News digest: One step closer to normal life. Slovakia prepares for big easing of measures

First restrictions end on Saturday. No pressure on the border with Ukraine yet. Slovakia sends a diplomatic note to the Russian embassy.

(Source: SME.sk / Hej,ty)

Good evening. Welcome to the Wednesday, February 23, 2022 edition of Today in Slovakia, which brings the main news of the day in less than five minutes.

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Most measures lifted on Saturday

Starting on Saturday, February 26, there will no longer be any special entry regimes to shops, services, restaurants or other venues. This means that everybody will be allowed to enter, without the need to present proof of vaccination, recovery or negative test. Opening hours will be prolonged until midnight.

Yet, there will be some capacity limits remaining for mass events or entry to fitness centres, with the Health Ministry explaining that these should prevent the infection of at-risk groups.

Rules are changing for schools as well. An entire classroom will no longer be required to go into quarantine after one pupil is identified as Covid positive, even though this pupil will have to self-isolate and then wear a FFP2 respirator for five days after self-isolation ends. Moreover, pupils will no longer be required to wear masks when in classroom, apart from those who ended their self-isolation. A mask outside of the classroom will still be required.

The second phase is set to start on March 26, with capacity limits, the quarantine of close contacts and restrictions for opening hours expected to be entirely dropped. The rules for wearing masks and respirators are yet to be discussed.

Moreover, the ministry says it will monitor the pandemic developments in March and admitted that some measures might be lifted even earlier if the situation allows.

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More on the coronavirus and vaccination

  • 19,075 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 33,688 PCR tests performed on February 22. The number of people in hospitals is 2,701; and 35 more deaths were reported on Tuesday. The vaccination rate is at 51.21 percent, 2,816,574 people having received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • The pandemic situation in Slovakia seems to be improving, with the number of people who test positive dropping across the country; currently, about 17,400 new cases on average are identified every day. The number of new positive cases rose in 18 districts, while 48 districts reported a drop of more than 10 percent, according to the data presented by the Health Ministry. On the other hand, the number of hospitalisations and deaths slightly increased compared to last week.
  • All soldiers helping in hospitals will be withdrawn by Friday, said Health Minister Vladimír Lengvarský (OĽaNO), adding that the situation there is stable. In addition to hospital staff, nearly 600 students are helping out. At the same time, the triage tents raised in front of the hospital buildings will be gradually dismantled next week.

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Slovakia has plans for inflow of refugees ready

Top representatives of the state met at the Security Council session held on February 22 afternoon, discussing the Kremlin’s decision to recognise two separatist republics in eastern Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk.

The participants discussed the preparedness of ministries and systems to deal with the situation, and a significant growth of disinformation that has been observed in Slovakia.

Even though Slovakia is not facing direct military threat today, in the case of further escalation, it will have to cope with a migration wave of citizens from Ukraine fleeing war in their country, said President Zuzana Čaputová after the session.

There is no such situation observed on the Slovak border with Ukraine for now, as Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď and Interior Minister Roman Mikulec (both OĽaNO) confirmed.

Still, the conflict in eastern Ukraine may have some indirect impact on people living near the border, as well as travels to Ukraine and Russia. If the conflict further escalates, the prices of petrol may go up or refugees from Ukraine could start coming to Slovakia. The Sme daily looked more closely at potential effects.

To prepare for the inflow of people fleeing Ukraine, the Interior Ministry presented the plans counting on several scenarios to the members of the parliamentary defence and security committee today. At the same time, the state secretary of the Defence Ministry announced stricter controls in order to protect some strategic objects.

Meanwhile, the Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry handed a protest note to the Russian Embassy in Bratislava, in which it formally rejected Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognise the independence of separatist territories in eastern Ukraine.


Picture of the day

The week-long school spring holiday for pupils in Košice Region and Prešov Region started on Monday. Many decided to make use of the good conditions for skiing, and visited ski resorts in other regions, like the one in Donovaly. In the coming two weeks, schoolchildren in the western Slovak regions (Bratislava, Trnava and Nitra) and then central Slovak regions (Trenčín, Žilina and Banská Bystrica) will have school holidays.


Feature story for today

Sorted-out and composted kitchen waste from fewer than a hundred households in Bratislava would be enough to fertilise land to produce 30 tonnes of watermelons or 40-70 tonnes of carrots. This calculation is based on the statistic that an average Bratislavan generates 120 kg biodegradable waste from their kitchen each year. The capital is now gradually introducing its kitchen waste sorting scheme to reduce its production of greenhouse gases and to find practical use for kitchen waste.

After a successful pilot project in Lamač, the authorities will expand the collection of kitchen waste to other boroughs: Záhorská Bystrica, Karlova Ves and Dúbravka, all in the west of the city, will join the scheme during March and April.

How Bratislava plans to use its kitchen waste Read more 

In other news

  • The total number of deaths in Slovakia returned to pre-pandemic levels despite the Omicron wave, according to the Statistics Office. More than 5,300 people died in January 2022, which was the least since September 2021; the number of excess deaths was by only 4 percent higher than the five-year average before the pandemic started.
  • The appellate trial with former special prosecutor Dušan Kováčik is scheduled to take place on March 1. Kováčik was sentenced by the Specialised Criminal Court to 14 years in prison unconditionally for corruption, among other crimes, last September.
  • The state does not have to pay €34.6 million to the Interblue company, involved in the 2008 emission quotas scandal, the Economy Ministry said. The ministry referred to the decision of the Bratislava Regional Court, which reportedly confirmed the previous verdict issued by the district court in December 2020.
  • The communication app developed by the Slovak startup Simplicity will be used by 22 cities in the United States, meaning that it will be available for about 1 million people. The creators of the app are also negotiating cooperation with the city of Miami. (TASR)
  • The price of older flats in Bratislava went up 21.1 percent annually in the final quarter of 2021, with their average price amounting to €3,287 per square metre. This has been the highest increase since 2008, according to the Bencont Investments company.
  • Not even the pandemic helped increase the share of Slovak food in shops; it amounted to 40.17 percent last year, while in 2019, it was 40.74 percent. This stems from a survey carried out by the Slovak Agriculture and Food Chamber in late 2021.

More on Spectator.sk:

Slovak post office change prices as of March, international consignments also impacted Read more 

Fulla cracks: Gallery dedicated to one of Slovakia’s greatest artists crumbling Read more 

Where the legend of the murderous Blood Countess lives on 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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