News digest: Lockdown effects not fully seen yet, Bratislava shuts schools

Lockdown reduces mobility and new cases, but not hospitalisations. Cabinet approves €500 vouchers for seniors.

(Source: / Hej,ty)

Good evening. Read the Wednesday, December 1, 2021 edition of Today in Slovakia to catch up on the main news of the day in less than five minutes. We wish you a pleasant read.

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Some lockdown effects yet to be seen, more schools close

For now, it seems that the nationwide lockdown, introduced on November 25, has helped decrease the mobility of people and the number of those infected with the coronavirus.

The number of new patients with Covid in hospitals, however, continues to grow. While there were 3,188 patients at the time the cabinet approved lockdown, there were 3,380 hospitalised patients as of November 30.

The number of ambulance interventions for patients with Covid or patients suspected of having Covid has not dropped either, and at the end of last week, it was the highest it's been since the second pandemic wave’s peak at the turn of February and March.

The drop in mobility was confirmed by the analysts of the Institute for Financial Policy (IFP), which runs under the Finance Ministry. According to them, the number of people travelling to shops has decreased by more than a third, while sales revenues in the gastronomy sector have fallen by more than one half. Revenues from the retail sector have also fallen, except for grocery stores and supermarkets.

Experts agree that not all results of the lockdown could be seen on the fifth day of the lockdown. The government said earlier it would evaluate the impacts on the 10th day, which falls on Sunday, December 5.

Epidemiologists, analysts and infectologists predict that the lockdown will last until Christmas.

Even though the cabinet has decided against closing schools, following the veto of the junior coalition party SaS, regional hygienists still have the right to do so if the situation gets worse. For now, there are 11 districts that have decided that grades five through nine of primary schools and all grades of secondary schools will switch to remote learning.

As of tomorrow, they will be joined by their peers in the districts of Čadca and Galanta. From next Monday, schools in the entire Bratislava Region will follow suit, as well as the districts of Prievidza and Partizánske.

While Education Minister Branislav Gröhling (SaS) reiterated the need to keep schools open and said that some hygienists are even closing schools with a good epidemic situation, chief hygienist Ján Mikas called the remote learning an important tool in the current situation.

“Given the incidence rate we currently have, there are de facto no classrooms where there is no problem with the infection,” he said.

More coronavirus and vaccination developments

  • 9,534 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 28,373 PCR tests performed on November 30. The number of people in hospitals has dropped to 3,380 and 85 more deaths were reported on Tuesday. The vaccination rate is at 48.06 percent; 2,643,071 people have received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • The cabinet has approved vouchers worth €500 for people aged 60 and over who get vaccinated against Covid; only the ministers of the junior coalition party Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) did not support it. The proposal, submitted by Finance Minister Igor Matovič (OĽaNO), will now be discussed in the parliament.
  • Altogether 415,000 people have been administered the booster shot so far, while the NCZI has sent more than 750,000 text messages inviting people to get it.
  • People infected with Covid are no longer entitled to the pandemic sickness benefit (known as pandemická PN in Slovak) as of December 1. This means that everybody who has to stay on sick leave due to Covid will receive the ordinary sickness benefit.
  • People who want to visit a specialist do not need to have a so-called “výmenný lístok,” a note from their general practitioner. The aim is to reduce the spread of the virus by decreasing the number of visits of patients to their general practitioners to get the note.
  • The state re-introduced the work duty for medical staff, in order to secure enough people in the health system. The change was approved by the cabinet at its Wednesday session.

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Travel info

Starting today, all incomers from Botswana, Eswatini, Hong Kong, Israel, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa and Zimbabwe or those who visited these countries 14 days before crossing the Slovak border are required to self-isolate for 14 days and take two PCR tests. This includes the fully vaccinated. Find more information on entry rules in Slovakia here.

Picture of the day

The primeval forest on Zámok hill is one of 76 primeval forests in Slovakia given level 5 – the highest – environmental protection, valid from today. All of these forests are a part of the new nature reserve, the Old Growth Forests of Slovakia.

Feature story for today

The Kino Lumière cinema in central Bratislava is the go-to place for all kinds of viewers, including those who do not speak Slovak, to see the gems of international cinema. Regulars know that they should not expect any popcorn here. Instead, behind the inconspicuous entrance squeezed behind a ministry building, they will find an inclusive space highly attuned to what is happening around the cinematic world. The cinema celebrates its 10th birthday this year.

No popcorn here! Bratislava’s well-known cinema has been on the scene for a decade Read more 

In other news

  • The investigator of the National Criminal Agency (NAKA) has pressed charges against 19 people for the crimes of founding and supporting an organised crime group, tax evasion and tax avoidance, and other economic crimes. They have reportedly caused damages to the state amounting to more than €1.5 million and are threatened with seven to 12 years in prison.
  • The start of the short-time work scheme, known as kurzarbeit, will probably be postponed by two months, in exchange for longer financial assistance within the First Aid packages for businesses. Originally, kurzarbeit was expected to be launched in January 2022.
  • The Council for Budget Responsibility expects that the general government deficit could amount to nearly €6.5 billion, or 6.7 percent of GDP. Its November prognosis takes into consideration the negative impact of the lockdown, particularly the slower increase in tax revenues in the last weeks of the year.
  • The European Investment Bank will provide €30 million to Eximbanka to support the financing of export-oriented small and medium-sized companies.
  • The city of Bratislava launched registration for the new parking system today. The new rules in the first three zones will be checked from January 10, 2022.

More on today:

Mandatory vaccination in compliance with the Constitution. Even Fico extended it in the past (Q&A) Read more 

Single-use plastics banned in restaurants as of December Read more 

An abundance of antique winemaking machinery awaits visitors of Pezinok Read more 

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