TRENCIN, SLOVAKIA (REUTERS) - Slovakians lined up at malls, returned to hair salons and visited libraries on Monday for the first time in months as the central European nation opened shops and resumed services in a limited capacity as part of an easing of coronavirus restrictions.
The nation of 5.5 million, which is emerging from its worst wave of the pandemic, also opened churches, libraries, pools, zoos and some shops while it seeks to kick-start its vaccination programme.
Hairdresser Lubica Themel, whose first customer since December arrived at 8am, greeted overjoyed clients with a sense of relief and excitement.
"Customers have been calling every day since December," she said. "It's a great feeling we can finally do what we enjoy and of course the social contact is priceless."
Hotels also opened their doors for limited numbers of guests but restaurants remain closed for indoor dining.
Outdoor trips away from people's home districts are also now allowed.
Infections detected via PCR testing are below 1,000 a day on a weekly average while hospitalisations have dropped to 1,978 from a peak of more than 3,800 in early March.
Negative Covid-19 tests will be required to enter shops, churches and other buildings while the government has urged people to remain cautious.
That did not stop customers from lining up outside a local mall before opening hours. "I came to buy clothes for my children," said a woman who gave her name as Monika.
"Over the Internet, it's not always possible to get the right size and quality. This is what everyone is waiting for, especially mums."