This is your overview of news from Slovakia that happened on Wednesday, January 20, 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.
Efforts to weaken the fight against extremism
Several media reports suggest that a special department of the Special Prosecutor’s Office that fights extremism will be closing soon, despite its recent success.
Its merger with the rest of the office has been mentioned by several candidates for the special prosecutor post and even the recently appointed General Prosecutor, Maroš Žilinka.
The change is allegedly part of the draft changes to the organisational structure of the prosecution service Žilinka is working on. It needs to be approved by the cabinet first.
The decision has been criticised by Tomáš Honz, who is at the helm of the department, but also more than two dozen coalition MPs.
Žilinka has refuted the claims about the efforts to weaken the fight against extremism. Even if some departments of the Special Prosecutor’s Office were merged, it would not mean that the fight against extremism-related crimes would be considered less serious, he added.
More vaccines and an updated plan
Slovakia has signed an agreement to purchase more than 4 million vaccines.
Thanks to this, the country has secured enough vaccines to vaccinate 85 percent of the adult population, according to PM Igor Matovič (OĽaNO).
If approved, the country could receive another 360,000 vaccines from Astra Zeneca in February.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has published an updated plan for vaccination in Slovakia. Starting today, people aged 85+ years can book an appointment to get vaccinated.
Instead of the initial four phases, people should now receive the jab in 11 waves, mostly based on their age. The youngest people will be the last in line.
At the same time, the period between receiving the first and the second dose was extended from 21 to 28 days.
More aggressive strain probably dominant in Slovakia
The more aggressive strain of the coronavirus that was first discovered in the UK, provoking concerns across Europe, has been spreading in Slovakia for weeks. It is not necessarily bad news, though, as numbers are still gradually decreasing.
The B.1.1.7 strain of the coronavirus spreads faster and also infects children and younger people easier than the virus that was spreading in Europe since the spring. PM Igor Matovič (OĽaNO) used the spread of the new strain as an argument for the mass testing that is currently ongoing in Slovakia.
The analysis of samples from the mass testing in the Trenčín district on December 19 and 20 has now shown that the so-called British mutation was found in 57 percent of the cases detected there. The analysis was published by the Public Health Office on January 20.
Latest coronavirus-related developments
- Slovakia reported nearly 2,500 new coronavirus cases on January 19. The number of coronavirus-related deaths rose by 100.
- Altogether 3,892 people were vaccinated on January 19, increasing the total number to 75,292.
- The curfew will be applied on January 25 and 26 too and will last until February 7. Originally, it was to expire on January 24 and start again on January 27 when the negative test results are required.
- The temporary nationwide testing suggests that the highest rate of positive test results is in Bánovce nad Bebravou in Trenčín Region (16.3 percent), Levice in Nitra Region (15.9 percent) and Partizánske in Trenčín Region (15.4 percent). Overall, the situation seems to be worse in the western part of Slovakia.
- Slovakia should receive another batch of 2.8 million rapid tests by the end of next week, said Economy Minister Richard Sulík (SaS).
Picture of the day:
Feature story for today:
The name of Gabriel Šípoš is very well known to anyone who has paid attention to anti-corruption and transparency efforts in Slovakia in the past decade.
He has led the Slovak branch of the non-governmental watchdog Transparency International since 2009 and will soon leave the post after 11 years.
“The longer I worked on transparency topics in Slovakia, the longer I thought it would be interesting to work on such topics globally,“ Šípoš said in an interview with The Slovak Spectator.
Read more about his contribution to fighting corruption in a story by Nina Hrabovská Francelová.
In other news
- Schools will not reopen next week, Education Minister Branislav Gröhling (SaS) said. They may gradually start reopening after February 1, when the COVID automat alert system is expected to be launched.
- The Czech police have intensified the controls on selected border crossings, with a focus on the proper observation of quarantine measures and illegal migration via truck transport. No change will occur on the Slovak side.
- Several members of the far-right Kotlebovci – People’s Party Our Slovakia (ĽSNS) have left the party’s leadership after the changes that gave more powers to its chair, Marian Kotleba. This includes MPs Milan Mazurek, Ondrej Ďurica and Milan Suja, and MEP Milan Uhrík. They all want to stay in the party, though.
- Police carried out the Level 2 (Weed 2) operation aimed against Žilina judges. They have detained former chair of the Žilina Regional Court Eva Kyselová and former judge Mária Urbanová, who are both charged with accepting bribes and abusing the powers of public officials.
- The Police Academy in Bratislava did not prolong contracts with Smer MP Ľuboš Blaha and former presidential candidate Eduard Chmelár who were both teaching at the school.
- A young Slovak woman died in Bali, Foreign Affairs Minister Ivan Korčok (SaS nominee) has confirmed. Several media outlets have reported that she might have been murdered.
- The Agriculture Ministry has confirmed that bird flu has been diagnosed in Bratislava and Košice.
- Journalists and their sources should be protected by a special constitutional law that should also secure their access to information. The new legislation is being prepared by the Culture Ministry.
More on Spectator.sk today:
If you have suggestions on how this news overview can be improved, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.