Good afternoon. The weekend is coming and we have prepared a quick summary of the main news of the day in our Friday, January 7, 2022 edition of Today in Slovakia. We wish you a pleasant read.
For weekend tips and reads, check out ourSpectacular Slovakia weekly roundup. This week, Peter Dlhopolec is writing about Czechoslovak chocolate, a walk to a waterfall, and a punk rocker who drives homeless people by bus.
A defence cooperation agreement with the US has stirred a wave of discontentment in Slovakia weeks after it was first presented to the public.
The U.S.-Slovak Defence Cooperation Agreement was submitted for interdepartmental review in mid-December by Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď (OĽaNO) and is backed by Foreign Affairs Minister Ivan Korčok (SaS nominee). The interdepartmental review has recently been concluded amid controversy after General Prosecutor Maroš Žilinka announced on Facebook that his office submitted 35 fundamental objections.
PM Eduard Heger (OĽaNO) backed the agreement on January 7, but there are concerns that some of the ruling coalition parties may be against the agreement. The US Embassy stressed in its statement that the agreement does not anticipate or authorise the permanent presence of American troops in Slovakia.
"U.S. forces are allowed only with Slovakia's consent," US Ambassador Bridget Brink stated. The agreement creates the legal basis for American investment in Slovakia's military infrastructure, according to the ambassador, the defence minister and the prime minister.
Theatres, cinemas and other cultural facilities will be allowed to reopen on Monday, January 10, for people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 and those who have recovered from the disease (OP mode). The visitor limit is set at 50 people, the Culture Ministry said in a press release, citing an agreement approved at the cabinet's online session on Friday, January 7.
“Vaccination is a way out of the pandemic and a way to make culture accessible to people,” said Culture Minister Natália Milanová (OĽaNO), as cited by the SITA newswire. “After long political negotiations that I had with the prime minister, the health minister and consultations with experts, we have made progress.”
The cabinet also extended the halting of the alert system, known as the Covid automat, to January 18. This alert system was initially halted during the curfew, which ends on Sunday, January 9.
Malý Slavín, a war memorial and a popular tourist spot in the Small Carpathian forests above Bratislava, has gotten a new look. The area located on the route between Bratislava's boroughs of Záhorská Bystrica and Rača now features new shelters and fireplaces. The memorial of two Soviet soldiers who perished on April 1, 1945, a well and sports fields have been renewed, too.
“Malý Slavín, a popular stop for tourists, athletes, parents with children and seniors, currently offers much better opportunities for leisure,” the Bratislava Metropolitan Institute (MIB) said in a press release. “The original place was in poor technical condition and had to be repaired regularly.”
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Feature story for today
The Covid-19 pandemic has hit city budgets across Slovakia, and the capital is no exception. The coronavirus crisis swallowed €25 million of the city’s revenues in 2020 and authorities estimate the figure for last year was similar.
The budget for 2022 was approved late last year, and there are fears that further lockdowns this year will see another downturn in income.
On top of concerns about the effect Covid-19 might have on their coffers over the next 12 months, city councillors say they are also dealing with the underestimation of the capital’s population in the recent census which will affect the amount of funding Bratislava will receive.
Coronavirus and vaccination news
- 1,116 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 5,070 PCR tests performed on Thursday. The number of people in hospitals is 2,157 and 25 more deaths were reported on Thursday. The vaccination rate is at 50.05 percent; 2,713,817 people have received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
- Pediatrician Petra Siváková, who works in the field of immunoallergology and cooperated with the Banská Bystrica hospital in vaccinating children, warns that new mutations of the Covid-19 may be more dangerous for children. In the first wave of the pandemic, children of all age groups were the least affected by the coronavirus, with very few of them experiencing serious symptoms. The next waves of the pandemic, and especially the new mutations, are already affecting the youngest age group significantly.
- The night curfew will end on January 10, but most measures adopted by the government before Christmas will remain in place.
Airlines Ryanair and Wizz Air have suspended the operation of some of their regular lines from the Košice airport due to the spread of the Omicron variant. Wizz Air has stopped its service to Doncaster – Sheffield in Great Britain from January 7 until March 7. Ryanair is halting operation on the London - Stansted (January 7-February 2), Vienna (January 7-February 4), Warsaw – Modlin (January 8-February 1) and Liverpool (January 9-February 2) routes.
- Both Slovakia’s total imports and exports in November 2021 grew by more than 10 percent y-o-y, with both categories exceeding the pre-pandemic figures recorded in November 2019. The value of exported goods in November was the second-highest on record after March 2021. Imports also reached record highs, exceeding the €8-billion level for the first time since 1993. The more dynamic growth of imports caused the foreign trade balance to reach a deficit of €23.1 million, the Statistics Office reported.
- Dopravný Podnik Bratislava (DPB), the capital’s public transport company, will restore the number 7, 25, 26, 92, 94, 192 and 196 lines and increase its transport capacities after the Christmas holiday as of Monday, January 10. From Sunday, January 9, line 131 will provide a direct connection for students traveling from the main station to dormitories in Mlynská Dolina. Public transport continues to follow the holiday schedule.
- The passenger rail operator ZSSK resumes operation according to its schedule 2021/2022 as of Monday, January 10.
- Thanks to 30 new drivers, the serviceability of public bus transport in the Bratislava Region will exceed 90 percent as of Monday, January 10. This means that almost all lines will be serviced, Arriva, the new operator of suburban buses in the region, announced on Friday, January 7.
- Bratislava will launch regulated parking (PAAS) in the first three pilot districts - Dvory 4 in Petržalka, Tehelné Pole in Nové Mesto and Krasňany in Rača on Monday, January 10. Less than a week before the start of the regulated parking system, the city has registered more than 6,300 applications for parking cards.
- The demand for green electricity among Slovak households is increasing from year to year. ZSE Energia, the largest household electricity supplier in Slovakia controlling a market share of almost 40 percent, saw a strong increase in interest in 100 percent green electricity last year. More than 85,000 household customers already use green electricity from the company.
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