World News

Slovakia approves state of emergency powers amid COVID spike

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Slovakia’s government has approved a state of emergency, effective from Thursday, to help combat a spike in new coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Igor Matovic said on Wednesday.

The state of emergency, which should last 45 days, gives the government more powers to implement stricter measures but does not automatically mean a return to a strict lockdown such as that imposed at the outset of the pandemic.

Slovakia passed the first wave of the pandemic in March and April with far fewer cases than larger western neighbours and has suffered one of Europe’s lowest death tolls from the diseases.

But it has seen a spike in cases rising this month into the hundreds, hitting a single-day record of 567 on Tuesday, according to the latest data from the Health Ministry.

In total 10,141 people have been infected The country of 5.5 million people has registered 48 deaths after three more on Tuesday.

After the initial 45 days of the state of emergency, “we will decide whether to continue or if we will be able to return to normal,” Matovic said on his Facebook page. “Together we have it in our own hands.”

The government tightened measures already on Monday by banning most public cultural and sporting events. It has also urged greater face mask use and for people to avoid family gatherings.

Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Gareth Jones and Peter Graff