PARIS, France – The Czech Republic and Slovakia banned unvaccinated people from hotels, pubs, hairdressers and most public events from Monday after COVID-19 cases filled hospital intensive – care, and were mulling harsher steps to stem the resurgent pandemic.
The central European neighbours both acted a step behind Austria, which first set restrictions on unvaccinated people but went for a full lockdown on Monday as the region became the world’s latest COVID -19 hotspot.
Less than a day into the new system, Slovakia signalled it could indeed echo Austria with three – week lockdown for all as Prime Minister Eduarf Heger said he was ‘intensively’ looking at the possibility, to discussed in the cabinet later this week.
‘The prime minister is aware it is necessary to resolve the situation immediately so we can have a calmer Christmas and be able to relax measures in view of the coming tourism season’, Herger’s office said in a statement.
The two countries took the decision to target unvaccinated people last week to encourage inoculations as daily infections hit new records with vaccination rates lagging most European Union peers.
The unvaccinated make up nearly 70% of serious coronavirus illnesses in the Czech Republic and around 80% in Slovakia, according to government data form the two countries – although vaccination, while it greatly reduces the risk of serious illness or death, does not prevent transmission of the virus.
Slovakia has the bloc’s third lowest full vaccination rate at 45.3%, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), while 58% of the Czech population was fully vaccinated, also below the EU average of 65%.
The infections surge in the Czech Republic comes amid a transfer of power after an October election with both the outgoing and incoming administrations cool to lockdowns, even as Czech Medical Chamber called for one on Monday.
Many businesses fear a return to harsher restrictions, like a year ago when most shops and restaurants had to close doors in the run – up to Christmas holidays.