March 26, 2020 / 2:06 PM / 13 days ago

Slovakia's new government to sharply ramp up coronavirus testing

FILE PHOTO: Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic wears a protective face mask as he begins a news conference in Bratislava, Slovakia, March 21, 2020. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa/File Photo

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovakia aims to sharply increase daily coronavirus testing in the next few weeks by bringing bringing in laboratories as the new government seeks to put a clamp on the coronavirus outbreak.

Prime Minister Igor Matovic, whose team took office this past weekend, said the government would seek in coming days to double testing capacity to as many as 4,000 daily tests.

Since the first coronavirus infections surfaced in the central European state of 5.5 million people earlier this month, only around 300 people have been tested daily, he said, and “that is well below our needs” to help detect and isolate cases.

Slovakia has reported 226 positive cases out of a total of 4,751 tests so far. The first two patients recovered this week. Neighbouring Czech Republic, with 10.7 million people, has tested 26,698 and reported 1,775 cases as of Thursday.

There have been far fewer diagnoses of coronavirus in central Europe so far than in bigger western neighbours like Germany. But the region’s economies have been hard hit due to shutdowns of borders, most shops and restaurants, and an increasing number of business idling or limiting factory output.

Slovakia’s parliament approved legislation on Wednesday allowing public health authorities to use data from telecommunications operators to ensure people quarantined due to coronavirus exposure remain isolated.

Reporting by Tomas Mrva; Writing by Jason Hovet; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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