Policy responses for Slovakia - HSRM


Policy responses for Slovakia

1.2 Physical distancing

The roadmap was presented by the prime minister and a group of experts on April 20 and originally comprised 4 phases. The first phase was to be implemented from April 22 onwards with other phases to follow in two-week intervals. Strict hygienic standards will apply in all open stores and facilities - mandatory covering of the upper respiratory tract, hand disinfection, regular cleaning and ventilation of the premises, compliance with two-meter spacing or limiting one customer to 25 m2 of sales area.

In clothing stores, customers are not able to use changing rooms to try on clothes. Markets had to provide one entry and exit and points of sale must not be closer than two meters. Only certain types of operations could continue to operate in shopping malls.

The epidemiological situation is to be evaluated before entering further phases. Several key performance indicators are used to guide individual transitional measures. The final decision is, however, still based on a voting procedure and recommendations from the group of experts. The group comprises the top experts on public health, virology, tropical medicine, epidemiology and analyst.  
Key performance indicators used include the seven-day moving median of the daily increase of patients with COVID-19. Patients who are in compulsory quarantine or already placed in some quarantine facilities are not considered into the median. Results are analysed on a daily basis.

For the first phase, if the value of the indicator is less than 100, the operations will be opened according to the published schedule. If the range of the indicator is from 100 to 150, the opening of establishments from the previous period will be maintained and new establishments will not be opened. If the increase in the indicator is above 150, the operations that were opened in the previous phase will be closed. For phases two and three, the cut-off median was set to be 50 cases. If the increase in cases reaches this point, Slovakia will revert to the previous phase. 

The value of the indicator is published on a daily basis at 9.00 online on the website: https://korona.gov.sk/en/

Phase 1 (as of April 22, 2020) – opening of wider range of stores and services:
• stores with a sales area of up to 300 square meters
• stores for cars, vehicles, parts, car dealerships
• Public caterings and fast foods (including sales from the dispensing window)
• following stores can be opened on sundays: veterinary clinics and "emergency pharmacies", hospital pharmacies and public pharmacies, gas stations, operations of telecommunications operators, public catering establishments and fast foods, posts, banks and insurance services,
• outdoor marketplaces
• only if a separate entrance and a separate exit with one-way movement of customers is provided,
• if customers are able to keep 2m distance
• restaurants within the markets can sell food and drinks only through the dispensing window; consumption is allowed only outside the market area,
• farm products, seedlings, flowers, seeds for planting and seasonal fruits and vegetables should be allowed on the market.
• outdoor sports activities under strict hygienic conditions

Phase 2 and 3 (as of May 6, 2020; merged due to the good epidemiological situation)
The following openings came into effect:
• public catering - outdoor terraces,
• hairdressers, barbershops, pedicures and manicures, cosmetics and solariums,
• hotels and accommodation services (short-term, without boarding, with toilet, with bathroom, without other common areas)
• museums, galleries, libraries and exhibition halls,
• outdoor tourist attractions (castles, zoos and others),
• taxi services
• churches + weddings
• shops and services in small shopping centers with less than 35 retail outlets.

Following places and services remain closed:
• natural and artificial swimming pools,
• physical education and sports facilities,
• human body care procedures (wet treatments, tattoo parlors and others),
• facilities for children and young people (including childcare facilities for children under age of 3),
• wellness centers, including swimming pools in accommodation facilities,
• entertainment and leisure facilities (casinos, cinemas and others),
• shops in shopping centers where more than 35 separate retail establishments are assembled (with the current applicable exceptions remaining in place).

Additional information:
• Opening hours for people over 65 remain from 9.00 am to 11.00 am, however, this only applies to grocery stores and drugstores
• The provision of social services remains closed according to phase 1
• Trying on clothes is possible after prior hand disinfection

Hygienic measures:
• entry and stay in the operation only with the covering of the upper respiratory tract (eg face mask, scarf, etc.), this obligation does not apply to the time required for the consumption of beverages and food in public catering establishments,
• disinfection of hands or provision of disposable gloves upon entry into operation,
• at least 2 m distances among persons,
• input max. 1 customer per 25 m2 of the area of store, this obligation does not apply to children,
• visible placement of a notice of the obligation to comply with the above hygiene measures and a notice of the maximum number of customers at one time for all store entrances,
• perform frequent ventilation of the stores,
• disinfect touch surfaces such as handles, shopping carts or baskets, etc
• wash the floors of the stores wet every day,
• obligation to maintain the premises closed and disinfected every Sunday until further notice (so-called sanitary day) - except for establishments that may be open on Sundays.

Prime Minister Igor Matovič announced on May 18, 2020 that the 4th phase of the release measures would start according to the schedule, i.e. on May 20. Key changes were:
• mass events, cinemas and theaters with the participation of up to 100 people and catering in interiors are allowed
• all shopping centers can reopen, with the exception of respective children's corners
• indoor sports grounds and swimming pools are allowed, but only for sports clubs
Hygienic standards also changed. The covering of the upper respiratory tract (mouth and nose) is not mandatory outdoors unless the distance between people is less than 5 meters. Furthermore, as for shops and services, the limit on the number of customers is reduced to 15 m2 per person. The opening hours of the catering facilities are extended until 22:00. For the time being, the shops remain closed on Sundays.

On May 27, a consortium of experts, together with the prime minister, decided to further relax the measures. According to the prime minister, Slovakia has to wait for the full 5th phase of the release of measures.  Key changes were:
• Indoor facilities can choose from three options that regulates volume of customers:
    1. 15 m2 per customer
    2.  two-meter spacing between customers
    3.  two-meter distance from the edges of the tables (for catering facilities).
• Public catering can be provided after 22:00. However, it is necessary to keep a list of participants in such an event and it must be available 30 days after the event
• Cinemas, theaters, taxi services, driving schools, tourist information services and outpatient sales services can be open on Sundays
• Relaxing quarantine requirements for some countries (see Section 1.3 – Isolation and Quarantine)

Fitness centres, night clubs, events for groups bigger than 100 people are still not allowed. Despite the very good epidemiological situation, the prime minister refuses to call off the emergency state and declared that it is likely that it will be further extended by another 90 days. The emergency state was declared on March 16 and should last until June 15, 2020. According to a variety of legal experts, the emergency state should have been abolished already (TASR, 2020).

The prime minister announced on June 9th, that as of June 10th, additional measures will be eased. 

In the last week of June, all children were able to return to school - including secondary school students.  On a voluntary basis, high school students and students of the 6th to 9th grade could return to school in the last week of June. The Minister of Education expects that schools will use this week to pass on certificates and to coordinate with teachers.

From Monday, June 15, the restrictions on the number of pupils in kindergartens and of students of the 1st to 5th grade were further lifted. 

The distribution of tables in restaurants to ensure minimal distance of two meters was made no longer mandatory, only recommended. Children's corners in shopping malls and nightclubs could open gradually.

Moreover, the number of people allowed at mass gathering was increased to a maximum of 500. As of July 1, this figure further increased to 1000.

After July 1, no significant measures regarding physical distancing and prevention were introduced until mid-August. Due to the worsening epidemiological situation, the Ministry of Health, jointly with the Public Health Authority, announced that as of  September 1, it will not recommend organizing public events with more than 1000 people, including sport events. Furthermore, they will also ban mass events indoors (if there are more than 500 people and after 11 pm). At indoor events with a smaller number of people, it will be mandatory to wear a face masks. Further measures are expected on regional basis, depending on the epidemiological situation.

New rules on public events

Starting from 1st October, any public event can be open to a maximum of 50 people - including performers and service staff. This limit applies to sports, cultural, religious and any other types of events. Restaurants, hotels and other similar facilities are also prohibited from organizing any mass event (beyond 50 people). It is also forbidden to organize wedding receptions, celebrations and ribbon festivities.
This regulation reflects on the decision of the prime minister not to ban all events altogether, as earlier recommended. Hence, if the number of performers and service staff exceeds 50, a mass event may be held, but without the presence of the audience. However, an unlimited number of participants may take part in the event if all participants, including performers and service staff, demonstrate a negative coronavirus test not older than twelve hours.

The same rules apply to church services, which can be attended by a maximum of 50 people, including priests or ministers. Church hygienists recommend organizing specially designated services for people over the age of 65. In both cases, every other seat in church is recommended to be omitted.
New rules on covering mouth and nose and number of customers

Starting from 1st October, the obligation to cover mouth and nose also applies outdoors, when people from other households approach closely (under two meters distance).

Shops and department (re-) operate with a limited number of customers (maximum of one customer per ten square meters of sales area). Establishments must also ensure that people in queues, for example at the cash registers, maintain a distance of at least two meters, except for people living in the same household.

Restaurants, pubs and bars must set their tables apart for at least two meters (measured by the edges of each table). Public catering can only be open from 06:00 until 22:00 and can only serve to seated customers.

All the new rules apply to all regions of Slovakia, irrespective of the current “traffic light” rules that wereput in practice in September. According to the prime minister, the epidemiological situation in Slovakia is so serious that it does not make any sense having local measures. The only exception remains schools that still apply traffic light measures according to the current epidemiological situation.
Due to the worsening epidemiological situation, the prime minister announced on October 12th a new set of measures. If these measures are not successful in pushing the median of new cases below 500, a total lockdown will be considered.
The new measures include:
• It is mandatory to wear a face mask, including exterior events;
• all mass events except for the five largest professional leagues will be banned;
• it is prohibited to meet in a group larger than six people;
• restaurants will be allowed to serve food only in exterior or via take-away;
• fitness centers and wellness centers, swimming pools, swimming pools, aqua parks and saunas will be closed;
• secondary schools will switch to distance learning;
• in shops and shopping centers, the rule of 1 person per 15 square meters will apply;
• seniors will have reserved time slots in food and drugstores: from 9:00 to 11:00;
Most measures will take effect on October 15. High schools will switch to distance learning from October 12.

TASR (2020). Vláda si nemôže dovoliť zrušiť núdzový stav, hovorí Matovič [The government cannot afford to call of the emergency state, according to Matovic]. [Online] Available at: https://domov.sme.sk/c/22413497/premier-matovic-vlada-si-nemoze-dovolit-nudzovy-stav-zrusit.html 

Ministry of Health (2020) All information about COVID-19 (Všetky informácie o KORONAVÍRUSE COVID-19). [Online] Available at: https://www.health.gov.sk/Clanok?Hlavna-sprava-COVID-19

As of March 16, 2020, all small-trade businesses and all other businesses providing services should be closed, with the exception of:
• grocery shops, butchers, bakeries, fruit and vegetable shops, grocery stores with food for particular nutritional uses for infants and toddlers, and grocery stores with products for special medicinal uses;
• pharmacies, shops and dispensaries of medical devices;
• drugs stores;
• fuel and propellant service stations;
• newspaper and kiosks with the press;
• shops with foodstuffs for animals, and veterinary practices;
• outlets for telecommunications operators;
• public catering operations and fast food establishments;
• post, bank and insurance offices;
• Internet shopping operations (e-shop) and home delivery services;
• cleaning and laundry services;
• auto repair services, towing services;
• taxi services for providing only transport of goods or deliveries (no passengers transportation is allowed);
• funeral services, cemetery services and crematoriums.

With effect from March 16, 2020, it is prohibited for the public to visit public catering establishments and fast food outlets: the ban does not apply to the open-air businesses or those whose facility has a dispensary window (e.g. fast food stands with dispensary windows, or take-away outlets and so avoiding the gatherings in closed spaces).

Since April 2, 2020, it is possible to prepare and dispense meals by the school canteens, on the basis of an individual decision of the founder of school catering facilities. School canteen staff must follow strict hygiene measures as well as strict hygiene practices. For socially disadvantaged children only dry food can be prepared and served. The administration of dry food to socially disadvantaged children is justified in terms of epidemiological risk as the least risky. Food is supplied only by delivery.

As of March 16, 2020, all Slovak citizens (or foreigners with the residence or work permit in the Slovak Republic), who has returned/will return to the Slovak Republic from the impacted areas abroad or have been/will be repatriated (by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic) have to stay in mandatory quarantine in designated facilities of the Interior Ministry for a period inevitable for carrying out a laboratory analysis and subsequently after a negative result is confirmed, this person is released and ordered the home isolation for the period of 14 days in total. Foreigners are banned to enter the Slovak Republic except for those specified above.

-All schools and educational establishments are shut down.
-International and domestic train and bus transport is limited, except for imports and supplies.

-Bars, leisure facilities and premises (ski centers, wellness centers, fitness centers, amusement parks and aquaparks) are closed.

- Social and cultural establishments are shut down.

- The opening hours of customer centers are limited

- Visits of the hospital patients will continue to be prohibited.

- The organization of sporting, cultural, social and other mass events is prohibited.

- Restaurants are open only for take away, hotels stay for now open.

Measures adopted in the Slovak Republic, with effect from March 30:
• A limit on the number of customers in the stores is imposed.  At a time, only one customer per 25 m2 is allowed in the store.
• All citizens are obliged to wear a facemask covering nose and mouth whenever in public
• In shops, there must be a mandatory disinfection for hands or disposable gloves provided at the entrance and a minimum distance of at least 2 metres must be assured in lineups
• Sale of respirators is prohibited for general public so that the availability of respirators is assured primarily for the frontline workers
• From 30 March, the following additional shops, services and facilities are to be re- opened:
     - opticians,
     - car emission control services
     - leasing services,
     - bicycle shops and service,
     - notaries and lawyers,
     - building, horticulture,
     - haberdashery, textiles
     - paints, varnishes,
     - electrical installation services,
     - hardware store,
     - collection yards,
     - computer and telecommunications services,
     - key services.

All these establishments must meet hygiene standards– mouth and nose covered, hand disinfection, gloves, minimum space for customers etc.
• At the entrance to hospitals and industrial facilities, the body temperature is checked
• For seniors over 65 years, exclusive opening hours from 9.00 to 12.00 were set
• All stores are closed on Sunday (general disinfection), except for emergency pharmacies and veterinary ambulances.
• On March 16, 2020, a state of emergency was declared for the health care sector, as of March 25, 2020, the state of emergency applied also to social care facilities providing health care.
• Municipalities and towns have to set up phone lines for food delivery and other help for the elderl and disabled persons
• Cancelation of the free railway tickets for students until the end of crisis
• Three hospitals will be red-flagged for the exclusive treatment of COVID-19 (Eastern Slovakia, Central Slovakia, Western Slovakia). In other hospitals there should be separate pavilions for patients with COVID-19
• The state bans the export of the necessary medicines and PPE that are essential to ensure the proper functioning of the hospitals
• The state authorities will be able to use people's location data provided by mobile operators during crisis in order to monitor those who are infected

Measures adopted in the Slovak Republic, with effect from April 6, 2020 :
• For all persons who enter the territory of the Slovak Republic is ordered isolation in facilities designated by the Slovak republic  for the time necessary to carry out the laboratory diagnosis of COVID-19. After the diagnosis is provided with negative result, the person is ordered to stay home in isolation for 14 days. The home isolation is also ordered to the persons living in the same household.