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Slovenia’s health minister warned on Wednesday that the country could face a nightmarish scenario if it did not contain the virus outbreak raging in the small Alpine nation and other countries with low vaccination rates. ‘Central and Eastern Europe.

Health Minister Janez Poklukar said hospital beds were filling up as the country saw the highest number of daily cases since January. With more than 3,000 confirmed infections in the past 24 hours, Poklukar said a lockdown is looming.

“As we looked with fear in neighboring Italy at the start of the epidemic, we are now at a crossroads due to low vaccination rates and we could easily have a scenario of Bergamo,” Poklukar said, referring to the Italian town. hardest hit last year. .

Authorities say Slovenia has fully vaccinated around 53% of its 2 million inhabitants. Authorities plan to open more COVID-19 services in the European Union country, as intensive care units are 92% full, Poklukar said.

Other central and eastern European countries that also have low immunization counts have seen infections rise to record levels. Reluctantly, countries reimposed some restrictions to bring the situation under control.

Slovenia has so far required COVID-19 passes for employees to enter their workplace. Croatia has required them for workers in health care and nursing homes and in Serbia the health passport detailing their vaccination status is required for late hours in bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Romania has reinstated stricter restrictions which also include a curfew and the closure of some sites.

While the average vaccination rate in the European Union is around 70%, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe hover around 50% and below. Despite a high number of COVID-related deaths in recent weeks in the region, there has been only a slight increase in vaccinations.

“We have the weapon and the means, it is vaccination,” said Poklukar. “And we don’t use it.”

In neighboring Croatia, health authorities also reported on Wednesday a daily increase in new cases of around 4,500 in the country of 4.2 million. Every second test in the capital Zagreb has tested positive and new testing sites are being opened, authorities said.

Serbian doctors have said children and small babies were among those on ventilators, as the wave of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations that has been going on for weeks shows no signs of slowing down. Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said there would be no immediate new restrictions, but health officials were considering moving school classes online.

Serbia recorded nearly 7,000 new infections and 64 additional deaths on Wednesday. More than 1.1 million people have been infected in the 7 million Balkan country while nearly 10,000 have died.

“The most important thing right now is to implement the rules already in place,” Brnabic said. “If we don’t, any further action will be meaningless. “

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euronews Gt

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