Slovakia's nationwide screening finds 1.18% have coronavirus

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Slovakia’s nationwide screening programme found 1.18% of those tested over the past week had the coronavirus, Prime Minister Igor Matovic said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Medical staff are seen as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination continues at the University Hospital, in Nitra, Slovakia January 11, 2021. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa

The central European country has seen a dip in infections from peaks around the turn of the year, but its health system is still stretched to the limit with 3,495 coronavirus patients in hospitals as of Monday.

The testing identified 30,556 infections among the nearly 2.6 million who had taken part in the programme as of Monday, Matovic told a news conference.

Slovakia held two rounds of nationwide testing late last year, saying it had helped reduce the spread of the virus.

The latest round of tests in the country of 5.5 million was concluding on Tuesday. Stricter lockdown measures will now be imposed.

Those who cannot show evidence of a negative test will not be allowed commute to work or take walks in nature, activities so far permitted for everybody. The requirement does not apply to children and senior citizens.

Health Minister Marek Krajci said widespread testing was a way to avoid even stricter lockdowns.

“Last year we were one of the most open countries,” he said. “I am convinced that if we continue to test massively, we can be among the most open this year as well.”

Stricter lockdown rules are expected to last until Feb. 7, subject to further modifications.

Testing will be repeated next week in half of the country’s regions that fared worse than the rest.

Slovakia has reported 4,068 coronavirus deaths as of Monday.

Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Giles Elgood