News digest: Older pupils will return to school after six months

President Čaputová wants to see the agreement on Sputnik V. Cold weather will return.

Youngest pupils returned to schools on April 12. (Source: SITA)

This is your overview of news from Slovakia on Monday, April 12, 2021. This is a free-of-charge service for our readers. If you want to support us, become a subscriber and gain access to more detailed news and interesting feature stories from Slovakia.

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For a deeper insight into current affairs, do not miss our Last Week in Slovakia, published earlier today:

Matovič demonstrates how to dismantle everything in two days Read more 

President Zuzana Čaputová wants to see the deal

The discussion concerning the Sputnik V vaccine and the request of the Russian side to return the first batch of 200,000 doses delivered in early March is far from over.

Following the criticism of Finance Minister Igor Matovič (OĽaNO) of the institutions testing the vaccine, several politicians and scientists have sided with both the Slovak medicines authority, the State Institute for Drug Control (ŠÚKL) and the Biomedical Research Centre of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (BMC SAV), expressing their support over the weekend.

Part of a strong democracy is strong and independent professional institutions.

President Zuzana Čaputová

This includes chief hygienist Ján Mikas and the experts behind the Veda Pomáha (Science Helps) initiative, who sent an open letter demanding that PM Eduard Heger (OĽaNO) apologise on behalf of the entire government for the inappropriate and unacceptable statements of Matovič directed at Slovak scientists and scientific institutions. Juraj Kopáček, scientific director of the SAV’s Institute of Virology, has even demanded a public apology from Matovič for his statements.

The scientific institutions have been supported by President Zuzana Čaputová, who visited both the ŠÚKL and the BMC SAV on April 12. She has asked Health Minister nominee Vladimír Lengvarský (OĽaNO) for the agreement on Sputnik V, which is labelled confidential.

Casting doubt on the quality of our scientific institutions is unacceptable, president says Read more 

Diplomats criticise trip to Budapest

Meanwhile, the conflict continued at the diplomatic level.

Both former and active diplomats have been critical of Matovič’s trip to Moscow and Budapest. Although he met with both the Hungarian PM and foreign affairs minister on April 10, no representative of the Slovak embassy was present.

Such a practice is not standard, and even violates several rules and principles applied in international law, the diplomats said.

They were also critical of Matovič’s attacks on the diplomatic service and national scientific institutions, and said that this harms the image and reputation of Slovakia abroad.

Trip to Budapest harmed Slovakia’s diplomatic service Read more 

More children will return to schools next week

The reopening of schools will continue next Monday, April 19. The Education Ministry wants eighth- and ninth-graders of primary schools to return to their school desks, apart from those schools situated in the black tier districts. Negative tests are expected to remain a condition, and will be required from both parents and older pupils.

Moreover, starting on April 26, the ministry wants to switch to its own regional Covid warning system. This would be particularly beneficial for the districts in light red districts as they will be allowed to open all schools.

Slovakia is meanwhile awaiting a greater lifting of measures at the national level. If all the conditions are met (including the number of hospitalised Covid patients staying below 3,000), the country will switch to the dark red tier, meaning that non-essential shops will reopen, among other changes.

PM Heger expects that every shop and service unit that does not require people to take off their respirator could open, as he said on April 11 on the Na Telo political talk show. They also want to make rules that are more comprehensible.

The pandemic commission is expected to discuss some changes to the Covid automat alert system on Wednesday, April 14. One of the bigger changes concerns the testing strategy, and there are even talks to cancel the requirement to re-take tests every 14 and 21 days, as chief hygienist Mikas said in an interview with the Sme daily.

Schools will open for more pupils on April 19 Read more 

Covid and vaccination related news

  • 106 PCR tests of 1,502 carried out on April 11 came back positive, which represents 7.06 percent. Out of 298,525 antigen tests, 1,482 were positive (or 0.49 percent).
  • The Health Ministry opened vaccine registration for people older than 45 years on April 10. Altogether 857,402 received the first vaccine shot as of Monday, while 288,989 have received the second jab.
  • Slovakia is following new regional map from Monday. There are only two districts in the black tier, while 36 are in the dark red tier, 39 in the red tier, and two in the light red tier.
  • The Slovak Chamber of Pharmacists does not recommend the preventive use of medicaments containing acetylsalicylic acid to reduce the risk of blood clots after receiving the Covid vaccine jab.

Gallery of the day

Kindergartens and grades one-four of primary schools reopened across Slovakia on April 12.

Feature story for today

Municipalities are searching for various ways to motivate their inhabitants to be more active in sorting their waste, including various bonuses, workshops and campaigns. At the same time, people have become more interested in reducing the waste they produce and learning more about how they can help their environment. The use of modern technologies certainly helps.

People sort their waste more. But there is still much to improve Read more 

In other news

  • The popularity of the ruling OĽaNO party seems to be harmed by the recent coalition crisis. In the recent Focus poll, it would gain only the fourth-highest number of votes.
  • The Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava is the first school from Slovakia to become a partner of Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, an artist-in-residence building that accommodates artists of all specialties and nationalities.
  • Slovakia’s foreign trade surplus increased to €398.5 million in February 2021, almost four times higher in a year-on-year comparison, and the highest figure in the reference month since 2014. The total exports of goods amounted to €7.2 billion, up by 7.7 percent y-o-y, while the total imports of goods increased by 3.3 percent annually to €6.8 billion. (Statistics Office)
  • Slovak industry rose by 1 percent year-on-year in February 2021, while eight out of 15 of its components recorded a year-on-year decrease. However, year-on-year changes in the production volume of individual components of industry range between a decline of 23.4 percent and a growth of 18.4 percent. (Statistics Office)
  • Altogether 1,250 people in Slovakia went bankrupt in the first quarter of 2021, 65.62 percent less than a year before. Compared with the previous quarter, the number of personal bankruptcies fell by 54.46 percent, according to the CRIF – Slovak Credit Bureau company.

Weather alert

Cooler weather will return to Slovakia in the next hours. The Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute (SHMÚ) expects rain and even snow to return, accompanied by strong wind. The institute has issued several warnings for the coming days.

Also on today

Volunteering persists in Slovakia, despite the challenges of pandemic Read more 

Efforts to build new generation of tourist shelters spark enormous interest Read more 

In the nest of silence: Lednica Castle and Skalka Read more 

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