News digest: South African strain confirmed, while problems at the Health Ministry pile up

Pope Francis considers visiting Slovakia. Prepare for a chilly night.

Conditions for wearing respirators and face masks are changing, too. (Source: TASR)

This is your overview of news from Slovakia on Monday, March 8, 2021. This is a free-of-charge service for our readers. For a more detailed insight into current affairs, read Last Week in Slovakia, published earlier today.
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New rules come into force

Several new rules came into force on Monday, March 8.

This includes the mandatory wearing of FFP2 or N95 respirators in shops and public transport. Starting next Monday, respirators will be compulsory also inside buildings (except for one’s household).

At the same time, people who tested positive with Covid, but have no symptoms will no longer be allowed to go to shops. They will have to stay at home, unless they go to the doctor or to the testing.

Kindergartens and grades one to four of primary schools should be open only for children whose parents have to be at their workplace.

New rules came into force, but ordinance published late Read more 

A new map of districts also became effective, with 30 districts in the black tier, 46 in the dark red tier, and three in the red tier.

Only three districts in the red tier, situation keeps deteriorating Read more 

Chaos relating to tests and vaccine registration

The Health Ministry has acknowledged several problems recently.

One of the bigger ones concerns the launch of vaccination registration for people of over 60 years. Health Minister Marek Krajčí (OĽaNO) announced the start on March 6 at 22:00, but slots in Bratislava and several other places were already booked as the system had actually launched much earlier.

However, the system kept falling or failing to register someone on the first attempt, hence those interested in the jab needed to enter their personal data all over again.

Many did not manage to register for vaccination due to these delays, because all available slots were filled in the meantime.

Chaos in vaccination registration as new slots open Read more 

The ministry has promised to launch a new registration system during the week that should work as a waiting room, meaning one should no longer wait for new dates. The person is expected to apply once, and then receive information on when the vaccine will be available, the private broadcaster TV Markíza reported.

At the same time, the ministry published a new vaccination strategy on March 8, giving preference to old people again. Some exceptions will remain, for example, for shop assistants and drivers over 50, people with health problems who can apply as stand-ins, and employees in critical infrastructure (find the new list here).

President Zuzana Čaputová criticised the current registration system, calling it demeaning. She referred to her own experience, when she wanted to register her mother.

“Until I filled all personal details, there were zero empty spots,” she said.

Apart from vaccination, the ministry has faced criticism for its recent purchase of rapid tests. Although it wanted people to test themselves, the batch of 35 million tests cannot be used without medical supervision. Moreover, some of them are not nasal, as the ministry originally claimed.

State planned tests for home use, but those bought by the ministry cannot be used for it Read more 

Other Covid-related developments

  • Out of 2,747 PCR tests carried out on March 7, 396 came back positive, which represents 14.42 percent, and 1,789 of 267,722 antigen tests carried out on Sunday were positive (or 0.67 percent).
  • Slovak virologists found the South African coronavirus variant in seven samples from Friday, March 5.
  • Experts do not recommend travelling abroad, mostly due to the threat of bringing more dangerous Covid variants into Slovakia.
  • Four schools carried out about 7,100 gargling tests in recent days, all of them negative, Education Minister Branislav Gröhling (SaS) said.
  • People mostly trust the Corminaty vaccine by Pfizer/BioNTech and Sputnik V, according to the recent Focus poll.

Women still face some problems

During the pandemic, women have been more likely to lose their jobs than men, and the burden of unpaid childcare and virtual school has fallen disproportionally on women.

The representatives of a diplomatic community in Slovakia

Slovakia, as the rest of the world, commemorates International Women’s Day on March 8. On this occasion, the diplomatic community recognised the powerful contribution of women in the fight against the coronavirus, as medics and caregivers, scientists and teachers, in business, and as political leaders.

Diplomats recognise the contribution of women in the fight against Covid-19 Read more 

The Amnesty International Slovakia non-governmental organisation warned of an increasing number of obstacles women face when exercising their rights in Slovakia, not only due to the pandemic.

Harmful or insufficient policies, such as restricted access to abortions, gender-based violence and the decreasing space for advocates of girls’ and women’s rights are also obstacles for women, organisation pointed out in a statement.

Women’s rights are still systematically violated Read more 

Travel advice:

Hungary has prolonged border checks until Monday, March 22. The country had already banned people other than Hungarian citizens and people with permanent residence in Hungary from entering its territory in September 2020.

Weather forecast:

Slovakia should prepare for another frosty night. The temperature will fall to -3 to -8 Celsius degrees in most of the country. In valleys the temperatures can be as low as -14 Celsius degrees.

Picture of the day:

Slovakia received 15,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a gift from France. The batch was welcomed by PM Igor Matovič (OĽaNO) and French Ambassador to Slovakia Christophe Léonzi on March 7.

Feature story for today:

The anti-pandemic measures adopted just before Christmas had a significant impact on consumer prices. Although they did not drop, the inflation rate was the lowest in the past four years.

Retail revenues dropped only mildly, which cannot be said about revenues in the hospitality sector. On the other hand, foreign trade balance ended in surplus in December, which is quite unusual considering this time of the year in the past.

Find out more in our monthly summary of statistics issued in February 2021.

Hospitality sector kept falling, but industry showed resistance towards the second wave Read more 

In other news

  • Pope Francis is considering visiting Slovakia, he admitted during a press conference held during his return from Iraq. President Zuzana Čaputová invited the pope to Slovakia during her December visit to the Vatican.
  • The Trenčín district court released former judge and ex-state secretary of the Justice Ministry Monika Jankovská from custody, who faces several corruption-related charges. She remains hospitalised in the psychiatry ward of Trenčín Faculty Hospital.
  • The prosecutor has challenged the decision of releasing Zoroslav Kollár and Jarmila Urbancová from detention, both detained during Operation Víchrica (Gale) last October. The case will now be decided by the Supreme Court.
  • The decisions of law enforcement bodies to turn down criminal complaints in the case of abducting a Vietnamese citizen via Slovakia are legitimate, said Jana Tökölyová, spokesperson of the General Prosecutor’s Office.
  • Women are more impacted than men in relation to the damage caused by Covid-19 and governmental policies, according to the PwC analysis, which monitored the economic status of women in 33 OECD countries.
  • The Antimonopoly Office has approved financial aid for the Piešťany airport, submitted by the Trnava Self-Governing Region, meaning that it can now provide the airport with financial assistance until 2023 at least and cover the operational losses generated in the past five years. (TASR)
  • The number of personal bankruptcies in February increased by 125 percent compared with the previous month, to 669. In annual terms, it was 50 percent less, according to CRIF – Slovak Credit Bureau statistics.
  • Ultralight planes traced the borders of Slovakia, starting in Senica, without any stopovers. They flew 1,200 kilometres with an average speed of 270 kilometres per hour.
  • Slovak sprinter Ján Volko won the bronze medal in the men’s 60 metres at the 2021 European Athletics Indoor Championships, held in Toruń, Poland.

More on today:

Related articleOutrage over Old Town tree felling Read more 

Related articleBad mood is the new plague Read more 

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