Slovakia to open restaurant terraces, gyms in further lockdown easing

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FILE PHOTO: Slovakia reopens shops and services as COVID restrictions ease, in Trencin

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Slovakia will allow restaurant terraces and gyms to open from next Monday in a further step of easing coronavirus restrictions, the government said on Wednesday.

The country of 5.5 million has slowed the spread of COVID-19 infections in recent weeks amid tough restrictions after the latest wave of the pandemic hit it and central European neighbours hard in the past months.

The latest easing adds to the re-opening of shops, hotels, hair salons, churches, libraries, pools and zoos that already happened this week.

But capacity limits will remain, and customers or visitors have to show a negative COVID-19 test in most cases.

As Europe works through supply problems, Slovakia is looking to ramp up its vaccination programme. Daily COVID-19 cases in the country have dropped to a seven-day median of 642, after reaching around 3,000 in December and January. Hospitalisations, too, have fallen.

But Slovakia, like others in central Europe, has shown one of the highest per-capita death tolls during the pandemic, according to Our World in Data, with later waves of the pandemic being the most lethal.

The region had made it through the initial wave of the pandemic a year ago with relatively few cases and deaths compared with western neighbours.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)