News digest: An ultimatum for Slovakia’s PM: he either leaves or loses coalition partners

Labour minister resigns. Virtual waiting room will be launched later than planned.

SaS calls on the prime minister to resign. (Source: SME)

This is your overview of news from Slovakia on Monday, March 15, 2021. For a deeper insight into current affairs, read Last Week in Slovakia published earlier today.
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Ultimatum for Matovič

Two coalition parties, Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) and Za Ľudí, have conditioned their stay in the government with the departure of Igor Matovič (OĽaNO) from the prime ministerial post.

SaS and its chair Richard Sulík gave him time to decide until next Wednesday, March 24, when the party’s national council is scheduled to meet and decide on the next steps. Sulík even offered his post in exchange for Matovič’s resignation at the March 15 press conference.

Apart from Matovič, Za Ľudí chair Veronika Remišová demands that Sulík leave the cabinet as well, referring to the conflicts between the two postponing other important decisions related to the ongoing pandemic.

Milan Krajniak of Sme Rodina resigned from the post of labour minister, saying he sees it as "a step towards ending the coalition crisis."

Matovič is also suffering in the polls, as he is the second least-trusted cabinet member. His party has lost support in preferences polls as well. The recent AKO poll shows support at only 13.1 percent, 1 percentage point less than the result for SaS.

SaS: It is either Matovič or us Read more 

SIS director in custody

The Specialised Criminal Court took Vladimír Pčolinský, director of the Slovak Information Service (SIS) intelligence agency, into custody on the evening of March 14. The decision is not valid yet since he challenged the verdict, meaning the Supreme Court will have final say.

Pčolinský was detained on the morning of March 11 on corruption charges, with witnesses claiming that he had taken bribe of €40,000. After President Zuzana Čaputová suspended him, his lawyer Eva Mišíková told the media that he will resign from the post and withdraw from public life.

The Sme Rodina party, which nominated him for the SIS director post, wants the case to be investigated as soon as possible without unnecessary delays.

General Prosecutor Maroš Žilinka announced that he will not be involved in the case, and will be substituted by his deputy. The reason is that he and Pčolinský used to cooperate in the past, when Žilinka served as the state secretary (or deputy minister) at the Interior Ministry.

Intelligence agency director taken into custody Read more 

Respirators become mandatory

Altogether 40 35 districts are in the black tier from March 15, and another 41 are in dark red tier. Only three are currently in the red tier. The entire country remains in the black tier as the situation in hospitals remains critical and the number of new cases is still high.

People in Slovakia also have to follow new rules from today. Apart from shops and public transport, they are now required to wear FFP2 respirators inside buildings (except their own household. Here’s what you should now.)

Other Covid and vaccination-related news

  • Altogether 457 PCR tests out of 2,780 carried out on March 14 came back positive, which represents 16.44 percent. Out of 286,076 antigen tests performed on Sunday, 1,829 (or 0.64 percent) were positive.
  • One new case of the South African variant was confirmed in Slovakia last week: a man who returned from a business trip in Somalia and went directly to home isolation. (ÚVZ)
  • Going against original plans, the virtual waiting room that was supposed to ease registration for vaccination will not be launched today due to completely booked slots, the National Health Information Centre announced. The waiting room will be put into operation later this week.
  • New large-capacity vaccination centres will open in Rimavská Sobota, Žiar nad Hronom (both in the Banská Bystrica Region), Nitra and the Trenčín Region.
  • The Lancet magazine reported on the decision of Slovakia and the Czech Republic to start using the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, despite the lack of registration by the European Medicines Agency. “A vaccination should only be given to patients who have been fully informed about it,” Peter Visolajský, chair of the Medical Trade Unions Organisation and member of the central crisis staff, commented for Lancet. “But how can they be fully informed if even we doctors do not have all the relevant information?”
  • The State Institute for Drug Control (ŠÚKL) recommended the continued use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as the benefits still outweigh the risks. The use of this vaccine has been suspended by 20 countries, most recently by Germany.

Picture of the day

Feature story for today

Graduates from IT, economics and mechanical engineering have been some of the most in-demand job applicants for years, and it does not look as if the coronavirus is about to change that. However, there is tougher competition for fresh graduates as they now have to fight for jobs with people unemployed due to the coronavirus crisis, and in many cases have much more experience. Recruitment experts say schools should focus more on market requirements when preparing students for their future careers.

Related articleDigitalisation will require new skills. Universities should adapt Read more 

In other news

  • Norbert Bödör will remain in custody, while another two people charged in the Dobytkár (Stock Farmer) case, Marek Kodada and Martin Kvietik, should be released. The decision is not valid yet.
  • Former state secretary of the Justice Ministry, Monika Jankovská, has been taken into custody again, as stems from the decision of the Trnava Regional Court. The Court turned down an earlier ruling of the Trenčín District Court, which said she should be prosecuted outside custody in the Fatima case.
  • Trnava-based carmaker Stellantis had to suspend production during the weekend and today due to a lack of components.
  • Consumer prices in Slovakia increased by 0.9 percent year-on-year in February 2021, below last year’s levels. The inflation rate was affected by the significantly lower energy prices (down by 4.6 percent) and cheaper food (down by 0.7 percent), the Statistics Office reported.
  • After winning the slalom race in Are, Sweden on March 12, Slovak skier Petra Vlhová ended eighth in the race held one day later. She still significantly improved her position as she placed 27th in the first round.

Also on today:

Related articleCultural mediators building bridges between Slovak authorities and expat communities Read more 

Related articleWhen the pandemic ends, the return of bookstores will be spectacular Read more 

Related articleFacing challenges: Vápeč Read more 

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