News digest: COVID automat comes into force, as well as new curfew rules

Scientists work on tests to reveal the South African variant. Sahara sand arrives to Slovakia.

Some schools, including those in Banská Bystrica, opened on February 8. (Source: TASR)

This is the overview of news that happened in Slovakia on Monday, February 8, 2021. For a deeper insight into current affairs, see our Last Week in Slovakia, published earlier today.
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COVID automat launched

Slovakia started following the pandemic warning tier system, called the COVID automat, on February 8. For now, the entire system is following the rules under the worst tier, the black one.

Going to work and schools are accompanied by exceptions. They follow the regional criteria set by the automat system, with a negative PCR or antigen test result being required, validity depending on the tier of the district.

Negative test not required for outings Read more 

The cabinet agreed on prolonging the national emergency by a further 40 days as well, starting on February 8. This means that the ban on assemblies with more than six people and curfew will be applied again, at least until March 19.

People will be required to show a negative PCR or antigen results for most activities, apart from going to essential shops, out to nature or to the doctor.

Related articleCurfew has been prolonged. Where will I need a negative test result? Read more 

Other Covid-related developments

  • PCR tests revealed 757 positive cases out of nearly 3,800 tests carried out on February 7, which represents 20.01 percent. A further 72 people died, increasing the total number of victims to 5,271.
  • The Education Ministry has no list of schools open on February 8. It responded to the situation when several municipalities across the country, which are in the dark red tier of the COVID automat alert system, including Bratislava and Košice, decided to stay closed, following the recommendation of regional hygienists. It only updated the online form for its own COVID school automat, and encouraged the headmasters of opened schools to fill it in.
Schools in Bratislava will remain closed Read more 
  • Slovak scientists are working on a test able to reveal the South African Covid variant, said Pavol Čeakan of the MultiplexDX company. One of the reasons why they cannot complete the validation is that the variant should not be in Slovakia yet.

Two nationalities in census

People attending this year’s census will be allowed to indicate two nationalities. Although the Statistics Office first proposed dropping this option following a proposal by an MP of the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO), the office eventually changed its mind.

The proposal to let people choose only one nationality has been opposed by the members of national minorities in Slovakia, the president and also the ombudswoman.

The census will take place mostly online this year, with data collection starting on February 15 and lasting until March 31. The assisted census (when people fill in the forms and Statistics Office employees then put it into the system) will then be held between April and October.

Related articleIt will be possible to pick two nationalities in this year’s census Read more 

More state control over sales in critical infrastructure

The state will increase its influence over companies in critical infrastructure.

This means that the planned sale of shares in about 20 key companies active in the energy and industry sector will have to be reported to the Economy Ministry, which will then evaluate whether the new investor poses a threat to national security and public order. If it determines that it does, the sale will have to be approved by the cabinet.

The respective amendment was adopted on February 5.

The Economy Ministry justified the change with the current problems of the Slovenské Elektrárne energy generator.

Government will assess the sales of some critical infrastructure firms Read more 

Picture of the day

The Presidential Palace was lit in the Belarusian colours to show solidarity with the country:

Feature story for today

The relationship between municipalities and the Government's Office has not been ideal since last autumn, when PM Igor Matovič announced the first mass testing and gave municipalities just days to organise it.

The tense atmosphere escalated again in January after some mayors objected to the results of the first round of the nationwide testing.

Read more in a story by Nina Hrabovská Francelová.

Confused and frustrated municipalities call on government to treat them as equals Read more 

In other news

  • Economy Minister and SaS chair Richard Sulík considers it a mistake that only epidemiologists decide on what should be closed. To find “a balanced solution,” the opinions of sociologists, teachers and economists should be heard, he said on the political talk show Na Telo broadcast by the private TV Markíza broadcaster.
  • The trust in PM Igor Matovič (OĽaNO) keeps decreasing, as stems from the recent Focus poll for the Na Telo political talk show. He has dropped to the level of far-right ĽSNS chair Marian Kotleba and Smer chair Robert Fico.
  • The parliament elected Zuzana Dlugošová to lead the Office for the Protection of Whistleblowers. The office was established March 2019, but could not operate properly without a chair.
  • Cannabidiol is supposed to be removed from the list of psychotropic substances from May, as stems from an amendment to the law on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, which advanced to the second reading in the parliament.
  • Most people continue going to work during the ongoing lockdown, unlike last year. This stems from a poll carried out by the Slovak Academy of Sciences, MNFORCE and Seesame agency.
  • The foreign trade balance in December 2020 ended unusually in surplus, for the first time since 2015. The total exports of goods amounted to €6.5 billion, up 12.5 percent year-on-year, he highest growth in 2020; while the total imports of goods increased 9.6 percent y-o-y to €6.3 billion. The foreign trade balance was in surplus, amounting to €158.7 million.
  • The largest Slovak recycler of plastic bottles, Greentech Slovakia, wants to invest €16 million in its Banská Bystrica plant. The company, which currently employs 90 people, plans to create 30 new jobs.
  • The 18-storey Sky Park Offices in Bratislava passed the final inspection. Apart from it, three residential buildings that are part of the Sky Park project have been completed and even sold out. Another two buildings have construction permits.
  • The Kooperativa insurance company wants to build hundreds of rental flats near the Zlaté Piesky lakes in Bratislava, after purchasing plots near the lake. Although they should be primarily used for sport, the city can change its master plan due to the lack of rental housing. (Index)
  • 297 people declared bankruptcy in January 2021, more than 74 percent less than last year. In December 2020, 788 people went bankrupt, according to the analysis by CRIF – Slovak Credit Bureau.
  • Sahara sand arrived in Slovakia during the weekend. It resulted in high clouds in Europe, extraordinarily thick with a flaky structure.

Also on today:

Favourable business environment creates competitive business centres Read more 

An American with a stool sample walks into a Slovak hospital Read more 

Frozen waterfalls give Slovak paradise a beautiful look in the winter Read more