Slovakia on Saturday begins a programme to screen its entire population for coronavirus with antigen tests in what would be a global first, but critics have said the plan is poorly thought out.
Some 45,000 medical workers, army and police are being deployed to carry out the tests in the EU member state of 5.4 million people, collecting swabs at around 5,000 testing points.
“The world will be watching,” Prime Minister Igor Matovic said earlier this week, adding that the measure would save “hundreds of lives”.
Antigen tests give quick results — sometimes within minutes — but are not seen as being as reliable as the PCR test for which nasal swabs have to be sent to a lab for analysis.
Participation in the testing is not mandatory but anyone who is not able to produce a negative test certificate if stopped by police could get a heavy fine.
Anyone who tests positive has to go immediately into quarantine for 10 days.
“This will be our road to freedom,” Matovic said, hinting that virus restrictions could be eased once testing is complete or reinforced if the programme is not carried out in full.
Slovakia would be the first country of its size to undergo nationwide testing, although mass testing has taken place in entire Chinese cities.
Smaller European states such as Luxembourg and Monaco have also announced mass testing programmes.
– Government ‘threatening people’ –
Like other countries, Slovakia has seen a sharp rise in coronavirus cases although it is below the EU average.
On Friday it reported a record of 3,363 new daily infections, bringing the total to 55,091. The death toll currently stands at 212.
The government is hoping to complete the nationwide testing over two days and carry out another round of mass tests next weekend.
But it has struggled to find medical workers to staff all the testing sites and has been forced to offer cash bonuses for doctors.
During pilot testing in four high-risk regions last weekend, people had to queue for up to two hours in some cases.
The Slovak Association of General Practitioners has criticised the government’s plan, saying it is ill-prepared.
The association said that the “mass concentration of millions of people” at testing sites “is at odds with the recommendations of infectious disease experts to reduce public contacts and mobility as much as possible”.
Many ordinary people — like Radovan Babincak, an unemployed man living in the capital Bratislava — want to stay away.
“The government and the prime minister are threatening people,” the 40-year-old told AFP.
Anton Dubovsky, a 67-year-old petrol station operator, said he and his son would not go.
“I am not convinced this testing is a good idea at all,” he said.
Low UTME Cut-Off Mark Reason for Laziness Among Northern Youths – El-Rufai
Northerners have refused to take advantage of the ‘educational benefits’ given to them by the Nigerian government, the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El- Rufai, has said.
He specifically said the low cut-off marks needed for admission into northern universities via the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) was making northerners ‘lazy’.
Mr El-Rufai spoke during a plenary session on “Rethinking Sub-National Competitiveness” at the ongoing Nigerian Economic Summit.
These were some of the points he raised when he talked about restructuring the nation on Tuesday.
The members of this session were Mr El-Rufai, Azinge Azinge, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Justin Lin, a Professor of Economics.
“The northerners are at advantage. The low JAMB cut-off mark is making northern youth lazy rather than encouraging them. Despite the advantage of the education in Nigeria, we have the highest number of children out of school,” he said.
According to the United Nations, the huge number of out-of-school children in northern Nigeria poses an enormous challenge.
“For example, Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB), gives different cut-off mark for different states and you say you are building a nation, no you are dividing it.
“I am from the north but we have suffered educational disadvantage and the JAMB has given us lower cut-off mark to catch up, have we caught up?
“It is making people lazy,” the governor said.
He also said selecting leaders based on their ‘origin’ will not move any nation forward.
“This has become a big problem for Nigeria. Zoning in political parties cannot solve the economic problems we are facing,” he said. “Selecting the best person to get the job done will benefit everyone.”
“The best we can do is to give everyone equal opportunity.”
He also harped on reforming the federal police and judiciary to improve their effectiveness.
“Implement state policing. Some governors have more influence on the police than others; state governors cannot control security actions except there is an order from the IGP. This makes state governors handicapped in serious matters.
“Same is applied to the judiciary system. We are the only country in the world that is running a federal judiciary system. This has exposed the sector to inefficiency. There are decisions for states to take for example, land issues, traditional issues.”
Court Revokes Marina’s Son’s Bail, Orders His Arrest
The Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday revoked the bail granted Faisal Maina, the son of Abdulrasheed Maina, and ordered his arrest for jumping bail in his trial on money laundering charges.
Justice Okon Abang also ordered that his trial on money laundering charges would proceed in absentia pending when the security agencies would be able to arrest and produce him in court.
The judge also summoned his surety, a member of the House of Representatives, Sani Umar Dangaladima, representing the Kaura-Namoda Federal Constituency of Zamfara State, to appear in court to show cause why he should not forfeit the N60m bail bond which he signed for Faisal.
The order for Faisal’s arrest came barely six days after the same court, on November 18, issued a similar order against his father, Abdulrasheed Maina, a former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Task Team, who is facing separate N2.1bn money laundering charges before the court.
On Monday, Justice Okon Abang, sent Maina’s surety, Senator Ali Ndume, to jail for his inability to produce the fleeing defendant in court.
Earlier on Tuesday, following the judge’s November 18 ruling, Maina’s trial held in his absence with three prosecution witnesses testifying behind him and his legal team.
At the resumed hearing of Faisal’s trial on Tuesday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s prosecution counsel, Mohammed Abubakar, said both the defendant and his surety had not attended court since June 24, 2020.
FG, S’South Govs, Leaders Set to Meet in Rivers Tuesday
A delegation from the Federal Government is expected to meet with Governors and leaders of the South-South geo-political zone in Government House, Port Harcourt today (Tuesday).
The Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, is expected to lead the presidential delegation.
A Government House source in Port Harcourt, who confirmed the meeting to our correspondent, said Gambari is on his way to Port Harcourt.
The rescheduled meeting is coming on the heels of the botched stakeholders’ forum, which angered the Southern Governor, during which the South-South Governors’ Forum, demanded an apology from the presidency.