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Slovakia and Germany plan curbs on those unvaccinated

file photo: measures due to the increasing covid 19 infections in germany
A '2G' rule sign, allowing only those vaccinated or recovered from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to enter restaurants and other indoor areas, at the entrance of a bar in Berlin, Germany, November 15, 2021. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse/File Photo

Slovakia’s hospitals are in a critical situation dealing with a surge in coronavirus infections and the government will approve measures on Thursday to limit access to services for unvaccinated people, Prime Minister Eduard Heger said.

Europe has again become the epicentre of the pandemic, prompting countries like Slovakia and neighbouring Austria to re-introduce restrictions in the run-up to Christmas.

The country of 5.5 million reported record daily cases of around 6,500 in recent days. The health ministry said on Tuesday there were just 20 beds with lung ventilators available.

“Situation in hospitals is critical,” Heger told reporters.

“We need to significantly tighten (restrictions) in the coming three weeks to calm down the situation at hospitals,” he said as he urged people to get vaccinated.

Heger said the government would allow only vaccinated people to attend large events, and set rules for testing at workplaces.

Non-essential shops and services, sports, wellness and hotels will be open only for vaccinated people or those who had overcome COVID-19 in the past six months.

The eastern part of Slovakia is suffering most. A hospital in Presov city had no more beds for COVID-19 patients, as it transferred them elsewhere and limited non-urgent care.

“When people don’t care (to get vaccinated), of course our staff are frustrated as they could treat other patients,” J.A. Reiman University Hospital director Lubomir Sarnik said.

Slovakia is one of Europe’s least vaccinated countries, with 45% of population vaccinated compared to the EU average of 64.9%, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control data showed.

In the majority-Catholic country, bishops also called on people to get vaccinated as 46 people died of COVID-19 in the past day, bringing the toll of reported deaths since the pandemic began to 13,644.

Germany should demand proof of vaccination or recent recovery from COVID-19 for all indoor leisure activities, and require vaccinated people to also present a negative test for risky environments, a regional leader said on Tuesday.

Hendrik Wuest, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, made the comments before leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states hold a meeting on Thursday to discuss how to respond to a new surge in COVID-19 cases.

Germany recorded 32,048 new infections on Tuesday, a rise of 47% compared to a week ago, and another 265 deaths, bringing Germany’s total during the pandemic to 97,980.

Wuest, who chairs the body that groups Germany’s regional premiers, said he would press on Thursday for the whole country to allow only vaccinated people or those who have recovered from COVID-19 to access leisure-sector facilities, in some cases paired with a negative test.

Several German regions, including the capital Berlin, have already introduced such a rule, in effect excluding non-vaccinated people from places such as cinemas, hairdressers, restaurants and fitness studios.

Berlin is also considering requiring negative tests and proof of vaccination from next week.

It is not clear who should be responsible for policing the new rules. Berlin mayor Michael Mueller called on city officials to check vaccine passports rather than issue parking tickets.

“It isn’t a matter of illegal parking but human lives,” he was quoted as saying in the Berliner Zeitung daily.

The new wave of infections is challenging a government in transition, with three parties negotiating to form the next cabinet after September’s federal election. [nL8N2S74LS

Neighbouring Austria imposed a lockdown on people unvaccinated against the new coronavirus on Monday.

Germany’s vaccination rate, at 68%, is among the lowest in western Europe.

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