This is the overview of news that happened in Slovakia on Monday, January 25, 2021. For a deeper insight into current affairs, see our Last Week in Slovakia, published earlier today.
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Waiting for weekend results
More than 1.47 million people have been tested since the beginning of the nationwide testing, which the government has now dubbed a screening, on January 18. More than 21,500 tests were positive, which represents some 1.5 percent of the tested population, the Denník N daily reported.
However, this is still not final as the results of the weekend mass testing still have not been published, municipalities across the country opening ad hoc testing sites to satisfy the needs of their inhabitants.
The only figures were presented on Sunday, January 24, when PM Igor Matovič said that 1.303 million tests were carried out a day before, and 9,979 were positive. This represents 0.77 percent.
Other coronavirus-related developments
- 551 of more than 3,800 PCR tests carried out on January 24 were positive. No new deaths were added to the statistics.
- Libraries can open from January 27 if they observe strict hygienic measures (including one person per 15 square metres). Also sports events necessary for the preparation and qualification of certain athletes can take place, but without an audience, and every participant having a negative PCR or antigen test result no older than seven days.
- The Union of Towns in Slovakia is calling for summoning a meeting of experts, who advise the government on the coronavirus crisis. They should evaluate the results of the nationwide testing and decide on further steps.
- It is possible to take gargling tests from Saturday, January 23. They are provided by private labs run by Alpha Medical and are not free-of-charge.
SaS on the rise, OĽaNO dropping
It seems that the recent disputes between PM Igor Matovič and Economy Minister Richard Sulík have benefitted the latter, at least in the latest preferences poll.
If an election were held in mid-January, Sulík’s Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) would end up second with 13.3 percent of the vote, while the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) of PM Matovič would end third with only 10.1 percent.
The election would be won by the Hlas party of ex-PM Peter Pellegrini, with 24.3 percent, according to the recent Focus poll for the Na Telo political talk show broadcast by TV Markíza.
Another poll, by Median SK for the public-service broadcaster RTVS, suggests that people do not believe that Matovič and his government would be able to manage the fight against the pandemic.
Four inspirational initiatives awarded
Four initiatives in the fields of justice, education, health care and minorities that occurred outside the media’s attention received the White Crow awards. Granted to those who have shown courage and have defended the public good, the White Crow awards were given out for the 13th time.
The ceremony had to be postponed from November 17 due to the pandemic, and it also took place online.
This year’s laureates show that it is important to take care of public affairs honestly and persistently, regardless of potential losses, and speak up against injustice, according to the organisers.
Picture of the day
NASA picked the picture titled Southern Cross over Chilean Volcano by Slovak photographer Tomáš Slovinský as its Astronomy Picture of the Day. It was taken last month in Chile and captures the Southern Cross just to the left of the erupting Villarrica, one of the most active volcanos in our Solar System.
Feature story for today
Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert for the United States government, frequently appeared at awkward COVID-19 press conferences with Donald Trump. As Fauci held his first press conference since Joe Biden took office, he was asked how the atmosphere has changed under the new president.
“The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know — what the evidence, what the science is — and that’s it, let the science speak,” Fauci said Thursday. “It is somewhat of a liberating feeling.”
“Liberating” is a good word for the wider mood since Biden became president January 20. Even as a global pandemic rages, economies struggle and climate change threaten the future of the planet, it’s hard not feel that the weight of those things got a little lighter (just a bit).
Read more in an opinion piece by Ben Cunningham.
In other news
- Following the January 25 public hearing, the members of the parliamentary defence and security committee recommended Peter Kovařík as new Police Corps president. Another candidate, Štefan Hamran, failed to receive enough votes.
- Ján Orlovský has become new head of the Migration Office, running under the Interior Ministry. Orlovský served as an executive director of the Open Society Foundation between 2015 and 2020.
- The Dajme Deťom Hlas (Let’s Give a Voice to Children) association and the Via Iuris watchdog are helping schools prepare a motion for the General Prosecutor’s Office, asking for preference to the return of children to schools when lifting coronavirus restrictions. In their opinion, the COVID automat alert system do not take the warnings of the ombudswoman in consideration.
- Standard & Poor’s (S&P) agency has kept Slovakia’s credit rating at A+, but improved its outlook from negative to stable. The change reflects the positive expectations of S&P analysts, who hope for the recovery of the country’s economy in 2021, according to the Finance Ministry.
- The Tatry Mountains Resort company plans to cancel 260 job positions. The step comes as a reaction to the coronavirus crisis and the bad situation in tourism caused by the restrictions.
- The Financial Administration’s branches will operate under standard opening hours from Wednesday, January 27. People who want to visit them need a negative test result.
- The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) closed three administrative investigations related to the potential misuse of EU funds for agriculture in Slovakia in 2020. Findings include irregularities in direct payments and systemic weaknesses in national verification procedures.
- Belgian KBC reportedly paid about €64 million for OTP Banka Slovakia, as stems from a mandatory offer for small investors. This means that it will pay some €300 for one OTP client. (Denník N)
- Heavy snowfall has complicated the situation in several localities of eastern Slovakia. The situation is more serious in the Košice Region. The Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute has also issued warnings against floods in the southeast due to the melting snow.
Also on Spectator.sk today: