Slovakia began opening up its economy on Wednesday after statistics showed that the small eurozone nation had the fewest COVID-19-related deaths per capita in Europe.
Shops, outdoor terraces of restaurants and bars, hairdressers, as well as museums, galleries and libraries were among the first to open their doors after nearly two months under lockdown to stem coronavirus infections.
“Today is the first time in two months that I didn’t have to cook a meal at home,” Jana told AFP as she enjoyed lasagna with her husband Stefan on the terrace of an Italian restaurant in downtown Bratislava.
But with few clients sitting on terraces of nearby restaurants, cafes and pubs in the city centre, consumers appeared to be cautious about taking advantage of their new found freedom.
“People don’t seem to have realised that we’re open as there are only very few patrons having a drink, but I hope the good weather would gradually attract more guests,” said Nikola Medic, manager of a Bratislava cafe.
Allowed to serve customers only outdoors, the cafe has had to place tables two metres (yards) apart to comply with social distancing rules.
Wearing face masks in public remains mandatory, except while eating.
Introduced in late March, health authorities believe the measure has played a significant role in limiting infections.
Slovakia recorded only eight new infections and no deaths on Tuesday, putting the total tally at 1,429 cases including 25 deaths in the country of 5.4 million.
According to the EU’s ECDC health agency, Slovakia has Europe’s lowest coronavirus death rate, at 0.4 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Church services including weddings also resumed on Wednesday, as did taxi services.
However, schools remain closed along with concert halls and theatres. Sporting events are also suspended.
Borders are still closed to foreigners and international air and rail travel also remains suspended.
Carmakers including Volkswagen, Groupe PSA and KIA, are slowly relaunching production at their Slovak plants.