Slovak PM tests positive for Covid-19

By: AFP      Published: 10:13 AM, 19 Dec, 2020
Slovak PM tests positive for Covid-19

Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic said Friday he had tested positive for Covid-19, a week after he attended an EU summit in Brussels.

The summit is believed to be where French President Emmanuel Macron caught the virus, leading a host of European leaders and top French officials to go into self-isolation.

"Today, I am one of you," Matovic wrote on his Facebook page, attaching a screenshot of a text message with his test results.

"I was to spend the Christmas holidays helping out at a hospital. Now my plans will likely be a little different," the 47-year-old premier added. 

The government's press department told AFP that Matovic had tested positive on Thursday and had since cancelled all his events. 

Local media reported that the government had called on all ministers and state secretaries to get tested in response. 

Deputy Prime Minister Veronika Remisova and Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad later announced that they were also infected.

Macron and Matovic are the latest heads of state and government around the world to contract the coronavirus, following the likes of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Donald Trump.

Since the pandemic erupted, Slovakia has registered more than 146,000 confirmed infections, including nearly 4,000 new cases on Thursday. 

More than 1,400 people have died from the virus in the country of 5.4 million people, including 62 people on Thursday.

New anti-virus measures are due to go into effect in Slovakia on Saturday, including the requirement for non-essential shops to close at 5pm (1600 GMT). Slovaks have also been asked to stay home.

On Friday, the health ministry announced Slovakia will get its first vaccines on December 26 and vaccinations should begin that day or the following.

Parts of Sydney locked down

Parts of Sydney were heading into a fresh lockdown on Saturday as officials in Australia's most populous city said they hoped the restrictions would be enough to control a growing outbreak in time for Christmas.

As a cluster of cases on the city's northern beaches grew to 38, residents were ordered to stay at home from late Saturday until midnight on Wednesday, other than for essential reasons.

"We're hoping that will give us sufficient time to get on top of the virus so that we can then ease up for Christmas and the New Year," said Gladys Berejiklian, the state premier of New South Wales of which Sydney is the capital.

From 5pm on Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people in several suburbs will be forced indoors with beaches, pubs and hotels closed. 

Although the restrictions -- which will be enforced by police -- only apply to the northern beaches, Berejiklian pleaded with Sydney's more than five million residents to stay home as much as possible over the coming days.

"Can I please ask everybody to abandon non-essential activity," she told local media on Saturday. "We don't want the virus to spread outside of the northern beaches."

The leader also flagged a possible return of some restrictions for the entire city, if the cluster continued to grow.

Australia's success in containing the virus has allowed a continued rollback of restrictions ahead of Christmas, with domestic travel having returned largely to normal before the latest outbreak.

The loosening of curbs has sparked fears that the new outbreak could have already spread around the country.

One case linked to the cluster has been detected in the neighbouring state of Queensland, prompting officials to announce restrictions on travellers from Sydney and forcing many into isolation.

Masks are still not mandatory in the city but residents in the northern beaches have been urged to wear them at all times while inside.

Australia has recorded over 28,000 Covid-19 cases and 908 deaths linked to the virus in a population of about 25 million.