Slovakia tightens restrictions, PM calls 'lockdown for unvaccinated'

Customers wait for the opening of a store in the mall, as shops reopen after a lockdown, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Trencin, Slovakia, April 19, 2021. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa

PRAGUE, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Slovakia will impose stricter measures for people who have not been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus amid a surge in infections and hospital admissions that are stretching the health system, Prime Minister Eduard Heger said on Thursday.

The country of 5.5 million has seen a record number of cases in the past days, topping 8,000 on Tuesday, and said earlier this week that it had few intensive care beds available for coronavirus patients.

"It is a lockdown for the unvaccinated," Heger told a news conference shown live on television.

Under the new rules, only people who have been vaccinated or who have had COIVD-19 in the past six months will be allowed to enter restaurants, shopping malls, shops with non-essential goods, sports activities and public events.

The measures, taking effect on Monday and foreseen for three weeks, echo those adopted in neighbouring Austria from this week.

Tighter rules will exempt those vaccinated and those who have overcome COVID-19 in the past six months.

Slovakia has one of the European Union's lowest vaccination rates, with 45% of the total population vaccinated versus the EU average of 65%. It has reported 13,725 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Some services including restaurants will face further restrictions in most-affected regions even for those vaccinated, only being able to serve take-away.

The new rules include the requirement to test unvaccinated people in workplaces in all but the least-affected regions.

Heger said vaccinated people would be the first to see some of the new restrictions eased.

Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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