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27 Dec 2020, 12:46 PM

STA, 27 December 2020 - A total of 614 Covid-19 cases were confirmed in Slovenia on Saturday as 25.1% of a total of 2,438 PCR and rapid tests came back positive. The positivity rate remained on a par with Friday. Thirty-three people died, pushing the death toll to 2,565.

The number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients rose by 14 to 1,179. 205 people required intensive care, 4 fewer than on Friday, while 38 patients were discharged from hospital.

The number of PCR tests on Saturday reached 1,880, of which 548 came back positive, while 66 infections were confirmed from 558 rapid tests.

Covid-19 vaccination under way across Slovenia

STA, 27 December 2020 - Mass vaccination against Covid-19 got under way among the elderly at care homes at 8:30 a.m. when the first three care home residents were vaccinated, retired Archbishop of Maribor Franc Kramberger, Angelca Butenko and Jože Pelko, the government said on Twitter on Sunday.

It's important to single the three out but until 9:30 a.m. many care home residents had already been vaccinated, Health Ministry State Secretary Marija Magajne told the press, speaking in front of the Fužine care home in Ljubljana. "This inspires hope that we are at the start of the end of the epidemic."

Magajne announced that people older than 80 who are at home could be vaccinated towards the end of January.

March or later is the most likely date for the general population to be vaccinated, or sooner if vaccines developed by other producers are approved.

The state secretary said that all care homes received as much vaccine as there was interest among the elderly and a proportionate share for the staff.

Slovenia received the first 9,750 doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech on Saturday.

The vaccine was delivered to UKC Ljubljana hospital and then distributed to community health centres, which are in charge of vaccination at care homes.

Next to be vaccinated after the elderly and staff at care homes will be medical staff at hospitals.

The country expects to receive another 6,825 doses of vaccine next week, and then 16,575 doses weekly next year.

27 Dec 2020, 12:32 PM

STA, 27 December 2020 - Hairdressers, produce markets and newsstands will be able to reopen for eight days between 28 December and 4 January, according to a government decision taken at yesterday's correspondence session. The government meanwhile extended the ban on religious services and cultural events until 5 January.

Exceptions to the culture ban are libraries and outdoor heritage sites as well as museums and galleries in the regions with a better epidemiological situation - Central Slovenia, Goriška, Gorenjska, Obalno-Kraška and from now on also Primorsko-Notranjska.

Religious services at churches can meanwhile be performed against very strict precautionary measures, with one of them prescribing as many as 30 square metres per person, or less if the persons are from the same household.

Krvavec Ski Centre Ordered to Close Ski Lifts

STA, 26 December 2020 – On Saturday inspectors sealed the ski lifts at Krvavec ski centre, which remained open despite a ban on ski lift operations and a fine it received on Friday. First, the gondola taking skiers to the ski slopes was sealed and than other lifts, RTC Krvavec told the STA. The skiers who were already skiing were enabled a safe return to the valley.

The inspection procedure is still under way and the RTC Krvavec, which said this morning the centre would continue to operate despite the ban until the end of the year, could not say what its future steps would be.

The Health Inspectorate said in a written statement that the Krvavec ski centre had been found to be operating on Friday despite a ban on operations, so the centre had been ordered to shut down.

According to public broadcaster RTV Slovenija it was also slapped with a EUR 4,400 fine.

Today, another inspection was carried out to find the ski lifts operating nevertheless. The ski lift operator will thus get a fine of EUR 4,000, the inspectorate said.

The RTC Krvavec was again called to close today but this did not happen, so the inspectors issued another order for a shut-down, explaining the operator that if this decision was not honoured the devices would be sealed.

As the ski lifts continued to operate, the inspectors in cooperation with the Infrastructure Inspectorate sealed all the ski lifts while enabling skiers to return to the valley with the gondola.

According to inspectors, the ski lift operator cooperated in the procedure, so it was carried out safely and without disturbances. Police also helped in the procedure.

Ski gondolas were ordered to stop operating with the government decree that entered into force on Thursday as temporary easing of restrictions expired before the Christmas holidays. They could begin operating again on 1 January under the condition that the operator organises fast antigen testing.

Government Covid-19 spokesman Jelko Kacin said today that ski centres would be opened again when the epidemiological situation allowed it, suggesting that this might not be on 1 January.

He said though that the government was working to create the conditions for the reopening of ski centres on 1 January. But the priority is to allow schools to reopen for the first three grades on 4 January, he stressed.

Prime Minister Janez Janša commented on the Krvavec case on Twitter by noting that skiing centres in some European countries with a better epidemiological situation than Slovenia's and more reserves in healthcare were completely closed and that "some are literally making a fool out of our health and lives".

23 Dec 2020, 14:27 PM

STA, 23 December 2020 - A total of 2,129 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Slovenia on Tuesday from a combined 10,593 antigen and PCR tests as voluntary mass testing got under way, government data show. The combined test positivity rate was 20%.

The government data also show that another 36 patients with Covid-19 died yesterday, which brings the overall death toll to 2,454, according to the tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org.

The number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 dropped by 35 from the day before to 1,226 after 123 were discharged home. 204, or seven fewer than the day before, were treated in intensive care units.

The 7-day average of new cases is 1,349 and the 14-day incidence per 100,000 residents is 941, show data published on the government website.

According to the tracker site, 1,913 of the latest infections were confirmed from the 6,524 PCR tests performed yesterday.

With the latest cases from PCR and antigen tests added to the total released by the National Institute of Public Health yesterday, Slovenia's case count since the start of the pandemic would reach 109,934.

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22 Dec 2020, 14:25 PM

STA, 22 December 2020 - Slovenia recorded 1,474 new coronavirus cases from PCR tests on Monday, a drop of 3.7% from a week ago, as 39 more Covid-19 patients lost their lives.

Data released on the government's Twitter profile show that 25.6% of the 5,763 tests performed yesterday returned positive results.

However, combined data from PCR and rapid antigen tests presented by the government Covid-19 spokesman Jelko Kacin, show a total of 1,504 new infections were confirmed from 7,416 tests with the positivity rate of 20%.

The number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 dropped by ten from Sunday to 1,261 after 119 were discharged and 134 were admitted yesterday. 207 or one fewer was being treated in intensive care units.

Long lines as voluntary mass testing begins

STA, 22 December 2020 - Voluntary trial mass testing started in several Slovenian towns on Tuesday, with long lines reported in big towns. In Ljubljana, people waited about two hours to get tested around noon. In Celje, the waiting time is also more than an hour.

Most people want to get tested because they were recently in contact with an infected person or to be sure that they are healthy before meeting other people during the holidays.

Both young and older people can be seen in the lines. Some came prepared, with something to read, or in a group.

Due to high demand, the Health Ministry said in the afternoon that additional testing locations would open tomorrow. The list of locations is yet to be made available in the ministry's website. State secretary Marija Magajne said the ministry was pleasantly surprised by the high turnout.

Up to two tests are conducted in a mobile unit a minute, and the results are known in 15-30 minutes, Žiga Skok from the Ljubljana Medical Centre said in Celje today.

Those tested are informed of their test result in a text message. The results are also entered into the national patient register.

Nuška Čakš Jager, deputy head of the Centre for Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Public Health, warned today that those with a negative result must still adhere to protective measures during the holidays.

A negative test means a person is not infected now but this does not mean that they cannot develop symptoms in two to three days or get infected later. She again called on people to stay within their bubbles for the holidays.

She also stressed that those who have symptoms of Covid-19 must not wait in lines but call their doctor to make an appointment for testing.

According to the official, the data from PCR tests and the rapid tests would be collected separately, so no infection would be counted twice.

On Monday, 1,474 infections were confirmed in 5,763 PCR tests, while another 30 infections were detected in 1,653 rapid tests.

Those who wish to get tested free-of-charge need to bring along their ID and health insurance card. They must also give a mobile number to which the test result is sent. No appointments are required.

The mass testing will be held until 24 December. After the holidays, rapid tests will be used among specific groups of residents, including those in education and child care.

All our stories about Slovenia and coronavirus

21 Dec 2020, 17:55 PM

STA, 21 December 2020 - Slovenian health authorities are examining the situation and will propose action after a new, highly virulent strain of coronavirus was confirmed in the UK. The government will decide on any measures at the proposal of its medical task force, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Slovenia does not currently have air links with the UK, so unlike many other European countries, it does not need to ban flights from the UK. And under existing quarantine rules, arrivals from the UK require a negative Covid-19 test or have to quarantine for ten days.

Prime Minister Janez Janša wrote on Twitter last night that Slovenia had "prepared measures to close borders, because there is a chance that the mutated virus is also present in some other EU countries".

Janša added today that intensive coordination talks were being conducted at the EU level on the matter, adding that a possible closure of borders would also be coordinated.

He noted that in addition to vaccination, protection of the most vulnerable groups and all restrictive measures, a "new risk is becoming known in recent days", and was increasing despite the good information related to Covid-19 vaccination in recent weeks.

Janša expects that more would be known later in the day, while adding that it was already clear that the new strain was not present only in the UK, but in many other European countries, including the Slovenian neighbourhood.

As for border closure, he said it was a drastic measure that would need to be coordinated on both sides of the border so that there were no major issues for people.

However, as of today Slovenians are advised against non-urgent travel abroad until mid-March next year, and all who intend to travel to Slovenia are also advised to postpone their trips, Janša said.

At least one case of the mutated strain has been confirmed in Italy in a man who recently arrived from the UK and is now quarantining, according to multiple media reports.

All our stories on Slovenia and coronavirus

21 Dec 2020, 16:20 PM

STA, 21 December 2020 - Voluntary trial mass testing will start on Tuesday in a number of municipalities, Marija Magajne of the Health Ministry told the government briefing on Monday. Exact locations and hours are yet to be announced. Results of rapid tests that will be used during the testing are from today deemed equivalent to those produced by PCR tests.

The Health Ministry said in a release that rapid testing can start in Ljubljana, Celje, Maribor, Novo Mesto, Nova Gorica, Murska Sobota, Slovenj Gradec, Koper, Kranj, Velenje, Ptuj, Lenart and Sevnica.

A greater number of testing sites will be provided in areas with the worst epidemiological situation, while there is also a possibility of conducting antigen tests in smaller municipalities as part of the trial, Marija Magajne of the Health Ministry told the government briefing on Monday.

The screening will be free-of-charge. Those who wish to get tested are required to bring their IDs and health insurance cards. They are also urged to maintain physical distance and wear a face mask.

So far, it is not necessary to book a test but that might change if many people are interested to get tested.

It is already clear that in Ljubljana, the testing will take place in Congress Square.

Residents of small municipalities with no testing sites will be allowed to travel between municipalities if they want to get tested.

Antigen tests deliver results in approximately 15 minutes. The results will be entered into the national patient register since a new definition of a positive test enters into force as of today - a rapid test result is now as good as a result delivered by a molecular or PCR test.

Those who will test positive using antigen tests will be thus automatically added to the daily tally of positive cases.

So far, such persons in care homes and health institutions, where systemic testing has been performed, have had to confirm their infection using a molecular test.

The display of daily recorded infections is to be amended as well - on top of the number of PCR tests and cases, there will be a special category showing the total of rapid tests and those that will have returned positive.

If both tests produce a positive result, only one will be taken into account and displayed, Magajne added.

Mass testing will be held until 24 December. After the holidays, rapid tests will be used among specific groups of residents, including those in education and child care.

Magajne noted that there was enough antigen tests. They are arriving in Slovenia gradually and are stored by suppliers.

The team that will be in charge of the testing in Ljubljana has already received the first batch of 1,000 tests.

Between 30 and 40 persons will be tested per hour. The rest of the tests are expected to be delivered later. An additional 100,000 tests are expected to arrive in Slovenia until the end of the week or the beginning of next year.

Magajne also said that 52 testing providers had responded to the ministry's open call. They could provide 130 mobile teams, which should be enough, according to her.

Prime Minister Janez Janša said this was not promotional testing but the start of the implementation of a plan adopted a while ago.

As part of the plan, anyone who thinks they are infected has the opportunity to get tested with rapid tests and check the result with a PCR test, he said on the sidelines of a meeting of senior officials.

The start of the mass testing was scheduled for today in Ljubljana, but was delayed by a day.

21 Dec 2020, 14:08 PM

STA, 19 December 2020 - Religious ceremonies were once again allowed in Slovenia starting from Saturday [19 December] after weeks of strict lockdown. Although the move comes just in time for Christmas, no midnight masses will be held this year, the Catholic Church has decided.

Slovenia confirmed 395 new cases of coronavirus in just under 1,500 tests on Sunday, for a positivity rate of about 27%, and 26 deaths, show the latest government data.

Despite the fact that religious ceremonies are allowed once again under strict precautionary measures, masses will not be held in all of Slovenia. The six dioceses will be deciding individually about masses in their churches.

By Friday evening only the Koper and Ljubljana dioceses allowed masses with believers present physically. In Ljubljana, this will only be allowed during weekdays, but not for the main holiday ceremonies.

The Novo Mesto diocese decided to allow masses with believers present as of Wednesday, while the dioceses of Celje, Murska Sobota and Maribor have decided against services with believers present for the time being.

Under the new rules, the number of people in church has been capped to one person per 30 square metres, unless the persons are members of the same household.

A safety distance of 1.5 metres has to be observed at all times between persons who are not members of the same household. No singing is allowed.

Masks are obligatory in churches, as is hand sanitation. Priests are allowed to give out Communion wafers upon disinfecting their hands. Wafers are to be placed in believers' hands and not in the mouth.

Moreover, the rules issued by the Bishops' Conference also prohibit any form of gathering on church grounds and also prohibit holding masses in the open.

Midnight masses will not be held this Christmas and Christmas Eve masses must conclude by 8 pm at the latest.

Not only religious ceremonies are allowed from today. The government also decided this week that shops selling technical goods, garden centres, and in the four regions with the lowest Covid-19 infection rates also museums and galleries, bookshops and gift shops, among others.

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia

21 Dec 2020, 11:49 AM

STA, 21 December 2020 - Slovenian health authorities are examining the situation and will propose action after a new, highly virulent strain of coronavirus was confirmed in the UK. The government will decide on any measures at the proposal of its medical task force, the Foreign Ministry said.

Slovenia does not currently have air links with the UK and hence does not need to ban flights from the UK like many other European countries have done. And under existing quarantine rules, arrivals from the UK require a negative Covid-19 test or have to quarantine for ten days.

Prime Minister Janez Janša wrote on Twitter last night that Slovenia had "prepared measures to close borders, because there is a chance that the mutated virus is also present in some other EU countries."

At least one case of the mutated strain has been confirmed in Italy in a man who recently arrived from the UK and is now quarantining, according to multiple media reports.

20 Dec 2020, 15:50 PM

STA, 19 December 2020 - Some 72,000 Slovenians have expressed their interest in getting a Covid-19 vaccine by registering on the e-government portal. While hospitals are getting ready for vaccination to start, the Health Ministry said Slovenia is to get the first batch of nearly 10,000 doses on 26 December.

Slovenia's national vaccination strategy for Covid-19 stipulates that health care workers, and residents and staff at elderly care homes will be the first to get the vaccine.

It is unclear as yet where vaccination will kick off first, with the Health Ministry telling the STA on Friday that it was drafting instructions for the public.

The Health Ministry also said Friday evening that the country would receive the first batch of 9,745 vaccines on 26 December. Two doses must be administered to each individual three weeks apart.

"Vaccination will start immediately after the vaccine is ready and distributed to vaccination points," the ministry said.

The entire batch will be delivered to the pharmacy of UKC Ljubljana hospital, where it will be stored at -80 degrees Celsius. The hospital pharmacy's capacities suffice for the amount of vaccine which is to be delivered, the ministry said.

While the pharmacy will get the doses ready for administering, the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) will take over the distribution to care homes, health centres and hospitals. The vaccine will be transported at temperatures between two and eight degrees Celsius.

However, vaccination will only be able to start after the European Medicines Agency approves the vaccine. The agency is expected to announce on Monday whether it has okayed the vaccine by Pfizer and BioNTech.

Vaccination in the EU is expected to start simultaneously in all member states, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen saying on Thursday that it would start on 27, 28 and 29 December.

Hospitals across Slovenia are getting ready for the vaccine roll-out, with several saying they expected more detailed instructions from the Health Ministry.

In Slovenia's biggest hospital, UKC Ljubljana, so far more than 3,000 out of its 8,500 employees have said they would get vaccinated. The hospital also told the STA that this year a record 33% of employees got a flu shot.

The UKC Maribor hospital, the country's second biggest, is in the process of checking how many of its staff would like to get vaccinated. "Vaccination will be a big challenge," the hospital also told the STA.

The general hospitals in Celje and Murska Sobota are also getting ready, but both have told the STA that they want more detailed instructions.

You can register your interest in receiving the vaccine here

19 Dec 2020, 21:12 PM

STA, 19 December 2020 - A mix of relaxed and tightened restrictions is planned for Christmas under a roadmap that the government unveiled on Saturday. Restrictions will be relaxed or tightened depending on the epidemiological situation and may be extended into the New Year's holiday.

"The government has assessed that we've lived with the currently applicable measures long enough and that we are increasingly aware how important they are to protect the lives of those most vulnerable and to beat the epidemic," government spokesman Jelko Kacin told the press after a government session on Saturday.

Kacin said this is why the government opted for a "gradual, controlled relaxation" of individual measures.

One of the linchpins of the plan is the complete closure between 24 December and 4 January of all services activities where there is direct contact with consumers; if the epidemiological situation does not improve, the closure will be in effect until 10 January.

The same applies to shops, with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies, shops selling medical devices, petrol stations, postal and delivery services, selected therapeutic services, and deliveries of food or other goods.

Under this plan, the first three grades of primary school would open from 4 January assuming the epidemiological situation improves. The same goes for kindergartens.

On the relaxation front, the complete ban on gatherings will be eased on 24 and 25 December to allow up to six persons from a maximum of two households to gather privately. The person limit applies to those aged over 15.

On those two days, between noon on 24 December and 8pm on 25 December, people will also be allowed to leave their municipality and region for visits.

If the epidemiological situation improves or remains stable, the same regime would apply on 31 December and 1 January.

All other restrictions remain in place, including the ban on public gatherings and prohibition of the sale and use of fireworks.

The government also issued an appeal to companies to decree remote work or collective leave is possible between 24 December and 10 January.

Kacin said the relevant decrees will be released in the coming days.

The announcement comes after the daily case count declined substantially on a week-to-week basis for the seventh day in a row and the number of people in hospital fell to a one-month low.

Outside the Christmas measures, one more region, Primorsko-Notranjska, has been added to the four statistical regions with the lowest incidence of new cases where more shops are allowed to open, including clothing and footwear stores.

19 Dec 2020, 13:42 PM

STA, 18 December 2020 - In the past seven days, the police dealt with almost 16,800 cases monitoring compliance with Covid rules. A total of 1,026 warnings were given, up by some 14% on the week before, and 519 fines were issued, down by 4%, deputy Police Commissioner Tomaž Pečjak said on Friday.

The police conducted 2,400 inspections per day on average to monitor compliance with coronavirus restrictions.

Mostly they dealt with violations of border restrictions, movement restrictions, including those restricting movement between municipalities, the 9pm-6am curfew or a ban on gatherings, Pečjak said at today's government briefing.

The police reported nine violations to the Health Inspectorate in the past seven days. Another 188 alleged violations were reported by municipality residents.

Health inspectors issued 35 sanctions between 7 and 13 December, 265 warnings and 100 administrative measures, having dealt with 2,303 cases, Deana Potza with the inspectorate told the briefing.

Violations include gatherings in the vicinity of food or beverage pick-up points or people wearing face masks wrong or not wearing them at all.

Most police warnings were issued by the Ljubljana Police Department (442), followed by the authorities in the Kranj area (81) and the Koper area (65), Pečjak pointed out.

When it comes to fines, the highest number was also issued in the Ljubljana area (154), followed by the Novo Mesto Police Department (149).

Pečjak said that the police were monitoring compliance with the curfew in cities and on major roads. However, most alleged violations are brought to the attention of the police by residents, he added.

The police issued 1,661 quarantine orders at border crossings between 11 and 17 December, an almost 19% increase on the week before. Most were issued on the border with Croatia (1,032), followed by those issued on the border with Austria (425), Italy (55) and Hungary (16).

At Ljubljana airport the police issued 133 quarantine orders in the past seven days.

The greatest number of quarantine orders was issued to passengers arriving from Bosnia-Herzegovina (437), which compares to 602 orders issued to arrivals from this country in the previous seven days.

A total of 287 quarantine orders was issued to arrivals from Germany, whereas a week before none, followed by arrivals from Croatia (209), Serbia (126), Kosovo (108) and North Macedonia (105).

The number of arrivals entering or exiting Slovenia on the border with Croatia increased by some 10% to 314,266 in the past seven days.

Compared with the same period last year, traffic on the border was reduced by two thirds, Pečjak said.

He urged those who intend to travel to learn about relevant conditions and heed prevention measures consistently, warning that a number of countries had made their entry requirements stricter.

The deputy police commissioner also announced that the police would step up their monitoring this weekend as well.

He added that if an individual wanted to invoke the contact tracing app #OstaniZdrav (#StayWell) as an exemption from the general ban on travel between municipalities, all they had to do was voluntarily show that the app had been installed on their phones.

In the event of an entire family travelling, it is sufficient if only one member claims this exemption, he said, highlighting that the app opened doors only to travel between the municipalities of the same region and only in the four regions with the best epidemiological status.

Tying unrestricted travel between municipalities to the use of the app has raised concern over privacy protection and discrimination of those who do not own a smart phone or a phone that could accommodate such an app, particularly the elderly and vulnerable groups.

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