Good evening. The Wednesday, February 9, 2022 edition of Today in Slovakia is ready with the main news of the day in less than five minutes.
Defence deal with the US sails through the parliament
The Slovak parliament approved the Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) with the United States on February 9.
In the vote, 79 out of 140 present MPs voted for it, 60 were against and one abstained from the vote.
The person who abstained was Speaker of Parliament Boris Kollár, with six members of his Sme Rodina party voting against the deal. Two MPs for the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO), Romana Tabák and Milan Kuriak, did not support the DCA as well.
The deal is now to be ratified by President Zuzana Čaputová, who said she is ready to ratify it as soon as it is delivered.
Several representatives of the ruling coalition have thanked the MPs for their support. Yet, the voting has been preceded by a debate that was continually disrupted, particularly by the deputies representing the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia (ĽSNS). One incident even has international repercussion, as the Ukrainian Embassy in Slovakia demands an apology for the harsh treatment of their state flag.
In the end, the debate had to be wrapped up prematurely. This step was later criticised by the opposition representatives, particularly Smer chair Robert Fico. He and his party are ready to launch a petition for announcing a referendum with three questions, one of which should concern the DCA.
Meanwhile, protests continued to be held in front of the parliamentary building. Unlike Tuesday, when approximately 2,000 people attended the gathering, only a few dozens were present on Wednesday.
Pandemic restrictions might end next month
Anti-pandemic measures adopted to counter the Omicron wave might be relaxed in late March, Health Minister Vladimír Lengvarský (OĽaNO nominee) admitted before the February 9 cabinet session.
He referred to the outcome of the discussion held by the group of experts who serve as an advisory body to the Health Ministry, also attended by PM Eduard Heger (OĽaNO). Heger added that the measures might be gradually lifted after the number of new infections start to drop.
Yet, this is not the case now. The number of positive PCR tests broke another record, when nearly 20,600 out of some 36,800 carried out on Tuesday returned positive. Even though the seven-day incidence remains quite high, the situation in some districts suggests that they might have passed the peak of the Omicron wave already.
At the same time, both the number of hospitalisations and new hospital admissions is rising, and so does the number of cases when ambulances have to be dispatched to Covid patients.
The state plans to increase the testing capacities and engage more medical students to help in hospitals.
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More on the coronavirus and vaccination
- 20,582 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 36,766 PCR tests performed on February 8. The number of people in hospitals is 2,283; and 19 more deaths were reported on Tuesday. The vaccination rate is at 51.05 percent, 2,807,574 people having received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
- The state plans to launch the administration of boosters to children aged 12-18 years next week. Parents will have to ask for the jab, and no consent or confirmation from the paediatrician will be required, the Denník N daily reported.
- Foreign Affairs Minister Ivan Korčok (SaS nominee) tested positive for the coronavirus, as he announced on Facebook. At the beginning of this week, he was visiting Ukraine, together with his Czech and Austrian counterparts.
- Currently, 84.6 percent of schoolchildren are attending in-person education, as stems from the data provided by 90 percent of schools.
Picture of the day
Slovakia’s skier Petra Vlhová won the first medal for her country at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. She dominated women’s slalom race, moving to the first place after finishing eighth in the first run.
Feature story for today
For many years, the tabloids have terrorised her due to her appearance and weight. Today, singer Katarína Koščová admits that it destroyed her self-confidence. “I gradually started to think of myself as disgusting,” she said. In an interview for the Sme daily, the artist openly describes her struggle with anxiety, panic attacks, and how sorting out her mental health gave her the power to deal with her physical health.
In other news
- The avalanche danger in the Western Tatras and the Malá Fatra mountains persist, with the fourth level of the five-level scale being declared there. In the other mountains, the third-level danger has been declared.
- Three people have been charged in the case concerning the hunting cabin, where investigators recorded the conversation of Smer chair Robert Fico with people close to those charged in major corruption cases; one is allegedly the son of ex-minister of Smer-led governments, Ľubomír Jahnátek. They are facing charges of poaching and money laundering. (SME)
- Slovak soldiers will attend a military training in Poland, the Czech Republic and Ukraine in the first half of this year, as stems from the cabinet decision. The Trojan Footprint drill, originally planned to take place in Hungary, will be held in Slovakia as well.
- The cabinet wants to receive additional money to fight high energy prices through the special taxation of nuclear electricity trading, which may amount to some €50 million this year. At the same time, the coalition agreed on helping vulnerable customers, such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes, with energy prices, spending €50 million this year.
- Altogether 2,364 Slovak companies with a property at €84.5 million in total underwent a merger or acquisition organised by foreign entrepreneurs in 2021; most frequently these were entrepreneurs from Hungary and the Czech Republic, as stems from the data of the Dun & Bradstreet company.
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