News digest: Bonuses for healthcare workers are not for everyone and will be lower

Several reasons behind the low vaccination rate in Slovakia. The Health Ministry confirms the purchase of the Lagevrio medicine.

(Source: / Hej,ty)

Good evening. Read the Monday, December 27, 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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One year of vaccination later, the rate is still low

On December 26, Slovakia marked one year since vaccination against Covid started. Till now the nation has managed to vaccinate just half its population, amounting to some 5.5 million inhabitants.

This places Slovakia among the least-vaccinated countries in the EU, with Bulgaria and Romania being worse off.

The low vaccination rate in the country has been a source of frustration for epidemiologists and public health officials, and a reason to worry for hospital staff once again facing overflowing Covid wards and intensive care units. In fact, as the Delta wave started accelerating, healthcare professionals issued a joint call on Slovakia’s people to get vaccinated, though with little effect.

Observers ascribe the failure to vaccinate a critical mass of people to several poor political decisions, ambiguous political communication about the vaccines, and questioning the advice of experts, which contributed to increased vaccine reluctance. With the already above-average inclination to believe in hoaxes and disinformation, these are seen as the main reasons why just about 2.7 million people were vaccinated against the virus that has killed more than 16,400 people in Slovakia so far.

Problems with the €350 bonus for medical staff members

More than 10,000 medical workers either failed or did not want to register for a one-off state bonus at €350 gross, which they are to receive in January 2022 along with their December salary, as the Sme daily reported. The actual number may be even higher.

The state gave doctors, nurses and other medical professions only three days to register – from Monday, December 20 to Wednesday, December 22 – through an online form at the website of the National Health Information Centre (NCZI) in order to receive the money.

The Health Ministry originally planned to pay out more than €50 million to 107,000 workers in hospitals, outpatient departments and other facilities. Only 96,822 registered for the bonus.

Some medical workers addressed by Sme said that the registration period was too brief, the others indicated other problems, like the lack of official information.

Health Minister Vladimír Lengvarský (OĽaNO) already said that the money will also be given to those who missed the deadline.

This is not the sole problem in relation to the bonus. When presenting the one-off remuneration, PM Eduard Heger and Finance Minister Igor Matovič (OĽaNO) failed to mention that the €350 amount will be taxed, meaning that people will receive about €300.

In addition, not all people working in medical facilities are entitled to a bonus. This includes ambulance drivers and medical support staff.

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 Covid and vaccination developments

  • 1,221 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 4,995 PCR tests performed on December 26. The number of people in hospitals is 2,619, and 47 more deaths were reported on Sunday. The vaccination rate is at 49.72 percent, 2,734,731 people having received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • Slovakia will purchase nearly 35,000 packages of Lagevrio, an oral antiviral medicine containing the active substance molnupiravir. Even though the government cancelled the purchase, which was part of the joint procurement of the European Commission, the bilateral agreement with the producer is still valid, the Health Ministry said.
  • The interest in the (third) booster shot of the Covid vaccine is enormous, Health Minister Vladimír Lengvarský (OĽaNO nominee) told the TASR newswire, with most people registered in the online waiting room system waiting for the booster. In his opinion, the financial reward promised to old people who get vaccinated had the greatest impact. The interest in the first and second shots is also on the rise.
  • Self-governing regions will continue with vaccination against Covid before the year’s end. Many centres will also be open for people not registered for the shot; the list can be found on the Health Ministry’s website.

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Travel information

The Czech Republic has changed the entry conditions for foreign nationals. Starting on Monday, December 27, the country will require all incomers to present a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours, even if they are vaccinated or recently recovered from the disease. The exception will be given to people vaccinated with the booster. In addition, incomers are required to fill in the Passenger Locator Form and take another PCR test after their arrival.

Picture of the day

Animals celebrated Christmas this year as well. The pictures below capture the dogs in the animal shelter in Trnava who are enjoying their gifts.

Feature story for today

Separating plastic bottles and cans from general waste will change in Slovakia as of the New Year. People will need to learn not to squeeze and trash bottles. Empty plastic (PET) bottles and cans will be collected in supermarkets and shops, with a deposit of 15 cents. Here are answers to some basic questions about returnable bottles and cans:

All you need to know about the deposit system for bottles and cans (Q&A) Read more 

In other news

  • It is possible to meet the milestones necessary for Slovakia to ask for the first payment from the EU recovery plan, PM Eduard Heger (OĽaNO) told the TASR newswire. Even though some milestones are already late, such as the new court map, the university reform and expenditure caps, there is still time, he added. The respective laws need to be approved by the cabinet by January 12, so that they can be subsequently discussed in the parliament.
  • Altogether 87 percent of marginalised Roma households are threatened by poverty, and 52 percent face serious material deprivation, as stems from the EU SILC MRK 2020 analysis published by the Office of the Governmental Proxy for Roma Communities, in cooperation with the Slovak Statistics Office.
  • FunGlass – the Centre for Functional and Surface Functionalised Glass, part of Alexander Dubček University in Trenčín, will become the centre of the International Year of Glass next year. 2022 was declared the year of glass by the United Nations Organisation, following the motion of the International Commission on Glass.
  • A second-level warning against avalanches has been declared in the Slovak mountains. Above the forest level, the steep, north-oriented gorges are especially dangerous.
  • The tourist organisation in the Liptov region has launched the operation of free skibuses to the ski resorts in Jasná and Malinô Brdo.

    One last note: The Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute has issued first-level warnings against low temperatures and ground ice. The warning against low temperatures will be in place for selected districts of the Žilina Region, Banská Bystrica Region, Prešov Region and Košice Region, between 23:00 of Monday (December 27) and 8:00 of Tuesday (December 28). The warning against ground ice is in place for the entire country, from 11:00 of Tuesday (December 28) until 17:00 of Wednesday (December 29).

More on

Bojnice Castle exhibit featured in a US film starring George Clooney Read more 

An ancient diploma, important for his holder, found by archaeologists in Bratislava Read more 

Only champagne should be exploding in the Tatras. New Year’s Eve will have no firecrackers Read more 

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