BRATISLAVA (Reuters) – Slovakia will accelerate the reopening of its economy from its coronavirus shutdown as the rate of new infections has slowed, Prime Minister Igor Matovic said on Monday.
The central European country of 5.5 million people has recorded fewer cases of the COVID-19 respiratory illness than its neighbours and almost half of the reported 1,413 infected people have since recovered.
Matovic told a news conference that the second and third stages of a four-part plan to restart the economy would be merged. “We have been successful above expectations (in containing the virus)…but we still must remain very careful.”
Hotels, taxi services, religious services and weddings will reopen with some limits on Wednesday, he said. Shops outside of shopping malls and restaurant terraces as well as outdoor tourist attractions, museums and galleries will also open.
All will be subject to strict hygiene rules and the authorities will monitor any resurgence in new infections.
The last stage of reopening – including public and sporting events, shopping malls, theatres and cinemas where larger numbers of people gather – will be launched only after May 20.
Slovakia was one of the quickest countries in Europe to close borders and implement measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. But its economy has been hard hit by a lockdown of many activities and the central bank last week predicted the economy would shrink by between 5.8% and 13.5% this year.
The country has reported 25 deaths from COVID-19, giving it one of the lowest rates per capita in Europe.
The authorities started relaxing restrictions in late April when smaller stores, outdoor markets and takeaway restaurants have been allowed to reopen.
(For an interactive graphic on new coronavirus cases in Slovakia: https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/editorcharts/xegvbkkybpq/index.html?eikon=true)
(Reporting by Tomas Mrva; Writing by Robert Muller; Editing by Toby Chopra and Mark Heinrich)