March 15, 2020 / 7:03 PM / 3 months ago

Slovakia declares state of emergency over coronavirus, orders shop closures

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovakia declared a state of emergency on Sunday to contain the coronavirus outbreak, ordering the closure of all shops except food stores, pharmacies, banks, petrol stations and post offices from 6 a.m. on Monday, Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini said.

FILE PHOTO: Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini arrives for the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium December 12, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Pellegrini said the government’s crisis committee would meet on Monday to discuss further measures, including steps to ease the impact of the crisis on the economy.

“We have to do everything so that the pace of the virus spreading does not increase,” Pellegrini told a news conference.

He added it was “highly probable” Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) would halt production at its auto production plant near Bratislava on Monday or in the next few days due to a possible coronavirus case at the factory.

VW said it would begin the shut-down process on Monday but did not comment on whether the reason was a coronavirus case at the plant, Slovakia’s largest private sector employer.

Pellegrini said the economy minister would talk with VW executives on Monday.

“We hoped that the situation regarding the coronavirus would calm down over the weekend, but that did not happen,” Volkswagen Slovakia Chairman of the Board Oliver Grunberg said in a statement, commenting on the general spread of the outbreak.

“We thus consider asking the (parent company) to suspend production to be the most responsible solution.”

Slovakia last week introduced border checks, stopped international travel to and from the country and closed schools, along with sport, leisure and entertainment centers.

The nation of 5.5 million has 61 confirmed coronavirus cases, up 17 from a day earlier. The country has reported no deaths.

Reporting by Tomas Mrva; Writing by Michael Kahn; Editing by Jan Harvey

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