Lifestyle

26 Nov 2020, 12:32 PM

I write this column on Thanksgiving, the best of all American holidays. Family, food and thankfulness (and possibly a nap)—nothing objectionable, all good. But this year I celebrate without my extended family and without a turkey. So I’ll focus on the thankfulness.

We live in surreal times. If you’d read about the state of the world in 2020 this time last year, you’d think you’d stumbled on a science fiction novel. I want to spend this column in thanks of the solidarity and assistance we all have received during this difficult time. My friend, architect Tomaz Schlegl, is sending out a thank-you card of his own to people he feels are deserving of thanks but rarely receive it. Nurses, doctors, volunteers. It’s a lovely idea for a Christmas gift—how often do people receive a heartfelt “thank you” for their efforts, and from a stranger? I would like to return the favor and thank Tomaz. Though you might not know it, he has been a crusader for elevating Kamnik’s profile, tourism and status as a cultural center. He is the Slovenian architect with the most ingenious and beautiful unbuilt projects. Because he focuses on urban planning, his wonderful projects are rarely built because they take outside thinking and courage on the part of bureaucratic administrations—which are often scared to do something bold and noteworthy. And so he creates, designs, pours his soul into projects that are rarely completed. He is the sort of behind-the-scenes good spirit who loves our region (his designs have almost been built in all the areas covered by Modre Novice, most recently a complete plan to remake the center of Menges and various plans for Kamnik) and who deserves an award for well-meaning service. If you only knew the ingenious designs he has come up with, only for administrations to get “cold feet” and decide not to implement them, you would roll your eyes and think to yourself, “Oh, what a shame, that would have been amazing.” And it would have. We are wasting one of Slovenia’s most talented creators. He was the inspiration for this column.

For me to thank, in general, nurses and doctors, feels too general but also just right. While we complain about not being able to have picnic parties with our friends, our brilliant healthcare system is working at its usual world-class level, with medical workers risking their own health and even lives to help others. Their heroism makes any complaints about changes in our daily routine and social lives seem very silly and petty.

I am thankful for these changes. Provided no one close to us gets severely ill, we will likely look back at the 2020 time in isolation as one with a silver lining. I have never spent more time with my children. Though it can be complicated moment to moment, imagine fast-forwarding to this time next year, when the vaccine should be out and Covid-19 peripheral. I will look back at this year as a beautiful time of nesting with my immediate family. Time is the most precious thing we have and it tumbles past us so quickly. Time has slowed down this year. We feel that days “stuck at home” are so long. I’m glad they feel “so long.” Instead of life passing us by, we’ve all been shifted to slow motion. Why not savor this, instead of pushing against it to no avail?

Globally, as an American, I’m thankful for the outcome of the recent election, though I remain dismayed and ashamed about what my country has become. This is a step in the right direction, but the mess that is America makes me very glad that I live in Slovenia.

Locally, I’ve become grateful to the people who are just doing their normal work, but the very act of which becomes heroic if there is risk of infection everywhere. Postmen, cooks, pharmacists—they continue to go to work and provide the services we need, even though each interaction carries an invisible risk.

I’m thankful also for those who deliver. I haven’t stepped inside a grocery store since March because of the free delivery offered by many companies, large and small. I can get delivery from Zlata Pticka (www.zlatapticka.si), coffee from Crno Zrno (www.crnozrno.com), products from local farmers who now deliver what was once available only at farmer’s markets. I have even found more exotic fare that I order regularly, such as Asian groceries from Asia Supermarket (www.asia-supermarket.si), and Russian specialties from Ruska Trgovina (www. ruskatrgovina.si)—you have yet to live if you have not tried their smoked sable (prekajena maslenka).

A special thanks goes to Ramadan Ahmetaj of Kamnik’s Tropika, where I like to get my fruit and vegetables. He stayed open and made sure that we could find food even when supermarkets were closing. He is a quiet type of hero. He’s just doing his job, but he’s doing it at a time when “just doing your job” counts as heroic.

Doing all of your jobs these days counts as heroic. I’m thankful to you for being as safe and hygienic as possible in a time when that does not only protect you but protects all of us. And for all of you parents out there, you deserve particular thanks. This has the potential to be a golden time for families being together. We may be “stuck” together, which might not always feel easy, but time with family is the most precious thing we have. And it is the inadvertent “gift” of the pandemic that we have more of it.

Now, if only I could get a giant turkey…

Check out Noah's latest book, Superpower Your Kids: A Professor's Guide To Teaching Children Everything in Just 15 Minutes a Day, or consider treating yourself to a copy of Slovenology, his guide to life in Slovenia.

25 Nov 2020, 16:43 PM

STA, 25 November 2020 - Slovenia's daily coronavirus case count rose to 2,226 on Tuesday on a day of the week that typically sees the highest number of new cases. This was as 43 more Covid-19 patients died, bringing the overall death toll to 1,199.

Data released by the government show the latest cases were from 8,063 coronavirus tests, the highest number yet, which puts the test positivity rate at 27.61%, up from 23.27% on Monday and almost 27% on Sunday, but down from nearly 30% on Saturday.

The daily increase in confirmed cases is the third highest on record, equalling that registered on the Tuesday two weeks ago but the positivity rate at the time was 30%.

Hospitalisations at Covid-19 units dropped by two to 1,297, after 113 patients were discharged yesterday, as the number of patients in intensive care also dropped by two to 202.

Addressing the morning government press briefing, Covid-19 spokesman Jelko Kacin said the epidemiological situation "is not yet inspiring hope" but he said the government was determined to set out an exit strategy whereby differences in the infection status of regions are to be taken into account.

Infections are increasing in all regions except for Central Slovenia and the north-western Gorenjska region with Koroška as one of the regions standing out in terms of infections.

The situation has been particularly difficult in the north-east of the country where there has been a surge in Covid-19 patients.

UKC Maribor, Slovenia's second largest hospital, had a record number of admissions at the weekend. From Sunday to Monday 218 patients required hospital treatment, 47 of them intensive care.

"I don't know what exactly to attribute the increase to when it already seemed we are out of the woods, the logical explanation would be St Martin's 10 days ago," said Gregor Prosen, the head of the UKC Maribor emergency department, referring to the celebration of new wine in what is one of Slovenia's main wine growing regions.

Nuška Čakš Jager from the National Institute of Public Health presented the results of a survey among the infected which show the most (25%) reporting getting infected at work, followed by almost as many who do not know where they got infected.

Over 20% got infected from family or household members, and 15% at social and aged care homes, followed by those who reported private socialising as the cause of infection.

According to Kacin, 176 more elderly in care homes tested positive yesterday, bringing the number of actively infected to 2,660, and as many as 114 new infections were confirmed among care home staff for 992 actively infected.

Labour Ministry State Secretary Mateja Ribič said that 24 aged care home residents died yesterday, half of them in hospitals. A total of 580 have died in the second wave.

Slovenia has so far conformed 69,306 coronavirus cases, 20,337 of which are active, according to tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org.

All our stories on Slovenia and coronavirus

24 Nov 2020, 13:43 PM

STA, 24 November 2020 - Slovenia saw a record 59 fatalities among patients with Covid-19 on Monday, which takes the death toll from the disease to 1,156. Another 1,302 coronavirus cases were confirmed, while 1,299 patients are still being treated in hospitals, including 204 in intensive care.

Fresh data from the government show that 5,596 coronavirus tests were performed on Monday, which means 23.27% of the tests came back positive, down from almost 27% the day before and almost 30% on Saturday.

Hospitalisations rose by seven to 1,299, after more than 120 new admissions yesterday and 78 patients being discharged. The number of patients in intensive care rose by three to 204.

Slovenia has so far confirmed 67,080 coronavirus cases. The number of active infections has increased by 214 to 20,337. The rolling 14-day average per 100,000 residents is 970, according to tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org.

Presenting the latest statistics at a press briefing on Tuesday, government Covid-19 spokesman Jelko Kacin said the infections were spread throughout the country, with numerous hotspots.

Outbreaks at care homes continue to be the major problem with 174 new infections confirmed among the elderly residents on Monday, for a total of 2,618 active infections among that most vulnerable population.

The number of actively infected staff at care homes rose by 52 in the past day to 935, Kacin said. There are about 12,300 staff caring for about 19,000 elderly in some 100 care homes in the country.

In the five special social care homes, the number of infected residents remains the same as the day before at 165, as the number of infections among the staff there rose by three to 98.

The most new cases were confirmed in a care home in Kamnik, as many as 32 of the 37 infections in that municipality to the north of Ljubljana, and the Bokalce unit of the Vič care home in Ljubljana, which accounted for 19 of the 182 infections in the capital.

Of the 59 fatalities yesterday, 41 were patients in Covid-19 hospitals, three in nursing hospitals and 15 died in care homes.

The main reason for the outbreaks in care homes is deemed to be transmissions by asymptomatic staff and patients returning from hospitals to the homes, said Gabrijela Valenčič, the head of the Koper regional civil protection team for care homes.

All our stories on Slovenia and coronavirus

24 Nov 2020, 12:22 PM

The UK Government has written to 365,000 UK Nationals living in Europe with advice on the actions they need to take to prepare for the end of the UK transition period on 31 December. This includes 315 letters issued to UK Nationals in Slovenia.

UK Nationals resident before 31 December can continue living and working in Europe but may need to register or apply for residency.

UK State Pensioners will continue to receive their pensions as they do now.

The letters, sent to UK State Pensioners and benefit recipients, give advice on how to register for residency and healthcare, exchange driving licences and check new passport validity rules online. It is one of the largest-ever mail outs by the UK Government to UK nationals living in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

tiffany sadler british embassy uk embassy faccebook.jpg

Ambassador Sadler in Ljubljana

British Ambassador to Slovenia Tiffany Sadler said:

“In the crucial months ahead I look forward to continuing our Embassy’s efforts since 2017, to hear from Brits in Slovenia and help them get the information they need.  We will keep communicating – including through our outreach events, Facebook pages, the Living in Slovenia Guide, and our newsletter – to help and support all British nationals living in Slovenia through the new processes.”

 The UK Government has been running a public information campaign featuring online, radio and newspaper adverts across 30 countries informing UK Nationals of the actions they need to take. This is in addition to the hundreds of town hall meetings, street surgeries and online Q&As run by the UK’s Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates across Europe.

UK Nationals living in Slovenia can find the most up to date information on actions they may need to take in the ‘Living in Guide’ at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/living-in-slovenia. They can also follow the British Embassy on Facebook, to get updates on any events or changes: https://www.facebook.com/ukinslovenia

 NOTES

  1. Citizens’ rights: UK Nationals’ rights to continue living in EU member states are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement (and Separation Agreement with EFTA countries), provided they are permanently resident and exercising their treaty/free movement rights by 31 December 2020. This is not affected by the UK’s ongoing trade negotiation with the EU.

 Actions UK Nationals may need to take include:

  • ·         Applying or registering for residency
  • ·         Checking or registering for healthcare
  • ·         Exchanging UK driving licence
  • ·         Checking passport validity
  1. Contacting UK Nationals: There is no requirement for UK Nationals to register with their local British Embassy and the UK Government does not keep a database of UK Nationals living overseas, however a large number of UK Nationals are Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) customers which enables the UK Government to contact them with information that’s relevant to their circumstances. This mail out to DWP customers, which may include a small number of non-UK Nationals, is intended to supplement a public information campaign operating in all EU and EFTA countries (except Ireland, where these changes do not apply)
23 Nov 2020, 14:59 PM

STA, 23 November 2020 - Slovenia's death toll among patients with Covid-19 has increased to 1,097 after 45 more deaths were reported for Sunday, as confirmed infections fell to 470 on a test positivity rate of 27% according to government data.

The number of reported cases fell to a two-week low, but due to changes in testing scope and protocols the figures are not really comparable.

Government data show only 1,742 tests were carried out on Sunday, which compares to 1,792 a week ago when 501 infections were confirmed, and 2,063 tests on the Sunday two weeks ago when 464 cases were confirmed.

The number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 rose by 48 from the day before to 1,292 as the number of those requiring intensive treatment increased by three to 201. 29 patients were discharged.

Commenting for TV Slovenija morning show, infectologist Mateja Logar of the Ljubljana UKC's department of infectious diseases, said "we're still at a high level, there's been no substantial decline in the number of infections".

She said flattening the curve was much harder now than in spring because of the great number of infected persons in the population.

According to tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org, the country has currently 20,123 active infections, out of the total of 65,778 so far confirmed. The rolling 14-day average per 100,000 residents remains at 960.

Hospitals using rapid antigen tests among staff

STA, 23 November 2020 - Hospitals across Slovenia have started or stepped up using rapid antigen testing for Covid-19 to screen staff members as a way to prepare for a weekly systemic testing. The country's central medical centre, UKC Ljubljana, plans to carry out a round of tests at its gynaecology department first, checking for antibodies as well.

Mandatory systemic testing of healthcare staff came into force today, however the implementation of the new measure will be gradual to give hospitals and other health institutions enough time to purchase tests and come up with a testing protocol.

UKC Ljubljana is testing some 620 staff members at the gynaecology department today, with those working at the emergency department being next in line. The hospital plans to perform some 10,000 tests per week.

UKC Ljubljana director general Janez Poklukar told Radio Slovenija that the hospital will also check for antibodies in all the staff members. Those whose blood results will show that they have already had Covid-19 will not be tested in the next three months.

The rapid antigen testing will merely serve as an additional support since the hospital has otherwise opted for PCR molecular-based tests and is still waiting for the decision to be cleared by the Health Ministry.

Meanwhile, UKC Maribor medical centre launched additional rapid testing of staff today, but said it was not yet testing all its staff, which counted 3,589 at the end of September.

Periodic tests at key departments worst hit by absences due to infections have been performed once a week for a while with about 500 staff a week tested in exposed units such as Covid-19 and intensive care units.

Data presented on Friday show 275 staff at UKC Maribor were absent, including 46 doctors and 132 care staff, of whom 116 because of child care.

The Nova Gorica hospital has begun conducting tests in all the departments where there is a risk of exposure to the infected. The hospital will thus screen up to 600 staff out of a total of some 1,000, Dunja Savnik Winkler, the hospital's medical director told the STA.

The hospital has been using rapid tests since the start of November to check for the presence of the coronavirus in critical patients and health workers who have been in contact with the infected. The hospital already bought 500 rapid antigen tests and plans to boost the supplies.

The Novo Mesto hospital has been screening its staff members with Covid-19 symptoms using molecular-based tests, however, in line with a decree on the systemic testing of healthcare staff with rapid tests, the hospital will commence rapid antigen testing this week.

The additional testing protocol will be introduced gradually, first among staff working at the department of infectious diseases. Until 7 December, the deadline set down in the decree, the hospital will be able to screen all of its staff, the hospital told the STA.

From 7 December, healthcare providers will be required to test their staff every week, with the exception being those who have already recovered from Covid-19.

Franc Vindišar, medical director of the Celje hospital, told Radio Slovenija that the hospital plans to carry out some 1,000 rapid tests per week.

Such tests have been already providing support at the hospital's emergency department and in the case of critical patients. The hospital has also been testing staff members showing Covid-19 symptoms, those who have been in close contact with the infected and those working at a department where many infections had been confirmed.

The ministry will reimburse the cost of rapid as well as molecular tests to a certain extent - when it comes to PCR tests, the hospitals will be refunded EUR 6 per swab and EUR 55 per lab analysis, and in the case of antigen tests, they will get EUR 3 per swab and up to EUR 9 for tests.

The earmarked funds are meant to go for testing conducted between 24 October and the end of 2021. The ministry has cleared a total of 31 antigen tests of various suppliers.

The price tags of rapid tests in Slovenia raised some dust last week as RTV Slovenija reported that certain hospitals had been paying up to five times more than others at home and abroad.

UKC Ljubljana and UKC Maribor are among those hospitals that have been purchasing antigen tests at much higher prices than others, some EUR 24 per piece.

The Jesenice hospital paid even more, EUR 32, whereas the Slovenj Gradec hospital purchased tests at roughly EUR 5 apiece.

All our stories on Covid and Slovenia

23 Nov 2020, 13:38 PM

STA, 23 November 2020 - The Ljubljana police were tipped off this weekend about an illegal party in one of the bars in the capital. Despite lockdown and a ban on socialising, several people were partying without masks and even hid in the bar's warehouse when police came. The bar's owner and 13 people will be fined, including for violating the public order.

According to the Ljubljana police station, officers found 13 people in the bar's warehouse who had been partying and drinking in the four-square-metre bar despite a ban on the bar's operations and a ban on socialising.

The owner, who claimed the bar was not open, will be fined for violating the temporary ban on offering goods and services to consumers, and the health inspectorate will be notified of a violation of the communicable disease act.

All 13 people, aged between 24 and 69, including a 17-year-old, will also be fined. One of the persons also faces charges for crime against public order because of indecent behaviour towards police officers.

Police again called on everyone to adhere to the government measures to curb the spread of coronavirus and not to put their own health or the health of others at risk with irresponsible behaviour.

22 Nov 2020, 13:11 PM

STA, 22 November 2020 - Slovenia recorded 1,024 new coronavirus cases for Saturday as the test positivity rate reached nearly 30%. Another 26 patients with Covid-19 died, bringing the overall death toll to 1,052, data from the government show.

A total of 3,432 tests for the novel coronavirus were performed yesterday, which means the test positivity rate climbed to 29.84%, up form 25.68% the day before.

The number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 rose by 25 from the day before to 1,244 as the number of those requiring intensive treatment increased by one to 198. 39 patients were discharged home.

According to tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org, the country has currently 20,119 active infections, out of the total of 65,308 so far confirmed. The rolling 14-day average per 100,000 residents has risen to 960.

Covid-19 mortality higher in second wave

STA, 21 November 2020 - More than eight months after the first Covid-19 fatality was recorded in Slovenia on 14 March, the number of deaths exceeded 1,000 on Saturday. While a total of 108 people died of coronavirus in the first wave, the figures have been much higher the second time round, with more than 600 people dying in November alone.

The second wave started in late summer and escalated in October, with data showing that nearly 900 people died since the start of September.

The highest weekly toll was recorded between 9 and 15 November, when 253 people died, while the highest daily number of deaths was 45, recorded on 16 November. So far, 638 people died this month.

Data from the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) show that mortality per 100,000 residents in the last two weeks in Slovenia was at 12.9, putting Slovenia in place 7 among EU members. Higher mortality rates were recorded in the Czech Republic, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Lichtenstein.

But while the mortality rate for the entire population is higher in the second wave, the mortality rate for those who test positive seems to be lower.

Between 1 September and 20 November, 1.4% of those who tested positive died, while in the first wave 108 people died out of a total of fewer than 1,500 who tested positive, putting the mortality rate among those infected at 7.3%.

Mortality rates are also lower among patients requiring intensive treatment. The head of intensive therapy at the infections clinic of the Ljubljana UKC hospital, Matjaž Jereb, said a week ago that the mortality rate of ICU patients was currently at about 15%, compared to 30% in the first wave.

He said it was impossible to predict the outcome for any of the patients requiring intensive care, and also warned against comparisons of Covid-19 with the flu.

Mortality estimates for Covid-19 and the flu vary, he said, but it is indisputable that mortality in Covid-19 patients is at least ten times as high as in flu. The number of patients requiring intensive care is also ten times higher than in flu.

Jereb told the STA that Covid-19 patients died due to organ failure that developed in addition to severely affected lungs. Most die following pulmonary embolism complications, with lung failure due to pneumonia the second most common cause.

In younger patients the cause of death is usually complications from underlying chronic diseases, especially heart disease.

Most of the fatalities in Slovenia were people over the age of 85, as mortality increases with age. The youngest fatality in Slovenia was a patient aged between 35 and 44, who died in October.

In the first wave, 80% of those who died (87 people) were nursing home residents. Preliminary data from the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) show that 471 nursing home residents have died so far in the second wave, with total deaths in this wave nearing 900.

The Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS), a top research facility, has projected that at least another 400 people will die in the second wave.

In case that restrictions fail to show effect and reproduction number remained at around one, Slovenia can expect to see the death tally to reach 2,500 by the end of the year, says IJS. If, however, reproduction number drops to 0.5, 2,000 people are projected to die by the end of January.

All out stories on Covid and Slovenia

21 Nov 2020, 14:00 PM

STA, 21 November 2020 - Slovenia' death toll from the Covid-19 epidemic exceeded 1,000 after 31 deaths were reported for Friday. A total of 1,690 cases were confirmed in 6,580 tests, the government announced on Twitter.

As the number of new cases remains below the 2,000-plus, the situation in hospitals appears to be stabilising.

There were 1,219 people in hospital after 129 were discharged, down from 1,254 the day before, of which 197 in intensive care, four fewer.

Positivity rate dropped continues to drop yesterday, reaching 25.68%. Government speaker Jelko Kacin tweeted that "daily fluctuations can be seen, but this week the trend was notably negative nevertheless."

A total of 64,270 people tested positive in Slovenia so far and 1,026 died. There are currently 19,972 active cases of infection in the country and the 14-day incidence per 100,000 is at 953, according to tracker covid-19.sledilnik.

Data from the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities show that 12 nursing home residents were among the fatalities recorded on Friday. This brings the total number of deaths among nursing home residents in the second wave to 471.

The number of new infections among nursing home residents reached 120, bringing the number of total infections to 2,650 out of a total of some 19,000 residents. Among staff, the number of infections climbed by 44 to 927 active infections out of a total of 12,300.

Border crossing restrictions relaxed, Canada red-listed

STA, 21 November - The government decided on Saturday to relax somewhat border crossing restrictions for people living near the border and expanded the red-list of high-risk countries with Canada.

As of Monday, Slovenians will be able to cross into a neighbouring country without having to quarantine upon return to go to a store or to use another service if it is closer to their home than the nearest in Slovenia.

Such trips abroad to red-listed countries will be limited to two hours, the Interior Ministry said after the government's correspondence session. It will apply to citizens and residents of Slovenia.

At the same time, Slovenia will allow the same exception to citizens and residents of neighbouring countries seeking services in Slovenia.

The government also expanded the list of red countries with Canada, meaning that persons arriving in Slovenia from Canada will have to quarantine unless they present a negative coronavirus test.

The red list was also expanded with three Estonian administrative units (Harju, Hiiu and Rapla), French Polynesia, Greek administrative units North Aegean Islands and Peloponnesus, Latvian administrative unit Zemgala and Norwegian administrative units Vestland and Viken. Moreover, Switzerland in its entirety will also be red as of Monday.

The Finnish administrative unit Österbotten was meanwhile removed from the red list, making the entire Finland orange. There are no restrictions in place for orange countries.

20 Nov 2020, 15:22 PM

STA, 20 November 2020 - Slovenia's daily coronavirus case count dropped to 1,546 on Thursday from over 2,000 recorded on the previous two days, as the test positivity rate dropped slightly, fresh data from the government show. With another 31 fatalities, the Covid-19 death toll rose to 995.

A total of 5,673 tests for Sars-CoV-2 were performed yesterday, which means 27.25% of the tests came back positive, three percentage points down from the day before.

The number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 rose by 16 to 1,254 but the number of those requiring intensive care dropped by four to 201, as 68 patients were discharged home yesterday.

Offering some more detailed statistics at the daily press briefing in the morning, government spokesman Jelko Kacin expressed concern about an increase in infections in care homes.

The number of infected residents increased by 250 to what are currently 2,510 actively infected residents out of a total of 4,424 infections among the residents in aged care facilities in the second wave.

The number of infected care home staff rose by 81 in the past day to 905 actively infected, out of a total of 1,656 confirmed infections among care home staff in the second wave.

Data from tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org show Slovenia has so far confirmed 62,580 coronavirus infections with the number of active infections dropping by 0.1% in the past day to 19,894. The rolling 14-day average per 100,000 residents dropped to 949.

Robert Carotta, the coordinator for Covid-19 hospital beds at the Health Ministry who also addressed the briefing, assessed that the coronavirus situation was stabilising although it remained tense.

"Luckily, the number of hospitalisations isn't increasing any more. It appears we've have reached a peak," he said, but warned that the health system was stretched to the limit.

He said though that there was a decreasing number of patient transfers between hospitals, which "indicates the hospitals are able to attend to patients in their area".

He also said that the number of infections among health staff was on the decrease; at Jesenice general hospital where he comes from, 37 staff are absent due to Covid-19, which was down from the peak of 72 or more than 20% of the staff at the hospital.

Slovenia's chief epidemiologist with mixed views about current measures

STA, 20 November 2020 - Mario Fafangel, Slovenia's chief epidemiologist, has mixed feelings about the current measures to curtail the spread of coronavirus. In an interview with Mladina, he singled out mandatory masks outdoor and ban on movement between municipalities as having questionable utility, but warned that overall, the measures must be relaxed gradually.

The chair of the Centre for Communicable Diseases at the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), Fafangel said it was "very difficult to take a position on which measures may be excessive" since there is no room for error at this point.

"When this period is over and the number of new infections is brought back to a manageable level, I would certainly do certain things very differently than so far," he said.

In spring Fafangel was one of the signatories of a letter by NIJZ epidemiologists who protested against their profession being sidelined.

"I don't have a problem saying that under my leadership, epidemiologists will not become a repressive body and will not issue binding quarantine decisions."

Asked which measures were currently least likely to contribute to curtailing the epidemic, he singled out mandatory masks outdoors saying there were no studies at this point showing that countries which instituted mandatory masks outdoor were more successful in fighting the epidemic.

He acknowledged, however, that such a blanket rule rendered it unnecessary to more precisely regulate mask use, and it made supervision of compliance easier.

One recent example that gained a lot of traction in media and on social networks was the fining of a food delivery worker who had lunch in the centre of Ljubljana and was fined for not wearing a mask.

"I think this is unproductive. Such a repressive approach may be effective in a situation that lasts a month or two at most, but what it mostly does is it triggers resistance to compliance."

In a similar vein, Fafangel thinks the ban on movement between municipalities does not make much sense.

"The epidemiological situation does not warrant restrictions on movement around the country since infections are spread fairly evenly and we don't have less affected areas that we would have to protect."

He noted, however, that the goal of this measure was "to reduce the movement and mingling of people in all possible ways".

Another questionable rule is the ban on some non-food products in grocery stores, a measure he said that only made people angry, even if it is designed to reduce contact between people and hence the probability of transmission.

Overall, he said the measures needed to be relaxed "very cautiously" while those that will remain in force longer must be more targeted.

A resident of Trieste, he said that having experienced the total lockdown in Italy, "in the end you only wait how to make up for everything you have missed and create extra reserves for the new lockdown".

He said the situation was particularly difficult for young adults, who feel very much deprived. "It is necessary to emphasise all the time that this is for the good of the community, for protecting the vulnerable, but at the same time we should not expect perfection from youths and be indignant at their irresponsibility every time they transgress."

All our stories on covid & Slovenia

19 Nov 2020, 20:09 PM

STA, 19 November 2020 - The government has extended by seven days the closure of shops selling non-essential goods and the ban on cultural events, its Covid-19 spokesman Jelko Kacin said on Thursday. It will decide whether to extend other measures, such as the night curfew or the movement between municipalities, at a correspondence session on Friday.

The seven-day extension also applies to driving school lessons.

The exceptions to the shop ban are groceries, shops selling personal care and cleaning products or farm produce, pharmacies, petrol stations, banks and insurers, post offices, car repair shops as well as delivery services.

Clothing, shoe and tech stores are not listed among the exceptions and even grocery stores are not allowed to sell technical goods, clothes or shoes.

The government also decided that multi-apartment buildings have to provide hand sanitiser at the entrance for another 14 days.

It suspended the deadlines in court procedures, Kacin explained. The decision is based on the law on courts, which says the deadlines are suspended if courts cannot work due to an emergency. The suspension can last up to three months.

On 16 November, all courts in Slovenia switched to lockdown mode until further notice to help fight the coronavirus.

This means court hearings are held only in some half a dozen urgent matters, whereas all the others have been cancelled, except if held via video call.

19 Nov 2020, 15:39 PM

STA, 19 November 2020 - Slovenia has logged more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases for the second day running as a further 45 patients with Covid-19 have died, bringing the death toll to 964.

According to government spokesman Jelko Kacin, 2,064 of the 6,806 Sars-CoV-2 tests performed on Wednesday came back positive, which means as many as 30.33%, up almost four percentage points from the day before.

"We're all deeply worried, in particular doctors and other health personnel, what the situation will be in a few days," Kacin said at the morning press briefing on Thursday, urging on everyone to stay at home as much as possible.

He said though that the situation in hospitals improved slightly; 1,238 patients with Covid-19 were being treated in hospitals yesterday, 42 fewer than the day before, 205 of them in intensive care, four fewer than the day before, as 78 were discharged home.

The country's overall coronavirus case count has now passed 61,000 as the number of active cases has inched up again to 19,911, according to tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org.

The rolling 14-day average per 100,000 residents has risen again to 950.

The region with the highest infection rate remains Pomurje in the north-easternmost part of the country, at 1,628 infections per 100,000 residents as of 17 November, while infections are also rising in Korška in the north and Podravje in the north-east.

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