News digest: Slovakia responds to Omicron with new measures

No lockdowns expected during Omicron wave. Cabinet okays defence agreement and judicial reform. Petra Vlhová has small crystal globe for slalom.

(Source: SME.sk / Hej,ty)

Good evening. Read the Wednesday, January 12, 2022, 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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New measures to fight Omicron

Even though only 53 54 Omicron infections have been confirmed in Slovakia so far, Slovakia is already bracing for another pandemic wave, impacted by this more contagious variant, which according to the Health Ministry’s experts may arrive in the coming days.

At its January 12 session the cabinet approved a set of new measures which shops, services, various types of facilities, mass events and even employers will have to follow from next Wednesday. These include several novelties, such as the new limits for the validity of vaccination (shortened from 12 to nine months) and the confirmation of recovering from Covid (those not vaccinated will now have valid confirmation only for three months). At the same time, opening hours have been restricted to between 5:00 and 22:00.

Some changes also await the entry regime to workplaces, with unvaccinated and unrecovered employees being tested twice a week.

More details should be set by the Public Health Authority (ÚVZ), which will issue respective ordinances in the coming days.

The Health Ministry does not expect schools, shops, service providers or facilities to close during the Omicron wave.

“If nothing extraordinary happens, there’s no reason for a lockdown,” said Health Minister Vladimír Lengvarský (OĽaNO).

The new measures might be in place for the coming two months, but this can still change given the developments of the Omicron wave.

The cabinet also cancelled the ban on gatherings consisting of more than six people. For now, no changes to the duration of mandatory self-isolation after testing positive are planned.

The Omicron wave might have one more effect: the lack of testing capacities. As the Sme daily reported, it is possible that given the increased number of infections and people who will have to be tested, they will have to wait for their test appointment and even for a test result.


More on the coronavirus and vaccination

  • 3,251 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 13,306 PCR tests performed on January 11. The number of people in hospitals is 2,001; and 42 more deaths were reported on Tuesday. The vaccination rate is at 50.24 percent, 2,763,215 people having received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • The Health Ministry will take part in the procurement for the oral antiviral Paxlovid, which originated in Pfizer’s laboratories. Slovakia should receive about 92,000 doses.
  • People interested in vaccination against Covid can now change the automatically generated appointment via a special form at the Korona.gov.sk website. Currently, this is possible only for the first or third shot.
  • As much as 98.7 percent of schoolchildren are attending in-person education at the moment. All schools opened after the end of Christmas school holiday, said Education Minister Branislav Gröhling (SaS).
  • About 13 percent of children aged 10-14 years has been vaccinated against Covid; the rate among secondary school students (aged 15-17 years) is nearly 38 percent.

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Cabinet approves cooperation agreement with the USA

The cabinet approved the Defence Cooperation Agreement with the United States at its January 12 session.

The agreement still needs to receive the green light by parliament, and to be ratified by the president.

As Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď (OĽaNO) said, the deal was passed unanimously, so he does not expect any unpleasant surprises in parliament. Yet, Sme Rodina MP Martin Borguľa has already said that he will not vote for it.

The agreement, valid for 10 years, should enable the US armed forces to use military airports in Kuchyňa (a village near Malacky) and Sliač, as well as other premises if approved. After this period expires, the agreement can either continue to be valid, or can be terminated with a one-year notice period.

The US armed forces will use the selected facilities for training, manoeuvres, transit, staff accommodation and the deployment of forces. The ratification will also make it possible to transport, place and store military machines, reserves and material in selected premises.

At the same time, Slovakia should receive information about supplies and suppliers in advance, TASR reported.

Naď and Foreign Affairs Minister Ivan Korčok (SaS nominee) have reiterated that the agreement does not mean Slovakia will lose its national sovereignty; instead, it should strengthen cooperation with its NATO allies. They both refuted the claim that the agreement creates a foundation for the permanent presence of the US army on Slovak territory.


Picture of the day

Slovak skier Petra Vlhová won a small crystal globe after racing the slalom in Schladming, Austria on January 11, where she placed second. Even though there will be two more slaloms in the World Cup, the Slovak skier has a large enough margin to secure victory regardless of the results.


Feature story for today

An attack is only considered to be rape under Slovak law if the victim actively resists intercourse. Yet in the latest draft amendment to the Penal Code, the Justice Ministry proposes broadening the definition of sexual violence.

The amendment, also aimed at other sensitive issues like the disseminating of false information, milder punishment for marijuana possession and election corruption, is yet to be proposed to the cabinet. The changes that Justice Minister Mária Kolíková (SaS) proposes include the idea that intercourse without consent should also be considered rape, punishable with three to eight years in prison. Currently, the victim needs to prove that they actively resisted or that they were subjected to or threatened with violence.

Read more in the story by Nina Hrabovská Francelová:

Sex without consent means rape. New definition proposed in Slovakia Read more 

In other news

  • Far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia (ĽSNS) has to apologise to Irena Bihariová, chair of the non-parliamentary Progressive Slovakia party, and pay her €5,000 in compensation, the district court in Banská Bystrica decided. The party distributed about two years ago a newspaper with her picture, calling her a “gypsy fanatic.”
  • The Supreme Court set the date for the session at which it will discuss the appeal of ĽSNS chair Marian Kotleba against a verdict in the case of controversial cheques containing neo-Nazi symbols, which sent Kotleba to prison for four years and four months. The proceeding will take place on March 8.
  • The cabinet has approved several laws at its January 12 session that will now have to be discussed in the parliament, including:
    • the judicial reform submitted by Justice Minister Mária Kolíková (SaS caucus);
    • the laws on construction and spatial planning, which should speed up the issuance of building permits, among others – mostly municipalities oppose the proposed changes;
    • the amendment removing the duty to mention a certain amount of Slovak-origin food in leaflets, and enabling the sale of products after the best before date;
    • the law on a personal pension product – enabling people working in another EU country to transfer their pension savings there;
    • the creation of a central register of accounts that will contain basic information on the payment and property accounts of people and companies; it should not contain information about how much money is deposited there;
    • changes to the asylum law that will make it possible for asylum seekers to enter the labour market after six months, instead of the current nine months. They should also be entitled to social and psychological counselling as well as a cultural orientation course.
  • Vets have confirmed the avian flu in the Nové Zámky district. The labs checked samples taken from five dead swans found in Dvory nad Žitavou and Bánov, and confirmed the virus in all of them.

More on Spectator.sk today:

Bratislava’s exquisite healing garden goes on the mend Read more 

Not even prominent owners helped save companies from bankruptcy. The year 2022 may be even worse Read more 

Senior citizens with working kids should get a higher pension, labour minister proposes Read more 

If you have suggestions on how this news overview can be improved, you can reach us at editorial@spectator.sk.

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