FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face mask as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spreads in the area around Roma settlements, in Krompachy, Slovakia April 9, 2020. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa

PRAGUE (Reuters) – Slovakia will shut most of its schools and require the population to stay home apart from work, essential shopping and trips to nature, in a partial lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Igor Matovic said on Thursday.

Matovic also confirmed plans to go ahead with nationwide free testing across the country of 5.5 million people. After the first week of the new lockdown, which will begin on Saturday, those who can show a negative test will be exempt from some rules, though full details have not yet been announced.

After getting through the first wave of the global pandemic with one of the lowest infection rates in Europe, Slovakia is facing a surge of new cases, forcing it to bring back restrictions.

Schools across the country, apart from the early years of primary schools, will close for a month from Monday, Matovic said. Even tougher lockdown rules will apply in the four most severely affected districts.

Two nationwide testing drives will be carried out from Oct 30-Nov 1 and again from Nov 6-8. Authorities hope that giving those who test negative the right to avoid some lockdown restrictions will be an incentive for people to participate.

The new measures add to restrictions already banning indoor dining at restaurants and closing public venues such as pools, fitness clubs and theatres.

Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Chris Reese



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