News digest: Gap in vaccine supplies will slow down the rollout

Coalition crisis talks ongoing. Police will check airports for holidaymakers. Parliament debates climate petition on Global Climate Strike day.

AstraZeneca vaccines against Covid-19 (Source: AP/TASR)

This is the Friday, March 12, 2021 edition of Today in Slovakia. Learn about politics, business, and other notable events of the day in Slovakia in less than five minutes. If you like what we are doing and want to support good journalism, buy our online subscription. Thank you.

Check out the Spectacular Slovakia roundup for weekend reading tips

How Slovak kids used to learn English from TV Read more 

AstraZeneca supply gap to slow down vaccination

The Health Ministry's estimate that the vaccination rollout will reach the 40+ age group in May is questionable due to an expected slow-down in the vaccination programme in the coming weeks.

The Sme daily reported that the AstraZeneca vaccine supplies to Slovakia will significantly drop against plans in March, due to the insufficient production capacities in the company's European plants.

Slovakia expected to receive more than 309,000 doses in March, but now AstraZeneca have announced they will send a mere 25,184 doses, the Health Ministry confirmed for Sme.

"We will need to adjust the vaccinations in the large-capacity vaccination centres accordingly," the Health Ministry's State Secretary Jana Ježíková told Sme. These centres are run by the self-governing regions. That is where the AstraZeneca vaccine is administered to people in the 60 to 70 age group over the weekends.

The vaccinations should run as planned this weekend, March 20 - 21, but the upcoming weekends will be affected by the shortages. Some regional governments admitted they may halt the vaccinations completely or open fewer vaccination slots.

The vaccination of people in the 70+ group who receive the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines will not be affected.

By Thursday, March 18, Slovakia had vaccinated more than 488,000 persons with the first dose of one of the three vaccines currently used in the country, and 230,000 with both doses.

Registration for the vaccination is now open for people 60+ and some selected groups of the population. Here is more information about Slovakia's vaccination strategy.

Travelling in Covid times:

  • The European Commission unveiled its Covid travel pass plans earlier this week, vaccines that have not been registered for use in the EU may not be accepted across the bloc.
  • Iceland announced it will open its borders to all those vaccinated with EMA-approved vaccines, with no need to quarantine or test. (Reuters)
  • Slovakia introduced a ban on foreign travel for recreation this week. Holidaymakers who disobey the ban face a fine of €1,000. Police said they will be checking airports as of Saturday, March 20. Tour operators do not know yet if they will reimburse those who have already purchased trips with money or vouchers. (Denník N)
  • The transport Ministry is working on a proposal to introduce compulsory state quarantine in hotels. (Sme)

In other news

  • A testing online version of the Covid Automat warning system has been launched. It is available in Slovak only.
  • Slovakia's coalition crisis continues. The latest reports say some of the Za Ľudí party may be open to a coalition of three, without partners from the SaS. Most of the party's MPs are, however, against such a scenario. (Sme)
  • The parliament debated the Climate Needs You petition put forward by climate activists from different walks of life and signed by over 127,000 people. It is a symbolic gesture because Friday, March 19 is the day when the Global Climate Strike is taking place, the activists wrote.
  • 2,475 pupils at 54 schools in five regions of Slovakia have conducted gargle tests, Education Minister Branislav Gröhling (SaS) announced on Facebook. Several regions where the infection rates have been going down have announced they were planning to open schools after Easter, some schools are opening as of this Monday.
  • A new rapid Covid testing site has been opened at the Nivy bus station in Bratislava, open without booking for the public and for travellers. (Sme)
  • Police have halted the criminal prosecution over the graduation thesis of Parliament Speaker and Sme Rodina leader Boris Kollár. Violation of copyright is not a crime and there is no reason to continue the prosecution, the investigator wrote. (Sme)

Feature story for today

Nearly 20 years ago, the re-publishing of a tiny book on the vanishing nooks and courtyards of Bratislava from the 1920s, triggered the success of the Bratislava-Pressburg edition of the family publishing house Marenčin PT. Since then, it has published more than 120 titles on Bratislava. The Slovak Spectator asked its founder and owner Albert Marenčin Jr. about the publisher's books on Bratislava, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the book industry and more.

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

Vlhová is close to a much-desired win

Slovak skier Petra Vlhová is on course to win a Large Crystal Globe in downhill skiing. There will be only two individual races – slalom on Saturday, March 20 at 10:30 and then 13:30 in the afternoon, and grand slalom on Sunday, March 21 in the morning.

Slovak skier close to winning a Large Crystal Globe, only tragedy will stop her Read more 

More weekend reading tips for you:

Binge drinking is the worst, yet typical of Slovaks Read more  How a shared fear of spiders could combat a fear of Muslims in Slovakia Read more  Head of medicines agency: we still don't have all data about the Russian vaccine Read more  We’re an anomaly in the EU. Why are Slovaks spending more money? Read more  Slovakia's recovery plan will be a storm of reform or a wasted opportunity Read more 

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