News digest: Critical situation in hospitals requires tougher restrictions, mostly for the unvaccinated

PM Heger discusses lockdown for the unvaccinated. Police launch prosecution linked to yesterday's protests. Foreigners' Police in Trnava to be closed.

(Source: / Hej,ty)

Good evening. Catch up on the main news of the day in less than five minutes with the Thursday, November 18, 2021 edition of Today in Slovakia. We wish you a pleasant read.

Cabinet adopts lockdown for the unvaccinated

The daily Covid caseload is reaching record highs in Slovakia in mid-November, as are the numbers of patients in need of hospital care.

Hospitals were caring for more than 2,900 people with Covid as of November 18. Moreover, one day before Slovakia’s national holiday on November 17, only 20 mechanical ventilators were reportedly available in hospitals around Slovakia for Covid patients.

Hospitals were reported to have approximately 600 beds available for new patients who do not require oxygen therapy, according to the Health Ministry. Minister Vladimír Lengvarský (OĽaNO nominee) has ordered hospitals in the most affected regions to increase the number of Covid beds beyond the maximum originally set for this phase.

Several cabinet members have called the situation critical, while one member of the group of experts advising the Health Ministry even said that the country is heading into a humanitarian crisis.

To stabilise the currently bad situation, the cabinet approved several restrictions, affecting unvaccinated people in particular. They will take effect on Monday, November 22.

“We have adopted a lockdown for the unvaccinated,” PM Eduard Heger (OĽaNO) told the press on November 18. He added that some restrictions will impact those vaccinated against Covid and those who have recovered from the disease as well.

The new rules state, for example, that to enter the workplace, employees in red, dark-red and black districts will be obliged to show their employers confirmation of vaccination, confirmation of recovery from Covid or a negative test result. The cabinet promised to help employers cover the costs of testing their staff.

At the same time, mass events will be relatively restricted for people not fully vaccinated against Covid or those who have recovered from the disease, while non-essential shops and shopping centres should be open only for those fully vaccinated or those who have recently recovered.

More details are expected to be specified in an ordinance issued by the Public Health Authority (ÚVZ).

Heger said that when adopting the new rules, they followed the recommendations of experts, claiming he does not want to make a political decision. He also called on people to get vaccinated against Covid, calling the vaccination the safest way to defeat Covid.

If the situation improves, the cabinet is ready to discuss other changes to the Covid automat in three weeks, bringing more benefits to the vaccinated and those who have recovered from the disease.

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Other coronavirus and vaccination developments

  • 7,616 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 22,206 PCR tests performed on November 17. The number of people in hospitals has increased to 2,904 people. Thirty-eight more deaths were reported on Wednesday. The vaccination rate is at 46.49 percent; 2,556,886 people have received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • Coronavirus deaths in Europe rose 5 percent last week, making it the only area in the world where Covid deaths have increased, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Covid-related deaths jumped by 67 percent in Norway and by 38 percent in Slovakia. (AP)
  • The average age of people with positive PCR tests is 40 years and a majority of those who have tested positive are women, according to the data of the National Health Information Centre (NCZI). The age groups of 35-44 years and 45-54 years have the highest rate of positive cases, while the smallest share of positive cases is in the age group of nine years and below.
  • State assistance for tourism should be prolonged from early December. The Transport Ministry plans to make it possible for businesses active in the sector to ask for aid for the months of September, October and November, said Minister Andrej Doležal (Sme Rodina).
  • The armed forces will deploy 400 soldiers to help fight the pandemic starting Thursday.

Travel info

Rules for entering Austria will be toughened up from Monday, November 22. The country will no longer accept negative antigen tests; the only exception will be given to cross-border commuters. Still, in this case, the antigen test should not be older than 24 hours. At the same time, Austria will limit the validity of the vaccination passes to 270 days from early December.

Picture of the day

A Christmas tree was erected in downtown Košice on Thursday. The spruce is 18 metres high and comes from the Ružín area.

Feature story for today

The European Labour Authority (ELA) officially opened its premises in Bratislava on November 9. Representatives of various EU institutions who participated in the opening conference, held on the same day, mostly stressed the ELA’s role as a labour market watchdog and an institution ensuring the collection of real-time data.

One of the youngest EU agency officially moves to Bratislava. Expectations are quite high Read more 

In other news

  • Three women (a local councillor fighting to change a street bearing the name of the president of the wartime Nazi-allied Slovak state, a psychologist who integrates disadvantaged people into society, and the head of the national drug authority who insisted on a proper approval process for the Sputnik V vaccine in Slovakia) were awarded the White Crow award for civic courage on November 17.
  • Given the deteriorating pandemic situation, the Foreigners’ Police department in Trnava on Paulínská Street will be closed between November 19 and 26. Those who booked a date for their visit need to reschedule it in the electronic ordering system for the next available date.
  • The police launched criminal prosecution against an individual who injured two police officers during the November 17 protests in Bratislava organised by opposition parties, far-right and anti-vax groups. The culprit faces three to eight years in prison for attacking a public official.
  • The regional prosecutor in Nitra cancelled the criminal prosecution for poaching related to the leaked police recordings from a hunting cabin in Nitra Region, citing its unlawfulness.
  • The new operator of suburban bus transport in Bratislava Region, the company Arriva, is still struggling with the lack of drivers. It offers several bonuses, including a sign-up bonus of €4,000, to those who take up the job.
  • The construction industry is expected to stagnate in 2021, posting a slight increase of 0.1 percent. It should grow by 1 percent next year, according to the latest analysis of Slovakia’s construction sector by CEEC Research. Large construction companies expect the market to drop 0.5 percent this year and to grow 1 percent in 2022, and small construction companies expect an increase in the volume of construction work by 0.3 percent this year and 1.4 percent next year. (SITA)
  • Michal Fečkan from the Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics of Comenius University in Bratislava belongs to the top 1 percent of the most cited mathematicians in the world. He received the prestigious Highly Cited Researcher 2021 award in mathematics for being cited more than 3,300 times.

More on

The late Slovak artist could have been American had his parents not moved back to Kysuce Read more 

Japan to recognise the deep-rooted enthusiasm of Slovaks for Japanese pop culture with an award Read more 

Bratislava runners and hikers enjoy a new Forest Park trail Read more 

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