This is your overview of news from Slovakia on Wednesday, January 13, 2021. This is a free-of-charge service for our readers. If you want to support us, become a subscriber and get access to more detailed news and interesting feature stories from Slovakia.
Matovič clashes with experts over mass testing
While PM Igor Matovič says mass testing is the most effective weapon against the pandemic, experts and hospitals oppose him and insist vaccination should be the focus now.
Despite their opposition to the plan that the PM unveiled earlier this week, Matovič announced he was determined to proceed with the mass testing. The major hospitals in the country, which are now both rolling out the vaccination and testing, told the Sme daily that they did not have enough staff to allow them to participate in the mass testing project.
Both healthcare facilities and experts claim that testing should be applied mainly in the hardest-hit areas, while the focus on the nationwide level should be on vaccination as the most effective tool to counter the pandemic.
Matovič was quite critical of these claims, stressing that Slovakia is currently one big hotspot. In his opinion, everybody should join forces and not criticise the government.
“It’s a lie to say that a way out for Slovakia is mass vaccination and not mass testing,” Matovič said, as quoted by the TASR newswire.
He also said that currently, Slovakia has vaccination doses for only a few percent of people. If everything goes smoothly, one-third of people may be vaccinated by June, he continued.
Following the backlash, experts responded again, suggesting that mass testing should only be carried out in 18 out of 72 districts, including the districts of Nitra, Trenčín, Bratislava, Košice and Banská Bystrica.
Parliamentary greenlight for national emergency
MPs have given the green light to extend the national emergency, approved by the cabinet on December 29.
It was upheld by 83 lawmakers out of 108 present.
The recently passed legislation stipulates that the cabinet can repeatedly extend the 90-day national emergency by 40 days. This decision needs to be confirmed by the parliament within 20 days after the extension comes into force.
Other coronavirus-related developments
- Children will not return to schools on Monday, January 18, and will continue learning remotely. The schools will follow the current regime next week too, said Education Minister Branislav Gröhling (SaS).
- Austria will close two border crossings with Slovakia on Thursday, January 14: Angern an der March – Záhorská Ves (both road and ferry) and the Freedom Cycling Bridge outside Devínska Nová Ves.
- The British coronavirus strain was confirmed in Banská Bystrica and Trenčín.
- The MultiplexDX company has completed the development and experimental validation of a new PCR test that reveals the British coronavirus strain.
- The first batch of the Moderna vaccine has arrived in Slovakia. The country has also received another 50,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
- Vaccination in nursing homes should start on January 18, Health Minister Marek Krajčí (OĽaNO) and Labour Minister Milan Krajniak (Sme Rodina) confirmed. Employees should receive them first as they can leave the facilities, as Krajniak said.
- The cabinet approved testing pupils and students by gargling. The Education Ministry plans to purchase more than 1 million testing kits.
- Last year’s mass testing cost more than €67 million, the Finance Ministry calculated. The sum does not include the expenses of the Health Ministry and the Administration of State Material Reserves.
- The isolation of employees complicates the operation of funeral services. The number of available coffins is falling as well.
Pictures of the day:
The first snow of this year has arrived in Bratislava. Stroll around the Old Town with our gallery.
Feature story for today:
A violent beating behind bars, severe injuries not mentioned in the medical report, various theories about the impossibility of committing suicide in a prison cell.
Several baseless claims were floated on social networks after the death of former Police Corps president Milan Lučanský in late December, on disinformation websites as well as some regular media, resulting in growing anger among the Slovak online population.
This had some observers worried about how far sentiments could escalate, particularly ahead of the planned funeral of the former police boss on January 8.
In other news
- The cabinet has approved the purchase of new 3D radars for €148 million from Israel.
- The American multinational company Johnson Controls reportedly plans to dismiss some 300 people from its Bratislava-based centre of financial services in the coming days. (Aktuality.sk)
- The average nominal monthly wage rose in November 2020 in most monitored sectors. The exception was the accommodation sector, where the wages dropped by 20.2 percent year-on-year on average to €692, and the sale and repair of motor vehicles, where it fell by 2.7 percent year-on-year to €1,166 on average.
- Employment increased in November 2020 only in selected market services (1.7 percent year-on-year) and in information and communication activities (0.8 percent year-on-year). The biggest decline was in accommodation and support services.
- Hygienists carried out 1,720 food inspections between October 1 and December 31. The deficiencies were uncovered in 22 cases.
Also on Spectator.sk today:
13. Jan 2021 at 17:47 | Compiled by Spectator staff