Willingly or pressured, Slovaks take COVID tests to avoid tough lockdown

Radovan Stoklasa
·2-min read

By Radovan Stoklasa

TRENCIN, Slovakia (Reuters) - Slovak physiotherapist Katarina Caklosova was ready to close shop for two weeks rather than heed government requirements to undergo a coronavirus test - until she found that new rules would also ban her from her favourite nature walks.

That tipped the balance and Caklosova, 50, will join almost 3 million Slovaks who have taken a test to avoid stricter lockdown measures kicking in on Wednesday and aimed at curbing the number of new COVID-19 cases.

"This is a farce and unnecessary trouble, they are just not allowing us to work and limiting our life," she told Reuters in the western Slovak city of Trencin. "If it were not for the brutally low quality of our healthcare, we would not be in the state we are in today."

"I was considering not going (for a test), because I think it is useless, but the government order is forcing me."

Under the new rules to be applied until Feb. 7, people who cannot show a certificate proving they tested negative in the previous week or had the infection in the past, are barred from moving around even for work and exercise.

As of Monday evening, nearly 2.6 million had taken tests that identified 1.18% carried the virus, Prime Minister Igor Matovic said on Tuesday.

Matovic has hailed the move - following two previous rounds of nationwide testing -as a success, despite opposition from some Slovaks as well as within his own cabinet about the merit of the exercise.

To enforce the stricter rules, police were randomly checking cars coming into Trencin on Wednesday morning, with drivers showing their test certificates on their phones or on paper.

"I am in favour of this, it just takes a little while and does not stop me from work, so let there be order," one of the drivers at the checkpoint, Miroslav Siko, told Reuters.

The central European country has seen a dip in infections from peaks around the turn of the year, but its healthcare system is stretched to the limit with record 3,509 coronavirus patients in hospitals as of Monday.

Slovakia has reported a total of 4,361 deaths as of Tuesday.

(Reporting by Radovan Stoklasa, Writing by Jan Lopatka; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)