Slovakia reopens more shops, other businesses as coronavirus cases ease

BRATISLAVA, May 6 (Reuters) - Slovakia reopened restaurant terraces, hotels, all shops outside large malls and other businesses on Wednesday, expediting plans to revive the economy thanks to better-than-expected progress in containing the coronavirus outbreak.

The government, which opened small shops on April 22, also gave the green light for religious services and weddings to take place with a limited number of guests.

Slovakia’s coronavirus lockdown loosened further as the government on Wednesday merged the second and third stages of its reopening plan.

Wednesday’s moves, under which hairdressers could also return to work, came after tests showed 11 consecutive days of single-digit growth in new infections.

The latest figures showed 1,429 cases in total with 25 deaths, and more than half of those infected already recovered.

The central European country of 5.5 million people has recorded far fewer cases of the new coronavirus than its neighbours after acting faster than most to shut borders and impose other tough measures to curb contagion.

Slovakia was one of the first countries in Europe to ban international passenger travel. It imposed a compulsory 14-day quarantine in state-run centres for people returning from abroad and ordered compulsory wearing of face masks in public.

Prime Minister Igor Matovic has said the next stage will be launched at the earliest on May 20 and allow shopping malls, theatres and cinemas to return to business.

The final stage would include reopening schools and kindergartens while allowing mass public and sporting events.

The Slovak economy is expected to record its worst-ever performance this year due to the virus-induced lockdown. The central bank last week predicted the gross domestic product would shrink by between 5.8% and 13.5% in 2020.

For an interactive graphic on new coronavirus cases in Slovakia: (Reporting by Tomas Mrva Editing by Michael Kahn and Mark Heinrich)