News digest: New coronavirus strain possibly detected in Nitra

Slovak scientists develop test to identify the new strain. Bratislava is ready for mass testing. Former police chief Lučanský buried in his native village.

Dozens of people came to light candles in front of the Police Presidium in Bratislava on the day of the funeral of Milan Lučanský. (Source: TASR)

This is the Friday, January 8, 2021 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.

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New strain worsens situation in Slovakia

The new, more infectious variant of the coronavirus was detected in five out of 17 positive samples from Nitra.

This was done using the PCR test developed by the Slovak company MultiplexDX. Its head Pavol Čekan said the sensitivity of the first version of their test nears 90 percent. It is currently undergoing the process of validation by the Biomedicine Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences. Boris Klempa from the lab said that they started examining positive samples in November but have only recently found the new strain.

Minister Marek Krajčí told the January 8 press briefing that the situation in the Nitra district was probably as serious as it is due to the presence of the new strain, first detected in England in December.

But the situation is escalating over the whole of Slovakia, with the numbers of those infected, hospitalised and who are victims on the rise. About a hundred people now die in Slovakia due to the coronavirus every day.

More about the coronavirus in Slovakia:

  • Slovakia will have received nearly 129,000 vaccines from Pfizer (117,975) and Moderna (11,000) in several batches by the end of January. Nearly 20,000 people will have been vaccinated by January 8. Read more about how vaccination is going in Slovakia:
Government to ramp up vaccine programme after slow start Read more 
  • Bratislava authorities are ready for mass testing if needed, Mayor Matúš Vallo said on Friday. The situation in the capital continues to worsen.
  • Austria will beef up checks at its borders with Slovakia and the Czech Republic. People are advised to expect traffic delays.
  • Passengers arriving from all international destinations will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test result before departing for England to help protect against new strains of the coronavirus circulating internationally.
  • The ZSSK railway company is suspending several regional train services on Saturdays and Sundays, from January 9 until February 28, due to the need for reduced mobility. The suspended trains are: the 7:32 and 15:18 trains from Poprad to Muszyna, and the 9:53 and 17:56 trains from Muszyna to Poprad. The company will also cancel restaurant services on many of its trains.

Hundreds came to Lučanský funeral

Former Police Corps president Milan Lučanský, who committed suicide in Prešov prison shortly before the end of last year, was buried in his native town of Štrba, near Poprad, on Friday.

The attendance at the funeral was limited to 30 people due to the pandemic. However, hundreds turned up in Štrba and stood in front of the church during the ceremony. Dozens of other people lit candles in front of the Police Presidium in Bratislava.

The police have taken precautions in order to prevent the abuse of Lučanský’s legacy, according to acting Police Corps President Peter Kovařík.

Following a wave of questions, some based on conspiracy theories that attracted the attention of tens of thousands of people on Facebook, the death of Lučanský is being subjected to an investigation by an ad hoc committee put together by Justice Minister Mária Kolíková. MPs too questioned the minister and the head of prison guards on Thursday.

The Matovič cabinet issued a statement on Friday rejecting what they called the political abuse of the fact of Lučanský's death, and expressing support for the justice minister.

Featured story: Democracy is a constant struggle

"Much like the entire central-European region, various political forces in Slovakia have other than democratic interests. The struggle continues and for now, Slovakia is doing better than Hungary or Poland, although things are not ideal.

Perhaps thanks to the pandemic, or perhaps despite the pandemic, the struggle is not so present in political discussions and undemocratic political forces do not have as much space to push through their interests."

PAVOL BABOŠ, political analyst of the Comenius University's school of political science, explains which of the 2020 conflicts and sentiments are likely to linger in 2021 in an interview with The Slovak Spectator.

Democracy is a constant struggle, just look at the US, analyst says Read more 

In other news

  • Police have launched a criminal prosecution based on the complaint filed by Health Minister Marek Krajčí in connection with the disinformation stories published on the Bádateľ website.
  • The far right ĽSNS filed an amendment proposing to scrap all the paragraphs on extremism-related crimes from the Penal Code. The coalition SaS reported such a draft amendment has been filed, calling it "arrogant and antidemocratic". (SITA)
  • Ján Šanta is running for Special Prosecutor as the candidate of the Paneuropean University in Bratislava.
  • Avian influenza was detected in two ducks that died at the Košice ZOO on January 7. The authorities have ordered the zoo to kill all birds with clinical symptoms of the disease. (TASR)
  • Export and import statistics have risen in Slovakia in November 2020. Overall exports amounted to €7.5 billion, based on preliminary stats, a year-on-year increase of 2.5 percent. Imports went up by 1.1 percent year-on-year, to €7.3 billion.

Weekend reads and tips

The end of a cheap labour force? Many Slovaks would not receive enough score points Read more  Spectacular Slovakia weekly roundupOndak’s ‘Time Capsule’ inspired by a Chile mining accident Read more  Five magic words Read more  After 20 years, a Bratislava homeless star now lives in her own home Read more  Bystrô waterfall in central Slovakia is a favourite spot for tourists in winter Read more 

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