17 May 2021, 11:23 AM

STA, 17 May 2021 - Further easing of anti-coronavirus restrictions kicks in on Monday as all secondary school and university students are allowed to fully return to in-person schooling, a limited number of spectators is permitted at sports events and opening hours for hospitality establishments are extended.

Classes in secondary schools will be held under model B, which means that all students are schooled in person and all students are allowed to reside in dormitories. Hygienic and preventive measures must be observed.

Face masks remain mandatory except for physical education classes. as does remains weekly testing for staff, except for those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19.

Sports events will reopen to 50% sitting capacity for visitors who have been vaccinated, tested or recovered from Covid-19.

Meanwhile, the opening hours for hospitality establishments are being extended to between 5am and 10pm, from 7am-7pm in force now.

While indoor tables will still need to be three metres apart, the distance between people seated at the same table is no longer prescribed.

As of Monday, a new plan for relaxation of measures is in force, envisaging that many relaxations will apply, both in the yellow and green tier of restrictions, only to persons who are vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid-19 or who have tested negative.

Despite the improved epidemiological situation - Slovenia is now in tier yellow - the government formally extended the Covid-19 epidemic by 30 days from 17 May as all the country's statistical regions continue to have incidence of cases above the threshold for the epidemic.

16 May 2021, 17:18 PM

If you’re thinking about living in Slovenia then money should be on your mind, as without it you’ll have trouble obtaining the goods and services needed to survive.

Whether you’ll be here to study, work, travel or retire, one way to look at the issue is to do what this article aims to, and examine the question of whether Slovenia is rich or poor from various angles and in various contexts. The first thing to note, of course, is that all this is relative, and compared to most countries in the world Slovenia is a very comfortable place to live, with functioning infrastructure, a well-fed, clothed, housed and educated population, with stores stocked full of goods. In short, a standard European country.

What’s Slovenia’s GDP per capita?

In 2019 Slovenia’s GDP was €48,393 million, as estimated by the country’s Statistical Office (Statistični urad Republike Slovenije – SURS), or in per capita terms €23,165. This is a rather broad measure though, and obscures a fact that’s long been true about Slovenia, even before independence – the west is richer than the east. In western Slovenia the GDP per capita was €27,600 in 2019, while in the east it was €19,100, using figures from Eurostat. In purchasing power standard (PPS), Slovenia was 89% of the EU's average, with western Slovenia at 106% and eastern Slovenia just 73%. As you can see in the map below, western Slovenia benefits from its proximity and integration into the area of richer regions stretching north and west, while the east remains closer to the other former communist areas.


Map: Eurostat. Click to makie it a lot bigger

What’s the richest part of Slovenia?

Digging deeper, and using data from 2018, shows an even more marked contrast among Slovenia’s 12 statistical regions. The map below tells the story, revealing that  Osrednjeslovenska – the centre of the country, with Ljubljana – has 141.1% the average GDP per capita for Slovenia as a whole. The coastal area, Obalno-kraška, is the only other region to be above average, at 102.5%. The poorest region is Zasavska (capital: Trbovlje), with just 52.4% of the average GDP per capita.


Map: JL Flanner, using SURS data



Is Slovenia richer than Croatia?

Slovenia gained independence and Yugoslavia fell apart three decades ago. Back in the days of the Socialist Federal Republic (1945-1992) Slovenia was the richest member, and after having established itself as an independent nation, with minimal bloodshed, there was some talk of it becoming the new Switzerland, an Alpine Tiger (or perhaps Carantanian Panther). Given that Switzerland had a GDP per capita of €76,200 in 2019, around 3.3 times more than Slovenia, this dream remains unachieved, but the small nation on the sunny side of the Alps remains the richest of the former Yugoslav states, by far, as seen in the following video.

What’s more, Slovenia isn’t just richer than other members of the former Yugoslavia, it’s consistently among the richest of the former Communist countries of central and eastern Europe. In the following animation GDP is presented in US dollars and Purchasing Power Parity terms, a measure that – like the EU’s PPS – considers the prices of goods and services in the different countries, and thus is a fairly good measure of standard of living.

It’s best to just watch the video, and see how nations rise and fall over time, but in summary: Slovenia starts at #2, slightly behind the Czech Republic (aka Czechia) in 1992. These two then stay at the top, very close together, until 1998, when Slovenia takes pole position. After this, Slovenia pulls ahead, soon maintaining a lead of some US$2,000 until 2007, when Czechia closes the gap, then takes over the top spot in 2009. Slovenian then regains #1 for 2010 and 2011, but after that Czechia is in the lead.

Here we’ll note that Slovenia – or rather Yugoslavia – was not a member of the USSR, and operated a different, more open and non-aligned form of socialism than that seen behind the Iron Curtain, as seen in the following holiday programme from 1986. You may have to click through to YouTube because there’s some topless sunbathing.

To end here’s another video that puts Slovenia among the other EU Member States, with the country having joined the organisation in 2004. And after watching this you may have some questions about Luxembourg and Ireland, with populations around a third that of Slovenia and just over 2.5 times bigger, respectively.

Next in this series we’ll take a look at incomes in Slovenia.

12 May 2021, 20:29 PM

Note: the end date wasn't clear in the STA report - we'll update this story when things are confirmed...

STA, 12 May - The government eased several coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday, including increasing the cap on gatherings to 50, and easing restrictions on hospitality, tourism, sports, culture and education. It also extended the state of Covid-19 epidemic by another 30 days from 17 May (ed. until 16 or 17 June – the report isn’t clear).

The cap on organised public events and public gatherings in- and outdoors will be raised from 10 to 50 starting on 15 May.

Exceptionally, more than 50 participants will be allowed under conditions prescribed by the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) and on its prior approval.

Moreover, several decrees have been changed to allow cultural, sports and other events to reopen to 50% sitting capacity for visitors that have been vaccinated, tested or recovered from Covid-19.

The 50% capacity limit will also apply to cinemas and churches, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs has told the STA.

A further easing is that it will be made possible again to interrupt the quarantine imposed on entry into country after five days with a negative PCR test.

Meanwhile, the allowed opening hours for hospitality establishments are being extended to between 5am and 10pm, from 7am-7pm in force now.

While indoor tables will still need to be three metres apart, the distance between people seated at the same table is no longer prescribed, the Economy Ministry said on its Twitter profile.

Moreover, the four-per-table rule will no longer apply to families with children up to the age of 18.

The one-customer-per-20-sq-metres rule will no longer apply to children up to the age of 18 when accompanied by a parent or carer or for persons that need to be accompanied.

Campsites will be allowed to open up to 70% of available units, up from 30 units currently.

Casinos and gaming parlours are also being allowed to reopen between 5am and 10pm for visitors who can produce a proof of vaccination, negative test or recovery from Covid-19. Gaming parlours can be open to up to 50% capacity.

Easing will also benefit education, as secondary schools will be allowed to reopen next week for all pupils, who will no longer need to alternate between in-person and remote schooling.

Moreover, university students will be able to attend lectures in person from Monday, the Education Ministry has announced.

Face masks remain mandatory except for physical education classes. So remains weekly testing in force for staff, except for those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19.

The relaxation comes after Slovenia entered yellow tier of infections as Covid-19 hospitalisations fell below 500 and the 7-day average of new infections below 600.

However, the government extended the Covid-19 epidemic until 16 June [ed. we assume, but could be 17] as all the country's statistical regions continue to have incidence of cases above the prescribed threshold for the epidemic.

The government declared the epidemic for a second time on 19 October and has been extending it since by 30 days each time. In the first wave the epidemic was in force for 80 days, from 12 March to 31 May.

The conditions for the epidemic include the 14-day cumulative incidence per 100,000 residents above 104. It is currently at 423, according to data from the National Institute of Public Health.

Covid-19 hospitalisations and intensive care cases are also above the thresholds of 250 and 50, at 463 and 127, respectively.

The government today also changed the list of high-risk red countries by removing Slovakia, Israel and St Vincent and Grenadine, while adding Sudan. The changes, which also affect parts of Denmark, France, Greece, Norway and Spain, take effect on 15 May.

12 May 2021, 20:23 PM

STA, 12 May 2021 - Slovenia has confirmed a case of the coronavirus first detected in India, follows from the GISAID portal, which provides open-access to genomic data of influenza viruses and the novel coronavirus.

According to the portal, the Indian variant was confirmed by the Institute of Microbiology and Immunology (IMI) at the Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine in a sample taken on 20 April.

IMI head Miroslav Petrovec told the STA the Indian variant had been confirmed in one of the sequences deposited with the institute. The sample belonged to a person who tested positive on 20 April having returned from India.

The institute confirmed the Indian variant after back analysing all Slovenian samples again after updating on 11 May the algorithm to sequence the variants according to official Pango lineages as the B.1.617.2 variant was declared a new worrying genetic mutation.

In the latest screening of 576 samples taken between 26 April and 2 May the Indian variant was not confirmed, while the UK variant was confirmed in 90% of the samples.

Meanwhile, no new cases of the variants first detected in Brazil, South Africa or Nigeria were confirmed, nor the variant spread most widely in the French overseas department of Mayotte.

Nor have the California or New York variants been confirmed in Slovenia so far.

Between 24 February and 4 May the IMI, in cooperation with the National Institute of Public Health, sequenced 147 genomes of coronavirus from samples taken from vaccinated persons.

84 got infected more than two weeks after receiving the second BioNTech/Pfizer jab, and three after getting the second Moderna jab, while 60 caught the virus more than three weeks after receiving one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The genetic variants with the vaccinated persons were those that are frequent in Slovenia and in about same proportions as they appear generally in the population.

Maja Rupnik of the National Laboratory of Health, Environment, and Food said that given data from the UK, the Indian variant is similarly virulent as the UK variant and did not cause any worse symptoms.

She said he data available so far indicated the Indian variant was not as changed that the antibodies developed after catching Covid-19 or getting vaccinated would not work against the variant.

The labs sequencing genomes of the novel coronavirus enter their data into the GISAID database, a global scientific initiative that promotes rapid sharing of data from all influenza viruses and the coronavirus causing Covid-19.

The latest situation on coronavirus variants in Slovenia is to be presented at Thursday's Covid-19 press briefing.

The World Health Organisation has said that the Indian variant B.1.617 is more transmissible and thus cause for concern.

12 May 2021, 13:22 PM

STA, 12 May 2021 - The Health Ministry and the National Institute for Public Health (NIJZ) told the STA on Wednesday that the vaccination of children and adolescents in Slovenia would start when the European Medicines Agency (EMA) gives its approval.

"We are currently waiting for the EMA's opinion on whether the vaccine is suitable for the age group of over 12 years. Once this is approved, we will start to promote vaccination in primary and secondary schools as well," said Mateja Logar, head of the ministry's advisory group on Covid-19.

On Monday, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the emergency use of Pfizer and BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine for teenagers aged 12 to 15 years. This is the first vaccine in the US to be licensed for this age group.

EMA executive director Emer Cooke told several European newspapers on Tuesday that Pfizer's vaccine could be approved for the 12-15 age group in the EU later this month, although initially this was expected by June. She said that they were still waiting for data from a clinical study carried out in Canada.

11 May 2021, 12:21 PM

STA, 11 May 2021 - Three-quarters of respondents in a survey supported by the pollster Valicon and the Covid-19 tracker community are somewhat worried about the epidemic, but almost half are still unwilling to be vaccinated. The main reason for people's reluctance to be vaccinated is fear of possible side effects.

The survey was carried out by three Slovenian researchers in collaboration with a team of Polish, Hungarian and Romanian researchers. The key findings for Slovenia were published on the Covid-19 tracker's website.

Almost 37% of respondents say they will be vaccinated against Covid-19 if the vaccine is available and recommended, while 47% say they will not, and 16% are undecided.

Out of those who do not want to be vaccinated, more than 80% says this is because they are "at least somewhat" concerned about the unknown side effects of vaccines.

Almost as many think that vaccination may cause issues that may not yet have been detected, while about two-thirds believe that vaccines can cause unforeseen problems in children.

Almost two-thirds think that vaccines bring large profits to pharmaceutical companies while having no positive effects on ordinary people, and that authorities promote vaccination for profit rather than people's health.

Just over 50% agree with the claim that there is much deception related to the vaccination programmes.

Only a quarter of the vaccinated participants agree that they feel safe after the vaccination, while a third confirmed that they feel protected. Just over a third believe that vaccines will stop serious infectious diseases.

When asked to rate their vaccine preferences, over two-thirds chose the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, two-thirds chose Moderna, followed by Sputnik with 57% and J&J with 52%, while only 31% chose AstraZeneca.

Concerns about possible side-effects is a major discouraging factor for more than 80% of respondents, while over 75% are concerned about vaccine safety. For two-thirds of respondents, the main concern is that the vaccine is new and they would like to see how vaccines work in other people first.

Just over 60% of respondents said they did not trust the government to ensure the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, while just over half believe that the vaccine will not work.

The data was collected between 16 and 23 April among 1,042 participants.

10 May 2021, 12:19 PM

STA, 10 May 2021 - Slovenia's vaccination rollout is expected to gather momentum on Monday as jabs become available to adults under 50 years of age, while older and more vulnerable will continue to take priority.

Mass vaccination for all adults comes after a nation-wide vaccination booking app was launched last week to make the rollout run more smoothly. Roughly 31,000 people registered in less than two days.

Data released by the National Institute of Public Health on Sunday show that nearly half a million or nearly a quarter of Slovenia's population have received the first Covid-19 jab with roughly half of them or 12% already fully vaccinated.

Related: Conditions Almost Met for Slovenia to Enter Yellow Tier

Urging people to get vaccinated for their own sake and the sake of others, Prime Minister Janez Janša said on his Twitter profile last week that enough vaccines would be secured for everyone by summer.

The goal is to fully vaccinate at least 60% of the population to achieve herd immunity. NIJZ data show the rate for both doses has only been achieved in the 80-84 age group, while 60% or more have received the first dose among those aged 70 to 79 and 85 to 89.

"In the supplies are as planned, it is possible to have 60% of the adult population vaccinated by the end of June," Mateja Logar, the government's chief Covid-19 adviser, said earlier this month.

Jelko Kacin, the national coordinator for vaccination logistics, says this month Slovenia expects deliveries of at least 450,000 doses of the four Covid-19 vaccines so far approved in the EU.

Related: Further Easing of Restrictions for Bars, Restaurants, Hotels on Monday (But Not for Everyone)

However, as the issue of supplies appears to be largely resolved, vaccine hesitancy and aversion may prove to be more of a problem.

To boost public trust in the vaccines, Health Minister Janez Poklukar received a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in front of the cameras on Friday, after he got over Covid-19 in the autumn.

As vaccination is being opened to under 50s, Bojana Beović, the head of the national advisory committee on immunisation, says vaccination tiers will still be observed, with those first in line to be invited to get a jab if those higher up the list do not turn up.

Taking into account those recovered, she believes herd immunity could be reached within two months.

NIJZ data show Slovenia has recorded more than 246,000 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, which corresponds to roughly 12% of Slovenia's population.

Where Can I Get a COVID Test or Vaccine in Slovenia?

See here for the list of testing sites, with links to your local health centre (ZD - zdravstveni dom), where you should also be able to register for a vaccination

10 May 2021, 08:00 AM

STA, 9 May 2021 - Slovenia has all but met the conditions to move to tier yellow of coronavirus restrictions as hospitalisations have fallen below 500 and the 7-day average fell to 614, just 14 above the threshold.

Government data show that 289 coronavirus cases were confirmed on Saturday from 2,406 PCR tests, for a positivity rate of 12%. A total of 8,215 people were screened with rapid antigen tests.

The number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 fell to 498 after 28 were discharged yesterday. 128 were in intensive case units this morning, one fewer than yesterday.

What do the different tiers mean? Find out here...

With hospitalisations below 500, the country has met one of the two conditions to move from orange to yellow tier of restrictions. The 7-day average of new cases still needs to fall below 600.

In another encouraging piece of news, data from the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) show the number of estimated active cases has fallen below 9,000, at 8,980.

The cumulative 14-day incidence per 100,000 residents declined to 425, down six from the day before.

Slovenia has so far confirmed 246,084 coronavirus cases, according to NIJZ, while Health Ministry data show that 4,595 patients with Covid-19 have died.

According to NIJZ data, 482,035 people have received the first dose of a vaccine against Covid-19 and 251,755 have received two, which represents 23% and 12% of the population, respectively.

08 May 2021, 14:14 PM

STA, 8 May 2021 - Bars and restaurants will be allowed to serve guests indoors across the country and large hotels will be able to offer half their rooms to guests from Monday as part of an easing of restrictions in tourism and hospitality amidst a gradually improving epidemiological situation.

Only guests who have been fully vaccinated, have had Covid-19 in the past six months or have a negative test no older than 48 hours are allowed to be served indoors, the government decided yesterday.

All other restrictions remain in place, including the requirements on the number of people per table and distance among chairs and tables. Like before, establishments may be open from 7am to 7pm.

In the tourism industry, the existing rule where establishments were only allowed to operate up to 30 rooms has been changed and half the rooms may be put to use. Smaller operators with under 60 rooms may use 30.

For establishments offering self-catering apartments, the restriction does not apply at all since they are considered self-contained units where people do not mix.

Hotels and other accommodation facilities reopened at the end of April, but many large hotels in particular chose to remain closed because it was not economical for them to offer only up to 30 rooms to guests.

The industry has been calling on the government to further ease restrictions given that the epidemiological situation is gradually improving. Businesses also argued they can comply with all public health rules even when the number of guests is higher.

Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said yesterday that business chambers had endorsed the changes at a meeting with the government, while the trade union of employees in tourism opposed them.

The Alpine resort of Kranjska Gora welcomed the changes announced during yesterday's visit by Počivalšek as well, but the head of Turizem Kranjska Gora, Blaž Veber, said the opening of borders with Austria and Italy was even more important, as the majority of guests come from the two countries.

Last year, the season was saved by Slovenian guests using tourist vouchers, while the outlook for this year is much worse, as both demand and bookings are lower than last year, Veber said.

06 May 2021, 14:37 PM

STA, 6 May 2021 - Prime Minister Janez Janša announced on Twitter on Thursday that all adults under 50 will start to get vaccinated on Monday. "We will have enough vaccine for everyone by summer. Let's be responsible to ourselves and others, get vaccinated and hold out for a few more weeks. It is time for a normal summer," he wrote.

Jelko Kacin, the national vaccination logistics coordinator, announced on Wednesday that Slovenia has at least 450,000 doses of four types of vaccines against Covid-19 available for the month of May, which will speed up the vaccination process.

At the same time, Kacin announced additional quantities of vaccines and urged everyone to make the decision to get vaccinated.

He also explained that a new application is to be presented by Health Minister Janez Poklukar at today's press conference. The app will enable people to sign up to get inoculated and make it easier to monitor the progress of vaccination across the country.

In accordance with the current national vaccination strategy, people in the 50-59 age group, chronic patients and critical infrastructure workers are being vaccinated.

On Wednesday, Kacin did not have information on how many people were still waiting, but he did report that 16.3% of the 50-54 age group and 23.3% of people in the 55-59 age group had already been vaccinated. In total, 70 000 people in the 50-59 age group have received the vaccine.

According to the National Institute of Public Health, a total of 449,477 people have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

The vaccination website

04 May 2021, 19:32 PM

STA, 4 May 2021 - Bojana Beović, the head of the national advisory committee on immunisation, has said it would soon make sense to make coronavirus vaccination available to everyone who wants to get vaccinated.

"Given that a lot of vaccines are coming, I think it no longer makes sense to keep this [age] barrier even though not everyone over 50 has been vaccinated," she told the press on Tuesday.

Beović acknowledged this was not a formal proposal by the advisory committee, which she said was dealing more with direct expert issues such as which vaccines are suitable for which age group.

But if it is asked about this, the advisory committee will convene and provide an answer.

Under the currently valid strategy, Slovenia is vaccinating all over the age of 50, plus several priority groups.

But there has been concern about whether it can reach the desired rate of vaccination given that interest in older age groups waned once about 60% were vaccinated.

Where can I get vaccinated for COVID in Slovenia?

Find your local health centre (zdravstveni dom – ZD) in the list here, then click through to the website. These have different styles, but you’re looking for something with COVID-19 ceplenje (COVID-19 vaccination). From there you should get more details and be able to register for a jab (Naročanje na COVID-19 cepljenje)

Whether Slovenia indeed achieves the goal of vaccinating 60% of the adult population by 15 June - as of today more than 20% have received at least one shot - Beović said this would "depend on us".

She thinks everyone should focus on how to get vaccinated as soon as possible rather than whether to get vaccinated at all or which vaccine to get.

According to her, once the vaccination rate reached 60%, "we can afford to live very differently".

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