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Health News

Slovak government to extend emergency powers to end of year

FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker tests a sample at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing site during nationwide testing, in Trencin, Slovakia October 31, 2020. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Slovakia’s government will extend its state of emergency powers for the rest of the year to battle a surge in new coronavirus cases, Justice Minister Maria Kolikova said on Wednesday.

The state of emergency, put in place at the start of October and which had been due to expire on Nov. 14, gives the government extra powers to implement strict measures.

The country of 5.5 million has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases since the end of summer, like the rest of Europe, coming after it managed to keep infections low during the first wave of the global pandemic.

To battle the latest surge, the government has pushed mass testing using antigen tests - which produce faster but often less accurate results than laboratory tests.

It has also put in lockdown measures including banning indoor dining at restaurants, closing public places such as gyms, cinemas and theatres, and limiting gatherings.

Prime Minister Igor Matovic said on Monday the state’s testing and quarantine scheme - under which millions were tested over the past two weekends - has helped cut the proportion of COVID-19 infections by more than half.

The infection rate dropped from 1.47% on the first weekend of testing to 0.62% of those who took part last weekend.

On Monday, Slovakia recorded 2,058 new COVID-19 cases to bring the country’s total to 79,181 infections detected via standard PCR testing since the pandemic started. It saw a record one-day tally of 3,363 cases on Oct. 29 but the seven-day average has dropped since.

In total, 414 people have died from the illness, a fraction of other countries in Western Europe and 12 times less than in the neighbouring Czech Republic, which has seen Europe’s highest per-capita infection and death rates in recent weeks.

Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Alison Williams

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