News digest: PM has COVID and vaccine expected over Christmas

Epidemic the worst so far in Slovakia. Government to roll out COVID vaccination programme in a few days. Police will be checking on curfew.

PM Igor Matovič attended an EU summit in Brussels one week before he tested positive for the coronavirus. PM Igor Matovič attended an EU summit in Brussels one week before he tested positive for the coronavirus. (Source: SITA)

This is the Friday, December 18, 2020 edition of Today in Slovakia. Learn about politics, business, and other notable events of the day in Slovakia in less than five minutes. If you like what we are doing and want to support good journalism, buy our online subscription. Thank you.

Matovič tests positive

At the end of a tumultuous working week, PM Igor Matovič confirmed on Friday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus. He reportedly had no symptoms at that time, and, according to Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď from his OĽaNO party, he was surprised to learn he had contracted the virus.

Matovič attended the meeting of EU leaders in Brussels last week, together with French President Emmanuel Macron, who announced that he had tested positive on Thursday.

Ministers and other cabinet members who have been in contact with Matovič went into quarantine and will be tested. The same goes for his fellow coalition leaders, Boris Kollár of Sme Rodina and Veronika Remišová of Za Ľudí, whom Matovič met on Thursday night to discuss coalition relations.

Remišová told Denník N that she requested the meeting after Matovič called on the fourth coalition leader, Economy Minister Richard Sulík of SaS, to step down. Sulík was not present at the meeting.

Slovakia is ready for the COVID vaccine

Infectologist Pavol Jarčuška told journalists on Friday that Slovakia was experiencing the worst time since the pandemic broke out. The number of COVID deaths has doubled compared to last Friday, with 58 reported deaths as a daily average in the last seven days. The reproduction number of the coronavirus in Slovakia is estimated at 1.3.

The number of patients in hospitals is expected to exceed 3,000 before the end of the year, which is why hospitals need help from outpatient doctors and medical students.

The ministry also reported that Slovakia was ready for the COVID vaccination, expected to roll out in the EU member states after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approves it. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is expected on December 26, when Slovakia is expected to receive the first batch to vaccinate the first 5,000 health care staff.

The vaccine should be accessible to the ordinary people who do not belong among any of the groups that will be given precedence, around Easter 2021 (late March - early April).

More on the coronavirus and lockdown in Slovakia:

  • Curfew applies in Slovakia as of Saturday morning 5:00. The police will be checking that people observe the rules.
  • Seven districts in the Trenčín Region have to follow stricter anti-pandemic rules. In the districts of Trenčín, Považská Bystrica, Ilava, Nové Mesto nad Váhom, Púchov, Bánovce nad Bebravou and Myjava, it is forbidden to sell alcoholic beverages for direct consumption, cultural events and religious services are banned. Voluntary testing will take place in the region this weekend.
  • TRAVEL ADVICE: People driving others to airports in neighbouring countries will need to show this confirmation as of Friday.
  • The Conference of Bishops of Slovakia announced priests will be allowed to serve four masses a day due to the pandemic, on the main religious holidays, which are December 25, January 1, and January 6.
  • The state-run postal service Slovenská Pošta reports a growing number of staff in quarantine, which complicates the operation and logistics of the post. This may result in limitations of opening hours and delays in deliveries.

Safe Christmas recommendations

The experts advising the government on the pandemic have put together a set of rules for peaceful, safe and healthy holidays.

  1. Stay at home, take holiday if you can.
  2. Be reasonable when shopping, do it online if possible.
  3. Limit traveling to a minimum, mass transportation and cable cars are not necessarily safe for you.
  4. Rest, spend time with your family and close ones.
  5. Stay safe when meeting others, best meet online.
  6. Sing Christmas carols at home.
  7. Take part in religious services virtually.
  8. Show your love for your fellow humans by not infecting them.
  9. Do sports safely, in the fresh air, alone or with your closest ones.
  10. Celebrate New Year's Eve at home, postpone all celebrations until the summer.

Featured story for today

Family albums are time capsules that hide not only rare portraits of ancestors, but also the now non-existent appearance of Bratislava. In recent years, the Bratislavské Rožky civic association, dedicated to the history and promotion of Bratislava, has digitised and processed the heritage of several Bratislava - or Pressburg - families. They have collected thousands of photographs, including very rare pieces from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Family albums conceal former look of Bratislava Read more 

In other news

  • Former minister for Smer, Peter Žiga, has testified in connection with the bribery charges he faces.
  • The unemployment rate in Slovakia increased by a mere 0.03 percentage point compared to October, and stood at 7.38 percent in November, based on the data from labour offices. The year-on-year increase is 2.46 percentage points.
  • The President has signed the state budget for the next year.

Weekend reads and tips:

Spectacular Slovakia roundupHumongous catfishes rescued from the emptied Ružiná Dam Read more  Pandemic lays bare Slovak disinformation problem, experts say Read more  What are the favourite Slovak names for babies? Read more  One village, one type of embroidery. A book-like box unveils 100 distinct Slovak designs Read more  How “artery-clogging” Slovak Christmas delicacies brought an American back to life Read more 

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