News digest: Omicron not prevailing yet, but new measures will be applied

New rules come into force tomorrow. Some flights from Košice suspended. Train carrier will not dispatch dozens of trains.

(Source: / Hej,ty)

Good evening. The Tuesday, January 18, 2022 edition of Today in Slovakia is ready with the main news of the day in less than five minutes. We wish you a pleasant read.

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Omicron still not prevailing

While the Omicron variant is prevailing in new coronavirus infections in neighbouring countries, it seems to have forgotten about Slovakia.

Until January 10, the country had strict anti-pandemic measures; a strong Delta variant wave; and practically no tourists, who could have arrived with Omicron, were visiting the country. These are three main reasons, according to analysts, why the new wave has not started yet.

There is an increase in people who are testing positive, but not as steeply as in neighbouring countries. For example, there were 3,208 new cases on January 15, while at the peak of the third wave at the turn of November and December there were about 10,000 cases daily.

“The growth of Omicron is already high in the neighbouring countries,” mathematician Richard Kollár told the Sme daily. “Slovakia and Ukraine have not detected this wave, as the only ones among a few European countries.”

Still, analyst Martin Šuster from the Science Helps initiative said “it would be crazy to expect that it will completely evade us.”

With the threat of Omicron looming, the cabinet adopted new anti-pandemic measures that will be applied as of tomorrow, even though there will be some changes to the originally introduced plan. This includes the wearing of FFP2 respirators outdoors at certain occasions (where a mask was required before), the validity of a Covid recovery confirmation, and the requirement of testing to enter a workplace. The Slovak Spectator put together answers to what applies to people in various life situations.

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More on coronavirus and vaccination

  • 3,933 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 15,955 PCR tests performed on January 17. The number of people in hospitals is 1,709; and 46 more deaths were reported on Monday. The vaccination rate is at 50.46 percent, 2,779,091 people having received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • National postal service operator Slovenská Pošta has paid out nearly 100,000 vouchers with a financial reward for old people who get vaccinated against Covid, out of 120,000 delivered. In the coming days, the postal operator will deliver a further 100,000 vouchers.
  • Several low-cost carriers have suspended some flights to and from Košice due to the Omicron variant. The Irish carrier Ryanair has not been operating flights to Liverpool, and from February, fights to and from Warsaw, Vienna and London will be suspended. The Hungarian Wizz Air has suspended flights to Sheffield until March 7.

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Picture of the day

Slovenská Pošta will issue two postal stamps with motifs of the upcoming Winter Olympic Games and Winter Paralympic Games in Beijing, both with the nominal value of €0.75. The first features the new monobob event, and the other a paralympic ice-hockey player. Both stamps feature the head of a tiger.

Feature story for today

After a few months' delay caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Bratislava has launched the long-awaited city-wide parking policy, which does not apply everywhere for now, on January 10. The residents of three zones need an electronic residential parking card to park free of charge. Others can use either of two special parking cards or pay for a one-hour parking fee. The Bratislava Parking Assistant (PAAS), the official name of the scheme, will expand further in the spring.

Bratislava the last European capital to launch city-wide parking policy Read more 

In other news

  • The parliament did not open the non-scheduled session on the referendum about the Defence Cooperation Agreement with the USA, initiated by the opposition. Only 54 of 133 MPs present supported the session’s programme. Read more about the agreement and why it raised such a resistance here.
  • The opposition Smer party will start collecting signatures for announcing a referendum with three questions – one concerning the snap election, a second the military bases of foreign armies, and a third concerning the social sphere (they want to cooperate with the Hlas party led by Peter Pellegrini on this one). The aim, according to Smer chair Robert Fico, is to collect at least 400,000 signatures. They also plan to organise several protest gatherings.
  • President Zuzana Čaputová has called the recent visit of General Prosecutor Maroš Žilinka to Russia inappropriate, and said that she is concerned by the fact that the general prosecutor has not understood why it is considered problematic. Yet, she does not opine it is necessary to launch disciplinary action against him.
  • The investigator wrapped up the KTAG case, in which former president Andrej Kiska is charged with tax fraud, with the proposal of carrying out an indictment. Further steps will be taken by the prosecutor. (Hospodárske Noviny)
  • The state-run passenger carrier ZSSK will not dispatch more than 40 trains in the week between January 17 and 21. Last week, the company cancelled almost 80 trains in western Slovakia due to the shortage of engine drivers.
  • The amounts of natural gas flowing to Slovakia from Russia via Ukraine are lower than at the end of last year. While in November and December, there were record-high amount of about 90 million cubic metres a day, on the first day of January, the flow dropped to about 50 million cubic metres a day. Currently, it is about 27-37 million cubic metres a day, as reported by the SITA newswire.
  • Altogether 5,510 passenger cars were sold in December 2021, down 22.21 percent year-on-year; the bestselling brand was Škoda, according to the Slovak Automotive Industry Association (ZAP). The number of registrations of small commercial vehicles amounted to 956, down by 74.77 percent compared to the year before; the bestselling brand was Opel.
  • The state-run national railway company ŽSR plans to reconstruct railway tracks in the eastern part of Bratislava for €249 million. The plan has been submitted for environmental impact assessment.

More on today:

New York Times story used as an argument against Slovakia's defence deal with the US Read more 

Virtue of compromise in the EU’s digital policy-making: the case of targeted ads Read more 

The River Váh reveals a rare Bronze Age weapon Read more 

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