Slovaks frustrated over compulsory quarantine

When the coronavirus pandemic started in March, Slovakia acted fast imposing lockdown and other restrictions, which helped it to keep the number of cases much lower than in most other European countries.  With 1,469 cases and just 27 deaths, the government started easing restrictions, but one of the measures is still in place - compulsory quarantine for Slovaks returning or visiting from abroad.

When Slovaks enter the country, they are escorted by police to state-run facilities where they must stay at least five days, or much longer if they test positive for the virus. People staying in the centres - ranging from drab student dorms to hotels - pay no fees but must cover meal charges.

PM Igor Matovic has defended the system’s role in helping detect infections and prevent the coronavirus’s spread. Official figures show people who are or were at the centres account for almost 13% of the positive cases. Almost 17,000 people have spent weeks in quarantine in Slovakia.

But ombudswoman Maria Patakyova has said the quarantine potentially breaches basic human rights and that a “large number” of complaints have been made about unsanitary conditions. She “drew attention to the shortcomings in implementing the state quarantine” when she met Slovakia’s interior minister on Tuesday, her office said.

According to Samuel Zubo, head of the Srdcom Doma (My Heart is at Home) association representing Slovaks abroad, says compulsory quarantine should be replaced by self-isolation, or people should be exempted from quarantine if they can present a negative test for the virus. He said the government treats people as if they are irresponsible and claims that the system is not based on any data.

Zubo has decided not to return from Prague to visit relatives in Slovakia with his nine-year-old daughter because he does not want to spend time in a quarantine centre, Reuters reported. His criticisms were echoed over social media. Viktoria Fricova complained that she was forced to stay in cramped living quarters after returning from India. She said it would have been better to self-isolate.  “We learned that we would have to stay together only on arrival. We were not offered any alternative,” she told Reuters.

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