Slovak COVID-19 infections keep rising, government calls troops to help

PRAGUE (Reuters) – Slovakia reported another daily record number of new coronavirus infections on Friday, prompting the government to call up hundreds of troops to help public health officials and warn of tighter restrictions on public life.

Some 1,184 newly infected people were identified on Thursday, the government said on Friday, bringing the total in the country of 5.5 million to 16,910. It has reported 57 deaths so far with 370 hospitalised as of Thursday.

“I am beginning to be concerned whether the measures adopted can be effective with such marked growth in the numbers of positive people,” Prime Minister Igor Matovic told a news conference.

Health Minister Marek Krajci said the “R” number estimating the speed of the spread of the infection was around 1.4, which translates to a doubling of new infections in a week.

The government has approved up to 1,500 troops to be available to help at local public health offices and at hospitals, with an initial 267 to be deployed over the weekend to help trace contacts of infected people.

Slovakia has so far avoided blanket lockdowns but has mandated the wearing of face masks in indoor public spaces, limited numbers of customers in stores, ordered restaurants and bars to close at 10 p.m., and restricted numbers of participants at sports and public events.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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