Slovakia to tighten rules for unvaccinated, ban them from shops

Slovakia's Prime Minister Eduard Heger talks to journalists as he arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. (Olivier Hoslet, Pool Photo via AP)
By Lucie Ctverakova
3 Min Read

On Thursday, the Slovak government decided to tighten coronavirus restrictions, especially for those who remain unvaccinated. This group of people will not be able to enter shopping malls or certain types of stores from next week. The new package of measures will also partially affect the vaccinated when it comes to mass events.

Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger announced the new measures, however, the four-party government coalition did not agree unanimously on the rules as ministers of the smaller Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party did not support them.

The government approved the new anti-epidemic system in response to the deteriorating epidemic situation in the country, where hospitals are full of Covid-19 patients. According to Heger, the more stringent measures could apply for three weeks.

“We are doing this to stabilize the critical situation in hospitals. The number of hospitalized people is approaching 3,000, and 80 percent of them are not vaccinated. Doctors have to decide who to help and whom not. Currently, there is a risk that it will not be possible to provide healthcare not only for covid patients, but the vaccinated patients are also at risk as planned operations are being postponed,” Heger told reporters.

Only vaccinated people or those who recovered from Covid-19 will now be able to enter shopping centers, shops, and service establishments. In regions with the worst epidemiological situation, a maximum of 50 people, who are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19, will be allowed to attend mass events. From next week, over two-thirds of Slovak districts will be in the category with the worst epidemiological situation.

Slovakia lags significantly behind the EU average vaccination rate, although interest in vaccines in the country has risen slightly recently.

Freedom and Solidarity chairman Richard Sulík, whose party did not support the new measures, told reporters that he saw no point in tightening restrictions for the vaccinated. He added that of the total number of covid patients in hospitals, only 20 percent were fully vaccinated.

The opposition Direction–Slovak Social Democracy (SMER-SD) party criticized the government’s decision, arguing that the cabinet had embarked on a path of segregation of the unvaccinated. According to SMER-SD, the government adopted the new restrictions not to prevent the spread of coronavirus but to pressure people to get vaccinated. Opposition parties in Slovakia do not support Covid-19 vaccination or discourage people from getting vaccinated.

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