Slovaks lock in to slow down the world’s highest COVID-19 infection rate

TRENCIN, Slovakia, November 25 (Reuters) – Slovakia entered a two-week lockdown on Thursday, when the country with one of the EU’s lowest vaccination rates reported a critical situation in hospitals and new infections that topped the global charts.

Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million, ordered all but important shops and services closed and banned people from traveling outside their districts unless they went to work, school or a doctor. Gatherings of more than six people were banned.

The decision comes when cases of coronavirus increase across Europe, making the continent the center of the pandemic again, and follows neighboring Austria, which started a shutdown on Monday.

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Only 45.7% of Slovakia’s population is vaccinated, the third lowest in the EU, compared to 65.8% across the block, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). With 1,929 average daily falls per million inhabitants in the past week, it has the world’s highest incidence rate according to Our World in Data.

Tomas Sulik, head of the intensive care unit at Trencin University Hospital, said he had nine patients in the 10-bed ward and expected the last one to be filled within hours. All nine patients, with a mean age of 63, were unvaccinated.

“There is a feeling of frustration. This is a condition that can be prevented by vaccination,” Sulik told Reuters. “This wave is more intense, the increase in the number of patients has been much steeper and the age composition is moving towards younger patients.”

Exhausted staff quit, including four doctors who have left since the last wave.

Elsewhere in Trencin, a town 130 km (80 miles) north of Bratislava, Roman Spatny, the head of the musical instrument store, said his income was tied to sales and would disappear with another Christmas season lost due to lockdown.

“For us, this is an ordinary knife in the back. We must be closed at a time that is commercially most important to us, just like last year,” he said.

Student Natalia Paskova, 17, saw few choices: “The situation is getting worse so decisions are justified,” she said.

Hospitals have reached the limit of 3,200 patients, which the government said was crucial to maintaining care. The Ministry of Health has said that it has begun discussing possible help abroad.

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Reporting by Radovan Stoklasa Writing by Jan Lopatka Editing by Peter Graff

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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