PRAGUE (Reuters) – Slovaks in the country’s central Nitra region would not be allowed to work unless they have tested negative for the coronavirus as the area’s main hospital was inundated with COVID patients and deaths were high, officials said on Tuesday.
The central European country of 5.5 million has seen record numbers of new cases and hospitalisations in the past days, with 3,146 people in hospitals as of Monday, despite a partial national lockdown.
People from the Nitra region of about 160,000 would not be allowed to attend work as of Monday without a negative test, Prime Minister Igor Matovic told a televised news conference from the central Slovak city.
“The situation in Nitra is so dramatic that only voluntary testing would not be enough,” Matovic said. “This is a better way to protect workers, companies, the health of the people.”
Slovakia has limited movement of people to necessary work commutes, shopping and nature walks within their district, but new cases have remained high, with around 10,000 found on Monday through PCR and antigen testing.
Jaguar Land Rover is the biggest employer in the Nitra region with around 2,800 workers.
Milan Dubaj, head of the Nitra University Hospital, said more than 10 people were dying in his COVID-19 ward every day, and called the situation “desperate”.
“We have around 200 patients, including up to 20 on ventilators, and over 10 die daily,” he told the news conference.
“I am at loss how to describe the psychological and physical exhaustion of our staff … In recent days, our urologist died, a COVID urgent care worker died and at 2 p.m. today, an internist died,” he said.
Slovakia has so far recorded around 2,600 deaths caused by COIVD-19, and over 600 more classified as “with COVID”.
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)