Sunday, 28 November 2021 09:24 GMT

Qatar - Slovakia follows Austria into lockdown amid record surge in COVID cases

(MENAFN- The Peninsula) PRAGUE - Slovakia's government followed the example of neighbouring Austria on Wednesday and ordered a two-week lockdown to quell the world's fastest rise in COVID-19 cases as the number of people sick in hospital reached a critical level and vaccinations remain low.

The restrictions for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people will include closed restaurants and non-essential shops, TASR news agency quoted Economy Minister Richard Sulik as saying.

Prime Minister Eduard Heger was due to detail the measures later on Wednesday after a government meeting.

Slovakia on Tuesday registered more than 10,000 new daily infections for the first time since the pandemic started while hospitalisations hit what the Health Ministry called a 'critical point' that meant limiting other care and possibly asking for foreign assistance.

Slovakia is experiencing the world's fastest rise in infections, adjusted for population, according to Our World in Data, topping a list led by other European countries.

The neighbouring Czech Republic and Hungary both registered a record daily rise in cases on Tuesday, while Austria also implemented a total lockdown this week, shutting non-essential shops, and cafes for at least 10 days.

The decision to return to a lockdown comes after the government already slapped new restrictions on unvaccinated people this week in a bid to push up inoculations.

Less than 50% of people in the country of 5.5 million have been vaccinated, the third-lowest rate in the European Union, and the unvaccinated count for the majority of cases and hospitalisations.

President Zuzana Caputova made an emotional plea on Tuesday, saying the country was losing its fight with COVID-19 and needed a lockdown as healthcare staff became overworked.

The number of hospitalised patients has reached 3,200, approaching peaks of around 3,800 seen in the last wave of the pandemic.

Dagmar Sudekova, deputy director of the Zilina hospital in one of the harder hit regions, told the state broadcaster RTVS on Tuesday evening more than 80% of patients were unvaccinated and the hospital's ventilation and high-flow oxygen beds were full.

'We just manage with the help of neighbouring hospitals,' she said.

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