BRATISLAVA, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- Central Europe, which includes countries such as Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, is bracing for the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, topping the world in infection rate and death rate.
As COVID-19 continues dominating the agenda of governments in central Europe, new restrictive measures are introduced to prevent the outbreak from worsening. Governments also called on the public to strictly observe all kinds of orders and fight the epidemic together.
The third wave of COVID-19 has hit Poland, with around 12,000 infections recorded on two consecutive days. Due to the situation, the Polish authorities stressed tighter rules on faces masks, mandating masks in public space starting Saturday, instead of the previously allowed alternatives including scarfs and visors.
"The situation is very difficult outside the Polish border, especially in the South. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the epidemic figures are three-four times higher than in Poland. For this reason, we have decided to impose quarantine on people arriving from those countries," said Polish Health Minister Adam Niedzielski.
Those presenting a negative test result conducted within the preceding 48 hours are exempted from such quarantine measures. Both antigen and PCR tests are valid. Otherwise, the quarantine will be obligatory, according to Niedzielski.
In the Czech Republic, on average, nearly 1,000 new infections occur in every million people per day. Calling the situation "extremely serious," Prime Minister Andrej Babis said the existing anti-epidemic measures must be tightened.
In Austria, the government has imposed two rounds of lockdown to contain the pandemic. The public's patience has worn thin. The economic and social damage has piled up. Under pressure, the government has been treading carefully to relax lockdown in some areas while maintaining restrictions in other.
Meanwhile, it is increasing coronavirus testing, which is free of charge in the country's test centers and pharmacies.
The Czech government has declared a fresh state of emergency for 30 days until March 28. The Chamber of Deputies also approved a pandemic law, which allows the Ministry of Health and sanitation stations to have more choices in imposing restrictions.
Hungary will maintain the current restrictive measures until March 15. The restrictions include a curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., mandatory wearing of face masks, the closure of theaters, cinemas, and hotels, as well as digital education for secondary and college students. Restaurants are allowed to offer takeaway services only.
"Mass vaccination will provide an opportunity to ease the restrictions. But we are currently in the third wave of the epidemic, so we will extend the measures until March 15," Gergely Gulyas, head of the Prime Minister's office, told a press conference on Thursday.
Vaccination against COVID-19 has been underway in the Czech Republic, but the vaccine quantity is not sufficient to meet the demand. Almost 582,000 vaccine doses have been applied so far with roughly 221,000 people having received both shots.
Hungary has already started to administer the Sinopharm vaccine as a third wave of the pandemic looms. As of Thursday, 508,073 people received at least one shot of the vaccine, while 211,073 had two jabs, according to official figures.
When asked whether Poland is looking for vaccines apart from those approved by the European Union (EU), Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said that Poland wants EU-approved vaccines only.
"The main criterion for us is the safety of patients. That is why we only consider vaccines admitted by the European Medicines Agency," Niedzielski said,
During a video summit of leaders of the EU member states, held on Thursday and Friday, Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic asked other member states to lend vaccines and send health workers to his country. He also thanked countries that have shown solidarity with Slovakia. Enditem
(Xinhua writers Jiang Xue in Bratislava, Yuan Liang in Budapest, Zheng Zhang in Warsaw, Yang Xiaohong in Prague, Yu Tao in Vienna, Zhao Feifei in Vienna contributed to the report.)