State of emergency over coronavirus. What does it mean? (Q&A)

What to expect in the coming days in Slovakia.

(Source: TASR)

It applies as of Thursday 6 am. There are currently 10 cases of the COVID-19 infection in Slovakia, 624 people have been tested so far.

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>> For all the news about the coronavirus in Slovakia, click here.

Questions and answers:
-What is a state of emergency?
-Why did the state introduce the state of emergency?
-What new measures are they planning to take?
-What measures are already in place?
-How many protective masks do we have, how many do we need and why don't we have them by now?

What is a state of emergency?

In a state of emergency, the state is allowed to supply health care workers with protective equipment from the State Material Reserves. It can also force Slovak companies not to sell the equipment abroad. The government thus has competencies that would otherwise be considered unconstitutional and illegal.

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It is thus not true what PM Peter Pellegrini said that declaring a state of emergency does not interfere with the rights of people. It interferes with the right to do business. The government can also demand ordinary citizens to submit a list of animals and plants they own, and confiscate them in the event of a food crisis. District authorities can order people to assist with rescue work as well.

The state can also force hotel owners to provide accommodation to people in need. Pellegrini claims he is not planning to use all the possibilities the state of emergency gives him.

Why did the state introduce the state of emergency?

The State Material Reserve Administration cannot release the health care equipment from its stocks unless the state of emergency is declared. Although the state does not have enough protective clothes and masks at the moment, it is not even allowed to distribute the ones it does have in the reserves, which includes thousands of protective masks from 2009.

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The state is also having problems purchasing health care material. PM Peter Pellegrini mentioned a Slovak company that owns lung ventilators and is considering selling them to Poland.

"The government cannot be in the position to bed someone to sell us something. This way we can force them to supply the goods," Pellegrini said.

What new measures are they planning to take?

The government is pondering a compulsory 14-day quarantine for everyone coming from abroad to Slovakia. The quarantine is compulsory for all people travelling from China, Iran, Italy and South Korea.

The crisis staff will also discuss closing all the schools in the country for a minimum of 14 days.

In the event the number of COVID-19 infections grows rapidly, the state is considering providing alternative housing in its dormitory in Gabcikovo for those in quarantine.

The government will provide 500 professional soldiers to help the police, mainly with the info campaign at border crossings. The municipal police will focus on checking public spaces, to make sure people do not gather in large numbers.

Medical students will give a hand to the helplines.

Health care professionals have started collecting samples from people suspected of having the infection. There are two kinds of tests. One, which has a 98 percent accuracy rate, is for people with milder symptoms. The other one is for those with more severe symptoms.

The state is looking for ways to increase its lab capacities for testing samples. So far they only did so in Bratislava; another lab should have been added on Wednesday in Kosice. The virology institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences got a grant to be able to help as well.

What measures are already in place?

As of March 10, there is a ban on organising public events for 14 days.

Several municipalities have introduced their own measures. Many universities, secondary, primary and pre-schools are closed.

How many protective masks do we have, how many do we need and why don't we have them by now?

The State Material Reserves have thousands of protective masks from 2009. There should also be a thousand new, high-performance respirators FFP 4 for doctors in ambulances. Another 9,000 are expected to be delivered from the Czech Republic. They have not managed to secure enough protective clothes yet, as well as glasses and FFP 3 and FFP 2 respirators.

"The bans on the export of protective equipment from other countries complicates the situation for us very much," head of the State Material Reserve Kajetan Kicura said.

The Slovak Medical Chamber reports most ambulances have not had the masks for a month now. Their president, Marian Kollar, claims they have already exhausted the stock they must keep in the event of a regular flu epidemic.

"The state of preparedness and sincerity of the statements is on the level of the Communist Party and Chernobyl," the Association of Hospitals of Slovakia said.

Dentists have noted that one quarter of dentists are older than 65 and cannot provide their services without protective masks.

We are beyond the stage when a doctor without a mask asked the patient whether they came from a risk area, says doctor Peter Visolajský.

The State Material Reserves started purchasing the protective tools for patients and doctors two weeks ago, when the government requested it.


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