News digest: Slovakia tests en mass and launches vaccination of seniors

Health minister admits resignation if alert system not observed. Slovak diplomat has a new lucrative post.

The vaccination in nursing homes started. (Source: Bratislava city hall via SITA)

This is the overview of news that happened in Slovakia on Monday, January 18, 2021. For a deeper insight into current affairs, see our Last Week in Slovakia, published earlier today.
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Brace up for testing

The cabinet presented its plan for breaking the curve, along with the gradual opening of schools and shops after its January 17 session. The cabinet is planning mass testing, which started today and will last until January 26.

Starting on January 27, the test will be required when travelling to work, going to nature, as well as banks, insurance companies, petrol stations or newsagents.

The second round is planned to be held in 37 districts with a higher share of positive cases, which will be specified based on the results from the ongoing testing. The remaining districts will follow a milder regime.

Leaving home will be nearly impossible without a negative test Read more 

The Slovak Spectator put together answers to some of the most pressing questions, including who will need the test, where the testing will take place and what are the exceptions.

Curfew will be prolonged. Negative test result will be required for work or trips to nature (FAQ) Read more 

Other coronavirus related developments

  • The vaccination of seniors in nursing homes has officially started on January 18, following the updated vaccination strategy. The pilot project will take place in Bratislava, Trenčín, Žilina and Košice.
  • 200 Polish doctors and healthcare workers will help with mass testing the following weekend, PM Igor Matovič announced on Facebook.
  • The Economy Ministry has prepared a manual for testing in companies, but it wants to discuss its final version with the coalition first.
  • A record number of 333 patients infected with COVID-19 are currently hospitalised in the University Hospital in Bratislava, and another 22 are suspected of being infected. COVID-19 beds are occupied at 93 percent.
  • In case the measures from COVID automat alert system are not observed, Health Minister Marek Krajčí (OĽaNO) is ready to resign from his post. He admitted so on a political talk show of the private broadcaster Radio Expres.
  • The second round of voluntary mass testing took place in the Nitra district, and the city of Košice and its surroundings the previous weekend, with dozens of people attending. Banská Bystrica held the testing for people from the entire district as well.

Production of cars down, but not much

Carmakers in Slovakia produced some 985,000 vehicles last year, which is 11 percent less than the year before.

The result can still be considered great given the current situation, according to Alexander Matušek, chair of the Slovak Automotive Industry Association (ZAP). Originally, the forecasts suggested a drop of more than 20 percent.

Related articleDrop in car production lower than expected Read more 

Picture of the day:

Feature story for today:

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have banned Donald Trump from making new posts, and in some quarters this has led to accusations of censorship. But this is exactly backwards: social media giants must exert more editorial responsibility — not less — for what is distributed on their networks.

Facebook isn’t a state-owned utility. It’s a private website, and as such, they have the right to determine what — and what not — appears on their site. Requiring them to publish somebody’s view is no different than a government mandate telling the Sme daily what it must publish or a law that would make me print your views on my private blog. While it is a problem that we have privatised the public sphere in a few powerful companies, the solution is to force Facebook to regulate their content more — not less.

Read more in the opinion piece by Ben Cunningham.

Why Trump's Twitter ban is no censorship Read more 

In other news

  • The United Nations Security Council approved on January 15 the appointment of veteran Slovak diplomat Ján Kubiš as the UN Libya envoy, nearly a year after the last mediator stepped down. (Reuters)
  • Multinational company AT&T Global Network Services Slovakia reportedly plans to dismiss 440 people due to redundancy, the website reported. The trade unions said that it can lay off some 300 people, which is about one tenth of its workforce.
  • Nearly €211 million was collected through the e-toll system in 2020, down by 4.6 percent compared with the previous year. More than €2 billion in total has been collected since the system was launched in 2010.
  • Industry helped the Slovak economy at the end of 2020, but the beginning of 2021 may be more difficult. Despite lower economic activity in the first quarter, the economic losses will be smaller than during spring lockdown last year, according to the analysts of the Institute for Financial Policy (IFP), running under the Finance Ministry.
  • Slovakia sold its state bonds for €549 million on Monday auctions. The demand was as high as €655.2 million. (ARDAL)
  • Skalité na Kysuciach in the Žilina Region reported a temperature of -25 degrees Celsius at night. The temperature dropped below -20 degrees Celsius mostly in the Žilina Region, and also in some places in the Trenčín Region and Spiš.
  • Slovak skier Petra Vlhová missed the stage during the weekend giant slalom races in Kranjska Gora in Slovenia. She placed fourth in the January 16 race and tenth in the January 17 race.

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Theme: Today in Slovakia

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