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Covid: Far-right protesters attack Slovak government office over virus measures

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Protesters have attacked the offices of the Slovak government over measures to stem the spread of Covid-19.

The crowd, made up of about 500 neo-Nazis and hardcore football fans, threw bottles and stones at the building in the capital Bratislava.

Riot police later used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the protest.

Earlier on Saturday, Slovakian Prime Minister Igor Matovic said the country would test every person aged 10 and older for coronavirus.

Like many countries across Europe, Slovakia has seen a surge in confirmed cases and deaths from Covid-19.

On Saturday the health ministry reported almost 2,000 new cases, bringing the total to more than 28,000, and 11 new deaths, raising the total death toll to 82.

The government declared a state of emergency earlier this month, and introduced new restrictions this week – including a ban on church services and other mass events, the closure of fitness centres and pools, and a switch to remote learning for schools.

“Testing will be free of charge,” Mr Matovic announced at a press conference, but didn’t clarify whether it would be mandatory or voluntary.

“If we manage to pull this off, we can set an example for the entire world.”

The scheme will be piloted in some areas next weekend, ahead of the main testing taking place at the end of October and early November.

A similar protest has been planned in Prague for Sunday afternoon, against the Czech government’s anti-coronavirus measures.

A social media page for the event has been shared widely on Facebook among football and hockey fan clubs, and among the far-right, the BBC’s Rob Cameron reports.

Schools and bars in the Czech Republic have been shut down, but infections are still soaring. 

The government said it was building its first field hospital for coronavirus patients and has has called on doctors working abroad to return home.

What is the other Covid news from Europe?

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged people to stay at home as Covid cases continue to surge.

“We have to do everything to prevent the spread of the virus from getting out of control,” she told a weekly video podcast. 

“Every day counts. Meet with fewer people, either at home or outside. Please refrain from any journey that is not absolutely essential, every gathering that is not absolutely essential. Stay in your home, where at all possible.”

On Sunday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is going to announce more measures to counter a new wave of cases of the virus there. 

Italy, which was the first European country to be hit significantly by Covid in the first wave, registered a record number of new daily cases on Saturday.

France also reported a record number of new cases of the virus on Saturday – a rise of 32,427, the health ministry said. A day earlier the country recorded 25,086 new infections.

Spain saw 11,000 more deaths between July and October than in the same period last year, according to El Pais newspaper. This is double the number of Covid deaths reported in these months – the official number from the health ministry is about 5,400.

In the Netherlands, the Dutch royal family have cut short a holiday to Greece amid intense criticism. They embarked on the controversial trip shortly after the government introduced a partial lockdown and urged people to travel as little as possible. 

In a statement, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima said: “We see people’s reactions to media reports. They are intense, and they affect us. We do not want to leave any doubt about it: to get the Covid-19 virus under control, it is necessary to follow the guidelines. The discussion of our holiday does not contribute to that.”

What are the restrictions in Europe?

  • On Thursday, Poland designated red zones where schools and gyms will close, including in the capital Warsaw
  • Schools in Italy’s southern Campania region, including the city of Naples, are to close for two weeks
  • In Germany bars and restaurants in higher-risk areas must close early
  • In Portugal, the government said gatherings would be limited to five people from Thursday. Weddings and baptisms can be attended by up to 50 people but university parties will be banned
  • Catalonia also said restaurants in the Spanish region would only be allowed to serve takeaway. Gyms and cultural venues will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity, while shops and large shopping centres must be limited to 30% capacity
  • In the Netherlands, all bars, restaurants and coffee shops closed on 14 October except for takeaway; households can have a maximum of three guests per day
  • Movement is limited in the Russian capital Moscow, and from Monday senior schools (for children aged 13-18) will be closed
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