April 20, 2020 / 4:37 PM / 4 months ago

Slovakia plans to reopen small shops, outdoor sports grounds

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovakia plans to allow the reopening of small shops of up to 300 square metres, outdoor sports grounds, outdoor market places and restaurants for takeaway meals from Wednesday, Prime Minister Igor Matovic said on Monday, in an easing of its coronavirus lockdown.

FILE PHOTO: Slovakia's Prime Minister Igor Matovic wearing a protective face mask attends a news conference in Bratislava, Slovakia March 21, 2020. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa/File Photo

The country has some of the strictest lockdown restrictions in Europe, including bans on international passenger travel as well as all public, religious, cultural and sporting events. Schools have been closed as well as most shops and people returning from abroad face a compulsory 14-day state quarantine.

Matovic said the plan was subject to approval by the country’s crisis committee on Tuesday, and any further steps would follow with a two-week delay upon evaluation of the initial relaxation.

Slovakia will join its neighbours Austria and the Czech Republic in relaxing restrictions as these countries believe they are in a position to keep the spread of the virus under control.

Slovakia has had only 13 deaths so far, the smallest per capita number in the European Union, but new cases have not yet been on a downtrend.

“We have courage to open certain shops in a situation when the number of cases is not yet falling. Let’s do it but we need to be even more responsible (than hitherto),” said Matovic.

Matovic said that the country would proceed to the next stage if the daily median of new cases in one week does not exceed 100.

Stage two includes opening short-term boarding houses, hairdressers, taxi services and allowing religious services and weddings to take place with a limited number of participants.

The central European country of 5.5 million was one of the first ones to impose compulsory wearing of face masks in public and this measure will remain in force for the time being.

Slovakia recorded the first case of the new coronavirus on March 6 and has so far registered 1,173 cases as of midnight Sunday while 251 people have recovered from the disease.

Reporting by Tomas Mrva; Editing by Gareth Jones and Jane Merriman

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