Second European country to force lockdown rules on unvaccinated people

A man receives a dose of the Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a vaccination centre in Zilina, Slovakia June 7, 2021. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa
A man receives a dose of the Sputnik V COVID vaccine at a vaccination centre in Zilina, Slovakia. (Reuters)

A second European country is to impose lockdown rules on unvaccinated citizens following a spike in cases.

Slovakian prime minister Eduard Heger has announced that services will be limited in the country for anyone who has not had a COVID vaccine.

It comes after neighbouring Austria on Monday reintroduced lockdown for unjabbed people in the run-up to Christmas.

Germany is also understood to be considering similar measures, which could be announced within days.

Europe has seen itself become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic once again, with the situation in Slovakia taking a particularly worrying downturn.

Austrian police officers check a man's identity and vaccination certificate during a control in Voesendorf, district Moedling, Austria, on November 16, 2021, during the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. - Austrian Chancellor Schallenberg told AFP that the
Austrian police officers check a man's identity and vaccination certificate during a control in Vösendorf, near Vienna. (Getty)

A 'critical' situation

With its population of 5.5 million, Slovakia reported record daily cases of around 6,500 in recent days, while the health ministry said on Tuesday there were just 20 beds with lung ventilators available.

Speaking to reporters about lockdown plans for the unvaccinated, prime minister Heger said: “The situation in hospitals is critical.

"We need to significantly tighten (restrictions) in the coming three weeks to calm down the situation at hospitals.”

Watch: Austria locks down unvaccinated

Slovakia is one of Europe's least vaccinated countries, with 45% of population vaccinated compared to the EU average of 64.9%, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

In an effort to get more people to come forward for their jab, Heger said the government would allow only vaccinated people to attend large events, and set rules for testing at workplaces.

Non-essential shops and services, sports, wellness and hotels will be open only for vaccinated people or those who had overcome COVID in the past six months.

In the majority-Catholic country, bishops have also called on people to get vaccinated as 46 people died of COVID in the past day, bringing the toll of reported deaths since the pandemic began to 13,644.

The eastern part of Slovakia is suffering particularly hard, with one hospital in Presov city running out of beds for COVID patients, transferring them elsewhere, and offering only limited non-urgent care.

The European situation

A number of European countries are seeing record cases of COVID, prompting a raft of fresh restrictions.

From Thursday, restaurants, bars and nightclubs in Ireland will have to close by midnight, and people will be encouraged to work from home except where absolutely necessary.

Proof of vaccination, will also be needed in cinemas and theatres, as well as in bars and nightclubs.

People line up to get vaccinated in Vienna, Austria, Nov. 15, 2021.  Austria will start from Monday to impose a lockdown on those who have not been vaccinated, the Austrian government announced on Sunday. (Photo by Guo Chen/Xinhua via Getty Images)
People line up to get vaccinated in Vienna, Austria, after lockdown rules were brought in for the unvaccinated. (Getty)

Austria has one of the highest infection rates on the continent, with a seven-day incidence of 925 per 100,000 people, while the Netherlands has also faced record cases.

In Germany, where a partial lockdown is set to be announced this week, 52,826 new COVID cases were reported on Wednesday – an increase of one third from week ago.

The Czech Republic reported a record 22,479 new cases on Tuesday, while Poland reported 24,239 new daily infections on Wednesday – its highest total since April.

No Plan B

Boris Johnson this week warned of the “storm clouds” gathering in Europe and urged caution over the rising cases.

He said: "I'm seeing the storm clouds gathering over parts of the European continent.

“And I've got to be absolutely frank with people: we've been here before. We remember what happens when the wave starts rolling in.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a media briefing on the latest Covid-19 update in the Downing Street briefing room, central London on November 15, 2021. - Britain's booster programme for Covid-19 vaccinations is to be expanded to younger people after scientists gave the green light on Monday. The UK government's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said all healthy adults aged 40-49 should be offered a booster, six months after their second dose. (Photo by Leon Neal / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LEON NEAL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson has said data does not show that additional measures in England are needed. (Getty)

However, the prime minister has resisted calls to implement the government’s tougher ‘Plan B’ of COVID measures for winter in England, despite the situation in Europe.

Johnson said the data did not show, at the moment, that any additional measures were needed.

But he could not rule out a lockdown over Christmas if case rates rose, adding: “The most important thing people can do" to prevent further restrictions is to "get the boosters".

Watch: Germany's COVID situation is dramatic: Merkel