News digest: Slovakia reports most cases since mid-December

Omicron wave seems to set off. Slovak MEP reaches high EP post. Slovakia commemorates military airplane tragedy.

(Source: / Hej,ty)

Good evening. Read the Wednesday, January 19, 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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Omicron might already become dominant

Slovakia started applying new anti-pandemic rules on Wednesday, which introduced a new regime, which The grants more freedoms to people vaccinated with the booster. Moreover, new rules allow unvaccinated people enter a greater number of essential shops compared to the recent lockdown.

On the same day, the country reported the highest number of new infections identified through PCR tests: nearly 6,200, out of more than 18,000 tests performed. At the same time, officially confirmed Omicron cases rose by 73, meaning that 127 people are now infected with this variant.

“Together with the increased number of positive PCR cases, this indicates the onset of the Omicron wave,” said Health Minister Vladimír Lengvarský (OĽaNO nominee).

The actual number of Omicron cases may be even higher, given the period between taking a sample and sequencing it. We can even assume that Omicron is already dominant in Slovakia, said Matej Mišík, head of the Institute for Health Analyses, which runs under the Health Ministry.

While back in December 2021 Omicron represented only 0.6 percent of all sequenced samples, in the first days of January it was present in 13 percent of samples and a week later, the share increased to 30 percent.

The cabinet meanwhile continued debating about the potential shortening of home isolation of people who tested positive for Covid. Economy Minister Richard Sulík (SaS) would welcome the shortening from the current 10 days to five days.

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Lengvarský said that home isolation will be shortened once the large groups of employees will be unable to work. Yet, he does not expect home isolation will be shortened this week.

More on coronavirus and vaccination

  • 6,183 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 18,024 PCR tests performed on January 18. The number of people in hospitals is 1,643; and 61 more deaths were reported on Tuesday. The vaccination rate is at 50.57 percent, 2,781,361 people having received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • Altogether 1,584 people died of Covid in December 2021. 773 were women (the youngest aged 20 and the oldest aged 100) and 811 men (the youngest aged six and the oldest aged 100). The age average of those deceased was 72 years, the Health Care Surveillance Authority data showed.
  • Most medical experts in Slovakia do not consider a fourth dose of the vaccine against Covid to be necessary. There might be a new vaccine in the autumn available, with which vaccination against Covid will be conducted the same as vaccination against seasonal influenza, once a year and voluntarily.
  • The antiviral medication Paxlovid should arrive in Slovakia in March at the latest, said Health Minister Vladimír Lengvarský (OĽaNO nominee). He added that the Nuvaxovid vaccine, developed by the Novavax company, should be delivered in May or July.
  • The cabinet approved the continuation of the First Aid assistance scheme for businesses in January and February. The amount will remain the same as in December – from €450 to €810, based on the drop in their revenues.

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Slovak MEP elected EP vice-president

Slovak MEP Michal Šimečka was elected one of 14 vice-presidents of the European Parliament. The liberal faction Renew Europe put him forth as a candidate.

Šimečka gained 494 votes and became the first Slovak in history to hold the position of European Parliament vice-president.

“I really appreciate the trust of the MEPs from all of Europe who elected me today,” Šimečka said after he was elected. “I'm especially happy that it is a success for Slovakia. For the first time ever, we have gained such a high position in the European Parliament and I'm glad that Slovakia's voice in European politics will be stronger again thanks to my job.”

Šimečka still wants to be active in domestic politics.

Picture of the day

Slovakia remembers the 16th anniversary of a military plane crash near the Hungarian village of Hejce, considered the biggest tragedy in the history of the Slovak Armed forces. Of the 43 people on board, there was only one survivor. The crash took place only some five kilometres from the Slovak border.

Feature story for today

Pushed out of their comfort zone by the pandemic, language schools have sought new forms of operation and interaction with their students. A solely online education, once considered unimaginable, has brought many advantages. For one, language schools saw their market broaden beyond previous location-based limits. They are also no longer limited by the number of classrooms. At the same time, online teaching has placed more pressure on schools to lower their prices for language courses, even though they have yet to catch up with their pre-pandemic revenues.

The new norm for most language schools The Slovak Spectator spoke to is a mixture of online and in-person teaching.

Pandemic brings down barriers but also prices in language teaching Read more 

In other news

  • President Zuzana Čaputová met Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď (OĽaNO) and Foreign Affairs Minister Ivan Korčok (SaS) on Tuesday to discuss the Defence Cooperation Agreement with the USA. She has not commented on the talks or further steps in connection with the deal.
  • The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) of the Council of Europe published today a compliance report, which assesses Slovakia’s progress in the implementation of the 21 recommendations issued to the country in an 2019 evaluation report on the prevention of corruption and the promotion of integrity in central governments – including top executive functions – and law enforcement agencies.
  • The Supreme Court has cancelled a session scheduled for January 20 at which it was to decide on a complaint against releasing from custody the Nitra-based businessman Norbert Bödör, who faces charges in several cases. The reason is that Bödör complained about two judges being biased. Meanwhile, the businessman said he is ready to face the courts and prove his innocence.
  • The information indicating that a 23-year-old Irish teacher was murdered by a Slovak man is currently unconfirmed, said the Foreign Affairs Ministry. The ministry added that no charges have been pressed in connection to a Slovak citizen and no representation office has asked them for help. The ministry is monitoring the case.
  • There will be a new nature reserve in the Small Carpathians mountains from February – Vydrica, measuring 483 hectares, as the cabinet decided on Wednesday. The reserve will be under Level 4 and Level 5 protection.

More on today:

Tatra attraction contributes to light pollution, environmentalists say Read more 

Smolenice, one of the prettiest places in the Small Carpathians Read more 

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