News digest: Vaccine mandate not on the table right now

Omicron wave gains strength. Parliamentary committee to discuss Russia-Ukraine situation. Disney+ coming to Slovakia.

(Source: SME.sk / Hej,ty)

Good evening. Read the Wednesday, January 26, 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 wave already visible

The Omicron wave will be short, rapid and will impact many sectors, said Health Minister Vladimír Lengvarský (OĽaNO nominee) after the January 25 session of the central crisis staff.

His department informed the crisis staff members about predictions and measures that need to be adopted to fight the new variant.

“We have to test people to the maximum, use work from home to the maximum, and meet with other people at a minimum,” Lengvarský said, as quoted by the SITA newswire, stressing the need of getting vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the Omicron wave has already translated into statistics. The average daily caseload increased by 135 percent compared to the previous week, from some 3,600 to 8,500 cases, and the share of positive PCR tests rose as well, from 28 percent to 37 percent.

As many as 14 districts reported even three times the number of cases than the week before, and in four districts (Námestovo, Tvrdošín, Stropkov and Dunajská Streda), about 2 percent of inhabitants tested positive.

“The Omicron wave started prevailing in Slovakia,” Lengvarský noted after the Wednesday cabinet session, adding that they are getting ready for an increase in the daily testing, as well as raising special tents to distinguish between people coming to the hospitals so the main entrance is not overburdened. “Our prognoses are coming true.”

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Meanwhile, Omicron is impacting education in schools – more than one fifth of all schoolchildren in Slovakia have to attend remote education, while almost 79 percent are continuing with in-person learning, according to the Education Ministry.

Under the current rules, in-person education for the entire classroom stops after detecting a positive case, in order to protect the other children from a further spread of infection and prevent the suspension of in-person education for the entire school. As a result, one infected pupil in a classroom sends 25 classmates and 25 working parents into quarantine. The parents receive the benefit for care of a family member (OČR in Slovak) in this case.

This rule, however, cannot stop the infection of pupils with the Omicron variant, as experts confirmed to the Sme daily.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry said it does not plan to introduce mandatory Covid vaccination for now, even though the legal analysis, prepared in cooperation with the Justice Ministry, showed that it is possible to introduce the vaccine mandate.

Both Lengvarský and PM Eduard Heger (OĽaNO) said that this possibility will be discussed only if there is a variant that will again send many people to the hospital or cause a serious course of the disease and a high number of deaths.

“It wouldn’t be appropriate or wise to force people into mandatory vaccination during the Omicron wave,” Lengvarský said.


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More on coronavirus and vaccination

  • 13,840 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 32,328 PCR tests performed on January 25. The number of people in hospitals is 1,505, and 27 more deaths were reported on Tuesday. The vaccination rate is at 50.75 percent, 2,791,225 people having received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • The pandemic has significantly cut life expectancy in Slovakia; by 0.9 year in the case of men and by 0.7 year in the case of women. The main reason was the higher probability of death while at an old age, according to the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAV).
  • The state will reimburse the costs of transporting people who died of Covid back to their place of residence. It will pay their relatives up to €1,000 if the Covid patients, who later died, had to be transported to a hospital that was at least 100 kilometres away due to the shortage of hospital beds in a nearer facility.

Picture of the day

Slovak PM Eduard Heger met with President of the European Council Charles Michel in Bratislava on Wednesday. The two discussed the disinformation surrounding the Slovak-US Defence Cooperation Agreement and the situation in Ukraine, among other issues.


Feature story for today

The Statistics Office has started to publish the first more detailed results of the 2021 census. The data that the inhabitants of Slovakia reported on themselves between February and October of last year show that there are more women than men living in Slovakia; that the Slovak population is ageing and that the number of people with no religious faith has increased since the last census in 2011. Find more detailed statistics results in a story below:

Slovak, Catholic, and ageing. But some of the 2021 census is a surprise (+graphs) Read more 

In other news

  • Foreign Affairs Minister Ivan Korčok (SaS nominee) will visit Ukraine on February 7-8, as stems from a document approved by the cabinet on Wednesday. The situation in Ukraine will also be the main subject discussed at the special session of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee scheduled for January 27, where Korčok will be talking about the rising tension at the Russian-Ukrainian border and the outcome of the Security Council meetings, as well as the defence deal with the USA.
  • Tax fraudster Ladislav Bašternák will be conditionally released from prison, as stems from the decision of the Trenčín Regional Court. The court only confirmed an earlier decision of the district court, meaning that it is now valid. Originally, Bašternák was supposed to stay in prison until March 2024. (JOJ)
  • The police found the dead body of the former head of the now-defunct Military Intelligence Service, Peter Bučka, in a quarry near Bratislava’s Devín borough. The National Criminal Agency (NAKA) is investigating the case as a murder. (JOJ)
  • Altogether 7,500 people died in Slovakia in December 2021, up 43 percent compared with the average from the previous five years. The higher number of people who died in a single month was reported in early 2021, according to the Statistics Office data. Covid was the second most frequent death cause, after circulatory system diseases.
  • The Walt Disney Company confirmed that it will launch its streaming service Disney+ this summer in 42 countries and 11 territories of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Among the newest recipients of the popular streaming service are Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary.
  • The Grafobal Group company, owned by tycoon Ivan Kmotrík, has sold the private news channel TA3 to Czech businessman Michal Voráček and his Blueberg Media. The price has not been disclosed.

More on Spectator.sk:

University reform does not go far enough, employers warn Read more 

Money in your account in seconds. Instant payments are about to become reality Read more 

What’s the buzz in Dolná Krupá? 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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