorts and fitness centers will be open for a limited number of customers while religious services will be available for those groups in the Roman Catholic stronghold in Central and Eastern Europe.
The country’s hotels will restart services on Christmas Day.
Nothing has changed, however, for the unvaccinated, who are not eligible to use the stores and services.
On the other hand, students in the sixth-to ninth grades will switch to distant learning again on Monday.
Under the lockdown that has been in place in Slovakia since Nov. 25, people are allowed to leave their homes only for specific reasons, and those who are unvaccinated and have not recovered from COVID-19 are required to get tested to attend work. Only the stores selling essential goods have remained open.
Also, Slovakia’s parliament has been debating a government proposal to pay people 60 and older a financial bonus if they get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“We’re trying to motivate people to get vaccinated,” Lengvarsky said.
The country has one of the European Union’s lowest vaccination rates, with only 46.5% of its 5.5 million population fully vaccinated.
With a seven-day rolling average of 1,940 cases per 100,000 people, Slovakia was facing the second-highest surge of infections in the world, according to Our World in Data.
Currently, 3,479 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in Slovakia, putting the country's health system under pressure. It the number reaches 3,800, the health minister said more restrictions will be imposed.
In another measure expected to be imposed, people will need to be vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or tested negative to be eligible to use public transport. No date was immediately given for that.
Overall, Slovakia has reported 15,095 deaths in the pandemic.
Follow AP’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic