News digest: Stricter measures come into force as gov't talks about total lockdown

Coalition to discuss potential lockdown. Nearly half the respondents willing to get booster shot. Learn more in today's digest.

(Source: / Hej,ty)

Good evening. Catch up on the main news of the day in less than five minutes with the Monday, November 22, 2021 edition of Today in Slovakia. We wish you a pleasant read.

Cabinet ready to discuss nationwide lockdown

Starting today, only two small spots on Slovakia's map are in the red tier: the five districts of Bratislava and the district of Dunajská Streda. Another 19 districts are in the dark-red tier and the majority, 54 districts, are in the black tier.

The number of patients in hospitals exceeded 3,000 during the weekend, while 3,200 is viewed as the critical number where hospitals turn away all health care not deemed to be urgent.

Responding to the critical situation, the cabinet approved stricter measures that came into force today, mostly affecting those not vaccinated against Covid. Under the new rules, it is no longer enough to have a negative test result when accessing shopping centres, attending mass and sports events, or entering shops not labelled as essentials. You can find out more information here.

Given the new measures, several towns and cities across the country, including Bratislava, decided not to hold the planned Christmas markets.

One measure that did not become effective is the new regime for workplaces. The cabinet proposed that employees would be required to show a confirmation of vaccination, recovery from Covid or a negative Covid test result before entering their workplace from today, as in the case of other restrictions.

As there were several problems and questions, particularly concerning the request that employers should ensure testing, and even the respective ordinance by the Public Health Authority (ÚVZ) was missing, it was decided that this requirement would be postponed.

Experts advising the government, however, say that stricter measures are needed. An all-out lockdown shortly before Christmas is being debated. Health Minister Vladimír Lengvarský (OĽaNO nominee) reportedly plans to suggest a three-week nationwide lockdown at Wednesday's cabinet session. Coalition partners are debating the option this evening.

Meanwhile, PM Eduard Heger (OĽaNO) said during the weekend that a Covid vaccine mandate for selected groups of the population based on age would be an ideal way to fight the coronavirus pandemic. He brought up the topic of compulsory vaccination one day after the government in Slovakia’s neighbouring country, Austria, was the first in Europe to announce that it was going to mandate Covid vaccination by February 2022.

For a deeper insight into current affairs, check out our Last Week in Slovakia, published earlier today. You can sign up for the newsletter here.

More coronavirus and vaccination developments

  • 4,544 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 13,025 PCR tests performed on November 21. The number of people in hospitals has increased to 3,021. Fifty-eight more deaths were reported on Sunday. The vaccination rate is at 46.92 percent, 2,580,337 people having received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • Health Minister Vladimír Lengvarský (OĽaNO nominee) admitted that if necessary, Covid patients might be transported abroad. Slovakia has already received an offer from the European Union, he said during the weekend when visiting the hospital in Martin (Žilina Region), adding that the country is managing the situation for now.
  • Several judges of the Constitutional Court, including its president Ivan Fiačan, have become infected with Covid. They are currently in self-isolation, and the spokesperson of the court, Martina Ferancová, expects the Constitutional Court’s plenum to have a quorum again next week.
  • As much as 45.5 percent of people in Slovakia are willing to get the booster shot of the Covid vaccine. Another 22.9 percent said that they do not want to get vaccinated with the booster shot, and 31.6 percent are undecided, according to a poll carried out by the Focus agency for private broadcaster TV Markíza between October 20 and 27 on 585 respondents.

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Picture of the day

Slovak skier Petra Vlhová won both World Cup women's slalom races in Levi, Finland, during the weekend. She repeated her triumphs from last year, and has become a record-holder from Levi as she won five times in total at this ski resort.

Feature story for today

Municipalities, developers and construction professionals have been awaiting improvements in Slovakia’s construction legislation for years. Two previous governments listed the construction law amendment among their priorities, but neither of them fulfilled the promises they made. Incumbent Deputy PM Štefan Holý (Sme Rodina) has put forward draft legislation introducing thorough changes. However, the law is still stuck in the initial phases of the legislative process as of November 2021, with stakeholders voicing major concerns and criticisms.​

New construction law still awaits changes Read more 

In other news

  • If the parliamentary election were to take place in November, the opposition Hlas party would win with 18.5 percent of the vote, followed by the junior coalition party Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) with 13.6 percent and the opposition party Smer with 13 percent. This stems from the latest AKO agency poll conducted for the private broadcaster TV JOJ on 1,000 respondents between November 8 and 16.
  • Legendary figure skating coach Hilda Múdra died at the age of 95. Among her charges was the most successful Slovak figure skater and Olympic winner, Ondrej Nepela.
  • The city of Bratislava launched the construction of a new tram line in Petržalka borough, which should extend the existing line. According to an agreement worth €75 million, the work should be completed in 27 months, but Mayor Matúš Vallo hopes the new tram line will be put into operation by the end of 2023.
  • The former suburban bus operator in the Bratislava Region, the Slovak Lines company, said that it is ready to help the region and try to find solutions to the current situation when the new operator, the company Arriva, fails to secure all bus connections due to a lack of drivers. The situation has been critical since last Monday, when Arriva took over suburban transport, with several buses running late or not being dispatched at all. (SME)
  • The largest company in central and eastern Europe in terms of revenues is the Polish state oil refiner and petrol retailer PKN Orlen. The largest company active in Slovakia is the Bratislava-based carmaker Volskwagen Slovakia, which fell by one post to sixth place in the latest Coface CEE TOP 500 ranking.
  • One quarter of food products sold in Slovak shops are from private brands. Still, the share of foodstuff sold under a retailer’s brand increased year-on-year, according to a survey carried out by the Go4Insight agency for the Food Chamber of Slovakia.
  • Slovak cyclist Peter Sagan was fined €5,000 in Monaco back in April for attacking a police officer. According to the press reports, he was drunk and afraid that he would be vaccinated against Covid against his will. He later apologised and paid the fine. Moreover, he and his brother Juraj were fined for being out despite curfew.

More on

Sustainable development and Bratislava’s renaissance Read more 

Forest and the trees: Konské hlavy Read more 

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