TODAY IN SLOVAKIA

News digest: Slovakia stands with Czechia, proposes joint Visegrad position

The country opens up and lifts measures. Commission wraps up investigation into ex-police chief's suicide.

Non-essential shops reopened on April 19. (Source: TASR)

This is the Monday, April 19, 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.

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

Test-obsessed Slovakia opens up, though most elderly are still not immunised Read more 

Slovakia supports Czechia in its recent diplomatic steps

Slovakia’s officials have expressed their unequivocal support for the Czech Republic, after it decided to expel 18 Russian diplomats, following allegations that Russian intelligence services had been involved in the 2014 explosion in the ammunition depot in Vrbětice, not far from the Slovak border. Russia responded by expelling 20 Czech diplomats.

The officials include President Zuzana Čaputová, PM Eduard Heger (OĽaNO), Foreign Affairs Minister Ivan Korčok (SaS nominee) and Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď (OĽaNO), who all stressed that the Czech Republic is our closest ally. The Slovak Information Service (SIS) intelligence agency has said it has taken respective measures in the matter.

The issue was also discussed during the April 19 meeting of the EU foreign affairs ministers, with Korčok reiterating support of Slovakia towards its western neighbour. Most ministers have expressed their support towards the Czech Republic, too, but they have not adopted any joint response to current developments, the minister continued.

Korčok has additionally proposed that the foreign affairs ministers of the Visegrad Group, comprised of Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, will issue a joint declaration, expressing their support for Czechia. The plan was approved, and the document is expected soon.

Meanwhile, Heger summoned a meeting of Slovakia’s Security Council for Tuesday, to discuss the matter. Korčok expects that it will mostly be a briefing from intelligence services on the current situation. Before taking any action, it is necessary to have enough facts, he stressed.

“We’d like to assure you that the response will be decisive, substantial and will prove our credibility towards our allies, in this case the Czech Republic,” Korčok said.

Slovakia’s Security Council summoned to discuss situation in Czechia Read more 

New measures in place

Slovakia turned to the dark red tier of its Covid automat alert system on April 19, resulting in several anti-pandemic measures being lifted. This includes the opening of non-essential shops and services, churches, swimming pools, museums, galleries, libraries, zoos and botanical gardens, although there are still some hygienic requirements they need to follow, including a negative test result. People can again travel out to nature and exercise in other districts, while there are loosened rules for wearing masks outside, and schools have reopened for eighth and ninth graders.

At the same time, the curfew between 20:00 and 1:00 remains in place, and people are still not allowed to travel abroad for holiday.

The Health Ministry has meanwhile confirmed that it is currently working on a new testing strategy. Some people already do not have to get tested, including those who received the second shot of the mRNA vaccine (Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna) at least 14 days ago and the first shot of the vector vaccine (AstraZeneca) more than four weeks ago, its spokesperson Zuzana Eliášová has said.

Can I go shopping after 20:00 or travel to the Tatras? (Q&A) Read more 

Other Covid and vaccination related developments

  • 93 out of 1,434 PCR tests carried out on April 18 came back positive, representing 6.48 percent. Of 303,257 antigen tests, 657 were positive (or 0.22 percent).
  • 953,328 people have received their first Covid vaccine shot as of April 19, while 345,492 have received the second shot.
  • Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď said that Hungary is already testing the Russian coronavirus vaccines Sputnik V delivered to Slovakia in early March, and expects the results to be published in about two weeks. Meanwhile, Justice Minister Mária Kolíková (Za Ľudí) said that the agreement on Sputnik V between Slovakia and Russia should be published.
  • Public transport drivers in Bratislava will not be required to wear FFP2 or KN95 respirators, but will have to cover their faces with masks.

Lučanský did commit suicide

The special commission established to look into the suicide of ex-police chief Milan Lučanský from late December 2020 has approved its final report, which has been published by the Justice Ministry.

The report showed that Lučanský was not beaten by guards or tied to his bed after the first incident, when he injured his eye in early December 2020, as some popular hoaxes suggested. In fact, the report claimed that no other person was involved in his death, and that he really did commit suicide.

The report was not approved by three out of 17 members of the commission, who were all nominated by the opposition.

Ex-police chief Lučanský was not beaten by guards. He committed suicide Read more 

Picture of the day

Feature story for today

The UK was losing a thousand people a day to Covid in January, but by April 10, it reported just seven deaths from Covid. On the same day, 78 Slovaks – ten times more in a country one-tenth the size – died from what is now a preventable disease. Why are Slovaks still dying at a rate 100 times higher than Britons?

Find the answer in an opinion piece by James Thomson.

When feelings count for more than lives Read more 

In other news

  • Ex-PM Igor Matovič (OĽaNO), now acting as the finance minister, is gradually losing the people's trust. In the recent poll by Focus for the Na Telo political talk show, he fell to the very bottom, with only 15 percent of respondents trusting him, and 84 percent distrusting him.
  • Pavol Vorobjov, former head of the Intelligence Unit of the Financial Police, confessed to the investigators that he “took care” of the investigation of a suspicious deposit made by former special prosecutor Dušan Kováčik, following the instructions of then head of the National Criminal Agency, Peter Hraško. Both Vorobjov and Hraško have been charged in the matter, with the former cooperating with the police. (Aktuality.sk)
  • Slovakia sold state bonds worth €458.4 million in four auctions on April 19. The total demand amounted to €951.5 million.
  • Tesco has launched a pilot project, the first machine for depositing plastic bottles and cans, in its hypermarket in Senec. In return for every deposited bottle or can, the retailer will support the planting of trees and the revitalisation of green spaces in the town.
  • Burger King has opened a new franchise in Bratislava on Laurinská Street. With 120-seat capacity, it is the company's biggest restaurant in Slovakia.
  • A Slovak man was detained and charged with smuggling six Syrians in his car after being caught in southern Hungary.

More on Spectator.sk

Czechs will receive the Moderna vaccine from Slovakia, though it does not have much in stock Read more 

National Receipt Lottery wrapped up Read more 

Skiers are returning to the slopes Read more 

If you have suggestions on how this news overview can be improved, you can reach us at editorial@spectator.sk.