NKU: Health Ministry and UKS Members Shirked Responsibility for Pandemic

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illustration picture (photo by TASR)

Bratislava, April 16 (TASR) – Officials of the Health Ministry and members of the Central Crisis Management Team (UKS) were avoiding responsibility in connection with the coronavirus pandemic, leaving decisions up to the Public Health Authority (UVZ), Supreme Audit Office (NKU) vice-chair Lubomir Andrassy said on Friday in connection with an audit carried out by NKU in the second half of last year.

“Hygienists replaced other state institutions in several cases, and even without clear legal powers,” stated Andrassy, adding that they mainly took the place of representatives of the Health and Interior Ministries, especially those in charge of crisis management at the level of district offices. Hygienists, doctors and representatives of local governments thus helped to deal with the critical pandemic situation thanks to their active engagement.

According to NKU, the coronavirus pandemic also revealed power-allocation and legislative shortcomings in the country’s system of public protection against infectious diseases. Slovakia doesn’t have a functional network of registries, as existing information systems don’t provide sufficient data for comprehensive analyses. This negative element was particularly apparent in the first weeks after the declaration of a state of emergency, with analysts and experts working with a time lag and with partial data, stressed NKU. A positive role was played by public health authority staff, who responded in advance and issued the first warnings as early as the end of January 2020, stated NKU.

NKU in its report for Parliament points to the fact that Slovakia could have been better prepared for an extraordinary situation thanks to a legislative change submitted to Parliament by Slovakia’s chief hygienist in the autumn of 2019. However, MPs rejected this amendment to the law on the protection of public health.