Slovakia declared a 90-day state of emergency and a two-week lockdown following a spike in COVID-19 cases that saw the country’s seven-day average cases rise above 10,000.
The central European country is currently in the midst of the fastest rise in infections in the world, and the measures, which include closing all non-essential stores, as well as bars and restaurants, are aimed at helping the faltering health care system.
The decision came after President Zuzana Chaputova addressed the nation on Tuesday, saying that “Slovakia is losing the battle against Covid.” She also explained that the closure was necessary because the healthcare staff had become overworked, and the pressure on hospitals had become almost unbearable.
During the two-week lockdown, people will only be allowed to leave their homes for specific reasons, such as buying groceries, traveling to work and school, or getting a vaccination.
Those who remain unvaccinated will be required to have a test or proof of COVID-19 in order to access work.
Gatherings of more than six people not living in the same home were also banned during the 90-day state of emergency.
Slovakia ranks third among the European Union countries in terms of vaccination rates, with just over 45 percent of Slovaks having been fully vaccinated.
The country has crossed the mark of 3,000 hospitalizations, the threshold considered critical by the Slovak Ministry of Health.
At this point, the country’s government may have to consider seeking help from other European countries.
The ministry said nearly 83 percent of those admitted to hospital had not been vaccinated.
Slovakia’s neighbors are also experiencing the highest levels of COVID-19, with both the Czech Republic and Hungary reporting record daily highs in cases.
Austria has already imposed a total lockdown from Monday, November 22, and will make vaccination mandatory from February 1 next year, making it the first country in the world to do so.