News digest: Slovakia struggles with third wave and coalition reshuffles

The smallest coalition party splits up. Health authority introduces several new measures. Booster shots will be administered from next Monday.

(Source: / Hej,ty)

Good evening. Catch up on the main news of the day in less than five minutes with the Wednesday, September 8, 2021 edition of Today in Slovakia. We wish you a pleasant read.

The smallest coalition party falls apart

The disputes within the smallest member of the current ruling coalition, the Za Ľudí party, have ended with the departure of a faction around Justice Minister Mária Kolíková.

“There has been a long-standing tension in the Za Ľudí party,” Kolíková told the press on September 8. “It’s detrimental to the party itself, the coalition and, ultimately, all of Slovakia. We were basically asked to leave the party.”

She and another six MPs have left the party and its caucus to form the Platform for a Just Slovakia. The platform will now join forces with Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) and reinforce its deputy caucus. As a result, it will become the second-strongest caucus, after the ruling Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO).

At the same time, the Za Ľudí caucus is likely to cease as it will be left with four MPs. Parliamentary rules stipulate that there have to be at least eight MPs representing a caucus.

Despite the reshuffles, SaS does not want to open the coalition agreement and insists on Kolíková keeping her ministerial post.

Za Ľudí responded that Kolíková’s faction was looking for ways to destroy the party and called its decision a betrayal of both the party members and the voters.

Third pandemic wave

The impact of the third pandemic wave is already visible in Slovakia's Covid-19 statistics. The daily caseload has been growing for several days already, and the representatives of the Health Ministry say that Slovakia is experiencing one of the fastest increases in the world.

The number of hospitalisations has grown significantly compared to the past week; most new patients are in hospitals in eastern Slovakia.

Given the surge in cases, the district of Rožňava even decided to switch to the red tier of the alert system, known as Covid automat, starting tomorrow. Another nine districts will follow suit next Monday. The change will bring stricter pandemic rules, including a ban on the unvaccinated and untested people from sitting inside restaurants as well as their outdoor terraces and tougher rules for mass events that permit more than just the fully vaccinated people to attend.

Responding to the current developments, President Zuzana Čaputová asked people to consider getting vaccinated.

“There is still time for at least the first vaccine shot, which significantly reduces the risk of hospitalisation and the severe course of the disease,” she wrote on Facebook.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry announced the administration of the third booster shot will start next Monday. Everybody who received their second shot more than eight months ago is entitled to it. Starting tomorrow, it will also be possible to immunise children aged 5-11 years, but only with doctor approval.

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More coronavirus and vaccination news

  • 417 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 9,450 PCR tests performed on September 7. The number of people in hospitals has increased to 169. The vaccination rate is at 43.51 percent; 2,394,521 people have received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • The self-isolation period of Covid-positive people will shorten from the current 14 days to 10 days only. People will be allowed to end it if they have no symptoms during the last three days.
  • 170 out of 53,000 classrooms have switched to distance education this week, meaning that 9,353 children are learning online. More than 300 school employees are in home quarantine.
  • All parents should receive kits for self-testing if they requested them from their school by the end of this week, Education Minister Branislav Gröhling (SaS) said. However, it is possible they will not receive all 25 kits as originally promised.

Picture of the day

President Zuzana Čaputová was able to collect honey produced by the bees in the Presidential Garden again. The project aims to support biodiversity.

Feature story for the day

44-year-old Tomáš Hisem spent 25 years of his life underground. In the mine, he communicated using a few words with his colleagues. In stressful conditions, he often just swore. He used to go to Baník Ostrava football matches to let off steam, singing simple and slightly vulgar fan chants. No one ever trained him to speak in public. He is not even a natural orator, but he agreed to the A New Shift (Nová šichta) documentary about him, which, after the closure of the Paskov mines, follows his attempt to complete a retraining course and completely change his profession to programming.

Becoming a programmer: The real life story of a fired miner Read more 

In other news

  • The parents of children younger than 18 will receive a one-off child benefit of €100 in September, instead of the usual monthly child benefit amounting to €25.50, the cabinet decided at its September 8 session. This does not apply to children in material need entitled to a one-off benefit of €333.
  • About 3,000 people have registered for the events connected to Pope Francis' visit since the change of entry conditions, which now allow people with a negative Covid test result and those who have recovered from the disease to attend. Currently, about 72,000 people have registered.
  • The papal visit will impact several public transport lines in the capital. The operation of regular and charter flights from the Bratislava airport should not be limited, but passengers are recommended to arrive much earlier than usual and prepare for potential tailbacks around the airport.

More on today:

Who was really impacted by Covid? Read more 

Slovakia has the most expensive alcohol in the Visegrad region Read more 

Foreign tourists spent over €47 million in Slovakia in the summer Read more 

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