Slovakia has given the “green light” to reopen shops, ski resorts and churches to people vaccinated and recovering from Covid-19, the country with the highest rate of infection worldwide.
The 5.4 million-nation EU member, which imposed a partial lockdown late last month, has recorded 1,099 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days, according to a French agency count.
The move to relax the restrictions follows criticism of the government, with citizens blaming authorities for not being able to make Christmas shopping or holiday plans.
“The epidemiological situation remains very serious but we are controlling it,” Health Minister Vladimir Langwarski said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The opening of the stores is a relatively risky epidemiological measure but it aims to calm people down,” he said.
Government spokeswoman Lubika Yanikova stressed that the decision was not irreversible and would be reconsidered in the coming days.
“Next week, the government will discuss the situation in the hospitals and it is possible that the measures will change later,” he said.
Economy Minister Richard Sulik clarified that the stores will be open “for those who have been vaccinated and those who have recovered from the coronavirus”.
The decision is accompanied by capacity constraints for customers and also applies to hairdressers, gyms, ski resorts and churches.
Sulik clarified that the government has decided to keep the restaurants closed to everyone, although they can offer take-away services.
The hotels will be able to reopen for vaccinations from December 25, but only members of the same family will be able to share a room.
Slovakia has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the European Union, with less than half of its population fully vaccinated against Covid-19.