Cabinet agrees on COVID screening

More details will be presented tomorrow.

The cabinet agreed on screening people for the coronavirus at its January 16 session.

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“The situation is serious,” Health Minister Marek Krajčí (OĽaNO) said, adding that the whole of Slovakia is currently in the black, the most serious stage of its COVID automat alert system.

As the country needs to decrease the average number of people testing positive for coronavirus and improve the situation so that at least the schools can open for the youngest children and school graduates, it is necessary to test people to reveal those who are spreading the illness and isolate them and their contacts. If this succeeds, it will be possible to fully launch the COVID automat from February 8, he added.

The agreement came after “a long, constructive discussion”, as Krajčí described it. The cabinet will reveal more details tomorrow (January 17), in the afternoon.

Week-long discussions

PM Igor Matovič (OĽaNO) presented his intention to test the nation en-masse on Monday, January 11. However, the cabinet failed to agree to this at the sessions held during the week.

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The problem is that many experts, hospitals, and even the coalition partners do not support the idea of nationwide testing.

Economy Minister and Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) chair Richard Sulík has criticised the idea, saying it is only necessary to test the hardest-hit regions.

Another coalition party, Za Ľudí, shares this opinion.

“Epidemiologists have identified 21 districts in critical condition, with the number rising to 30-40 districts if we add those with a high share of positive antigen tests,” said its chair, Investments Minister Veronika Remišová.

Matovič, however, insists that mass testing is a very effective and quick tool to search for infected people.

How to interpret the data?

Commenting on the current epidemiological situation in Slovakia, Krajčí said that the current measures have not helped decrease the daily number of newly infected people yet.

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However, the rate of positive coronavirus tests has dropped slightly and the reproduction number has dropped below 1, Krajčí said and added that he hopes the situation will improve soon.

He expects that mass testing will help reduce the new daily cases significantly.

Commenting on the data presented by Krajčí, the analysts from Data without Pathos said that the measures adopted in mid-December cannot be called lockdown. While shopping centres and schools closed, the government agreed to keep ski centres, hotels and churches open and allow visits within bubbles.

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Stricter measures were applied on January 1 at 5:00, but they judge that as paid stays were allowed to run to the end and people were allowed to return home after Christmas and New Year, the real lockdown only really started after January 4.

The Christmas holiday also meant fewer PCR tests were carried out. The numbers only returned to pre-Christmas levels on January 15.

The past few days have shown, though, that the share of positive PCR tests out of the total number of tests performed has dropped and the same trend can be seen with antigen tests as well. New cases are not rising as quickly as before, they added.

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