Lifestyle

11 Jun 2021, 14:53 PM

STA, 11 June 2021 - The government Covid-19 advisory group has proposed that the formal declaration of the coronavirus epidemic not be extended after it expires next week. Health Minister Janez Poklukar said next Tuesday will likely be the last day of the epidemic, however this will not mean a complete relaxation of measures.

Under the act on communicable diseases, there is a legal basis for certain Covid restrictions to remain in place after the formal end of the epidemic, Poklukar noted at Friday's Covid briefing.

Today, Slovenia entered the EU's orange tier of restrictions as its 14-day incidence per 100,000 residents has fallen below 150, standing at 146.

The group's head Mateja Logar said that the proposal for the government not to extend the epidemic had been made because two out of three thresholds had been met and the remaining one, the 14-day incidence below 140, would likely be reached in the coming days.

The virus is still circulating and current preventive measures do not affect day-to-day life much, she said, noting that proof of either vaccination or recovery or a negative test result would remain obligatory for events and hospitality services after next week.

The same goes for caps on visitors or customers, mask-wearing in indoor public spaces and physical distancing. On the other hand, the end of the epidemic will mean the end of a cap on patrons sitting at the same table in bars and restaurants.

Logar expects that the epidemic curve will continue to decline and that Slovenia will be upgraded to the green tier of restrictions according to the EU's criteria in late July or early August.

09 Jun 2021, 16:26 PM

STA, 9 June 2021 - Non-EU students who want to study in Slovenia must prove they have EUR 5,000 per academic year available to obtain a temporary residence permit under the recent changes to the foreigners' act. This has upset students and universities, while the government says only the manner in which students prove they have sufficient means has changed.

Before the latest changes kicked in on 27 May, foreign students had to produce a written statement by their parents or legal guardians that they will support them during their studies in Slovenia.

Now a non-EU student has to prove in advance they have EUR 5,000 or EUR 402 per month (minimum monthly income) before applying for a temporary residency permit.

Foreign students, student representatives and universities see the new requirement as stricter than it used to be, arguing it could hurt Slovenia's higher education space.

They are also not sure whether the new rule also apply to non-EU students who are already studying in Slovenia, so they have asked the interior and education ministries for explanation.

The Interior Ministry said today the changes to the foreigners act, passed in March, only change the manner in which students must prove that they have enough funds.

The changes transpose the EU directive which says a foreign citizen must prove in a procedure to have enough funds to live on in order not to eat into the host country's social security system, the ministry said.

A foreign student will still be able to prove to have enough means with the income of their parents, but the body processing their request will not check if the parents have the means to support the whole family, only if they have the minimum monthly income of EUR 402 to support the student.

The Slovenian Student Organisation (ŠOS) announced on 28 May efforts to change the new rules, arguing they were not in line with the country's strategy on the internationalisation of higher education.

ŠOS promotes the right to studies for Slovenians and foreigners "to attract the best students who will improve Slovenian higher education and hopefully the labour market".

ŠOS president Andrej Pirjevec said that foreign students were no less able to take care of their social security than their Slovenian peers.

The chancellors of public universities meanwhile suggested on Monday that different interpretation should apply to those who have already enrolled.

The Education Ministry has told the STA that Italy and Austria have similar financial arrangements for non-EU students.

It also said it was in "intensive talks" with the Interior Ministry to make sure a scholarship counts towards the means a student has to support themselves.

There are 71,960 students studying at Slovenia's higher education establishments in the 2020/21 academic year. Over 7,680 of them are from abroad, of whom 5,527 from non-EU countries.

08 Jun 2021, 11:18 AM

STA, 8 June 2021 - The results of a survey by Legebitra, an advocacy group for LGBTI rights, have shown that schools are not safe spaces for members of the LGBT community. One in four LGBT students reported of having often heard homophobic remarks at school, and in more than half of the cases, school staff did not intervene.

In a study entitled LGBT Youth - Breaking the Silence in Schools, which was conducted in 2019, Slovenian LGBT students presented their experiences of discrimination at schools. The results showed that 11% of LGBT students did not intend to complete their secondary education.

According to the study, students who have often been targets of attacks and remarks because of their sexual orientation are less likely to continue their education. One in four surveyed LGBT students reported often hearing homophobic remarks at school.

Only 13% of respondents said that school staff always or almost always intervened when homophobic remarks were made, 54% of them reported that school staff never intervened, and 33% of students observed school staff intervening occasionally.

Meanwhile, 41% of LGBT students felt that school staff responses to reports of harassment or assault were ineffective. Only around 11% of students felt that school staff responded to reports of harassment or assault very effectively, while 48% of students felt that their intervention was somewhat effective.

Legebitra also warned in a press release that homophobic, biphobic, transphobic and sexist language and other prejudice-based remarks create an unsafe school environment that can lead to LGBT people not fulfilling their potential.

The study involved 602 people aged 16-21. The average age of the participants, who came from all regions of Slovenia, was 17.4 years.

08 Jun 2021, 11:06 AM

STA, 8 June 2021 - Alpelisib, the first and only targeted therapy for a specific type of advanced breast cancer is now accessible to patients in Slovenia, making it one of the few countries where this drug is available. The Institute of Oncology already started treating patients in the compassionate use programme before the drug was registered.

The European Commission approved the drug called Alpelisib in July 2020, following a positive opinion given by the European Medicines Agency in May 2020. The active ingredient for this medicine is manufactured at Novartis Technical Operations in Mengeš, Slovenia.

According to Novartis, Alpelisib is the first and only drug specifically approved for people with advanced breast cancer whose tumours contain the PIK3CA mutation, which promotes tumour growth and is associated with poor response to treatment.

At the Institute of Oncology in Ljubljana, 25 patients are being treated within the compassionate use programme, where the manufacturer makes medicines available free of charge, Radio Slovenia reported.

Alpelisib is an expensive drug, as monthly treatments cost between EUR 3,000 and EUR 4,000, with an average treatment time of one year.

According to Novartis, knowing the PIK3CA mutation status allows doctors to tailor a personalised treatment plan for patients. Those with advanced breast cancer may be selected for treatment with Alpelisib based on the presence of a PIK3CA mutation in tumour samples.

Each year, around 350 people in Slovenia and 334,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. About 40% of those with HR+/HER2- subtype have a PIK3CA mutation, which is associated with a poor prognosis.

07 Jun 2021, 17:37 PM

STA, 7 June 2021 - The government's Covid-19 advisory group does not intend to propose any substantial changes regarding Covid restrictions this week. Mateja Logar, the head of the group, said on Monday that a complete relaxation of measures could be put forward when Slovenia is in tier green according to the EU's traffic light system.

To reach this point, the country's 14-day incidence per 100,000 residents must fall below 25 and the rate of positive coronavirus tests below 4%.

The latest data by Slovenia's National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) show that the first figure stood at 173 on Sunday, whereas the positivity rate was 4.3%.

Logar pointed out at today's Covid briefing that Slovenia was thus currently still in the red tier under the traffic light system by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The country has however already reached tier green if taking into account its own traffic light system.

According to a forecast by the Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS), Slovenia could enter the EU's orange tier of restrictions in mid-June and the green tier in the first half of August.

The reproduction number, meaning the number of secondary cases per infectious case, is currently 0.88. IJS experts said today that the figure should fall below 0.7 to avoid the risk of a spread of more virulent strains of the coronavirus.

Currently, the share of active infections is 0.4% of the population or approximately one in 250 Slovenian residents.

Asked about the reasons for the Slovenian roadmap for easing the restrictions being milder than the EU's, Logar said that was mainly because of country-specific sociological characteristics.

She highlighted the fact that that Austria had the 14-day incidence three times lower than Slovenia, nevertheless the restrictions in Slovenia and Austria were comparable.

The epidemic in Slovenia is partly subsiding, however the situation is not yet what we would like it to be, she said.

"We know from the experience of the past year that being too quick to relax the restrictions leads to another increase in infections. Although we're doing better, we still need to be cautious and heed current measures," she said.

Asked about the possibility to make the option of self-testing available to all and not just students, Logar said that the current legislation would need to be amended to allow for that. Under the current law, microbiological testing could only be performed by qualified lab workers.

She also said that in the event of self-testing being available to all, there should be safeguards in place to prevent any abuse. The option will be discussed if there are no major improvements regarding the epidemiological status.

Touching upon the vaccination for youths aged 12-15, Logar said that experts had no reservations about it. According to her, if there are any hesitations about this, they are related to the logistics of such an upgrade of the vaccination strategy.

She also said that Covid-19 vaccination of children had been carried out before in the case of those with underlying conditions.

The vaccination pace in Slovenia is gradually picking up. So far, more than 34% of the population has received at least one shot and 22.8% are fully inoculated, show NIJZ data.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) said today that companies had capitalised on the option of workplace vaccination programmes. The GZS would like to see herd immunity in Slovenia being reached as soon as possible.

The latest covid data for Slovenia

07 Jun 2021, 10:18 AM

STA, 7 June 2021 - Several restrictions introduced to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have been loosed as of today, including in the events industry, accommodation, shopping and construction works.

The events industry is still limited to staff and visitors who have been vaccinated against, recovered from Covid-10 or tested, but the venues can now be filled up to 75% of fixed seats, up from 50% so far.

In open-air venues with no fixed seats, chairs must be at least one metre one from another, while the 1.5-metre distance still applies to those who stand, except for members of the same household.

Accommodation facilities with up to 60 units can offer up to 45 units, while those larger than 60 units, including camp sites, can be filled up to 75% of their capacity.

Swimming pools are now open to all guests who have been vaccinated, tested or recovered, with staff also having to meet these criteria, but still with a 75% capacity cap.

The ban on serving and consuming food and drinks at take-away points has also been lifted, while shops must now allow only 10 square metres per customer, down from 20.

03 Jun 2021, 15:09 PM

STA, 3 June 2021 - The government changed on Thursday the decrees limiting attendance at public sport and cultural events to increase the permitted number of viewers from 50% to 75% of the number of fixed seats at a venue.

The relaxed attendance cap applies both to indoor and outdoor venues, the Government Communication Office said.

Rapid Antigen Test Now Enables Entry to Slovenia, Some Restrictions to Service Sector Relaxed

All other conditions and limitations related to public cultural events remain unchanged.

Events cannot be organised without seats, and attendance is permitted only to persons who have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-10 and to persons who produce a negative test.

The ban on serving and consumption of food and drinks at events remains in force.

01 Jun 2021, 12:44 PM

STA, 31 May 2021 - The head of the national advisory group for Covid-19 vaccination, Bojana Beović, has said that following the European Medicines Agency's (EMA) approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for children aged 12 or more, the group will recommend vaccinating children, especially children suffering from chronic diseases. 

The vaccination advisory group will meet this week to adopt recommendations for vaccination of children, Beović said at Monday's coronavirus news conference.

The infectologist said that she could see no reason not to use Pfizer/BioNTech's vaccine for children after it was approved by the EMA.

The vaccine had earlier been already approved for children aged at least 16.

Beović believes it makes sense to immunise them as Covid can also prove to be rather serious in children, while following the disease, they can suffer from Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C).

Another reason to vaccinate them is to provide for collective immunity to contain the epidemic, she added.

Children could already get registered for vaccination on the eZvem portal as part of the general population, she said.

Looking at the summer months ahead, Beović said normal life without coronavirus restrictions could be possible once herd immunity had been achieved.

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Current age breakdown of those with one or two vaccinations: www.cepimose.si

For the Wuhan strain of the coronavirus, this means 66% of the population, while more virulent strains require higher rates.

If immunity rates are lower, restrictions will have to remain in place, she said.

Beović warned the epidemic was still quite widely spread in Slovenia, noting that the country had many more infections per number of residents than Austria or Italy.

From this aspect, she expects the restrictions to have to be in place for quite some time.

31 May 2021, 18:12 PM

STA, 31 May 2021 - The Celje vaccination centre has invited all adults to get a Covid-19 jab without prior appointment in a move that has already been hailed in the efforts to push up Slovenia's vaccination rates.

The vaccination centre, operated by the Celje Community Health Centre, has offered slots on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for those wishing to get a Covid-19 vaccine without prior appointment.

On Tuesday, they will be able to get the single-dose Johnson & Johnson jab, on Wednesday the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and on Thursday the Moderna vaccine.

This was after last Tuesday, no prior appointment was needed to get the AstraZeneca jab at the Celje vaccination centre, located in Golovec sports arena.

Roman Jerala, a synthetic biology expert at the National Institute of Chemistry who has been involved in the efforts to develop a Slovenian Covid-19 vaccine, hailed the decision to offer the AstraZeneca vaccine without prior appointment as a welcome move in an interview aired by TV Slovenija on the main evening news on Sunday, in particular in light of concerns about the vaccine's safety.

Data from the National Institute of Public Health show that 661,138 people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 402,685 have been fully vaccinated, which represents 31.5% and 19.2% of Slovenia's population, respectively.

28 May 2021, 13:38 PM

STA, 28 May 2021 - More than one million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Slovenia as 653,310 people have received a first shot and 381,619 have been fully inoculated, which includes over 19,000 who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson jab, data from the National Institute of Public Health show.

The figures, available on the cepimo.se portal, mean that just over 31% of Slovenia's entire population has received at least one dose, and just over 18% has been fully vaccinated.

A total of 1,119,480 vaccine doses have been delivered to the country, and 1,015,611 doses have been administered. Over 680,000 of those were shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.

Osilnica in the south of the country is the municipality with the highest vaccination rate as more than half of the residents there (51%) have received the first dose and 28% have been fully inoculated.

Meanwhile, only 18% of the population of Juršinci in the north-east got the first shot, while the lowest rate for full vaccination is at Sveti Jurij ob Ščavnici and Kuzma, at 9.4% and 9.5% respectively, also in the north-east.

In terms of the first dose vaccinations, the most successful of Slovenia's 12 statistical regions is Zasavje in central Slovenia (34.5%), and Koroška in the north has the largest share of fully vaccinated population (20.3%).

The vaccination rate is the highest in people aged between 70 and 89. More women than men have been inoculated.

Data from the tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org show most doses in a single day were administered on 20 May when nearly 30,500 people were vaccinated.

Lots of figures on vaccination in Slovenia, in Slovene but also visualised

27 May 2021, 12:46 PM

STA, 26 May 2021 - Slovenia formally remains in tier yellow of coronavirus restrictions, despite meeting the conditions for the green tier, where most restrictions would be lifted. The current regime will remain in place until 6 June, save for some changes to rules governing the convention industry, the government decided on Wednesday.

Jump to changes at the border…

The Health Ministry's advisory group on Covid-19 led by Mateja Logar, proposed the government not to ease any more measures yet despite the fact that the rolling seven-day average of new cases dropped below 300 on Tuesday, which is a condition for moving to the green tier.

"Given that we are still in the state of epidemic it would be a bit illogical to lift all restrictions," Logar told the STA before the government session.

She said the ministries had been tasked with presenting proposals for easing restrictions while the country is still in the epidemic and afterwards. They are to be discussed by the Covid-19 group on Monday.

National coordinator of the Covid-19 vaccination logistics Jelko Kacin told the press earlier today that there had been some last weekend where many people had gathered and that experts were monitoring the consequences of these events in the regions where they had taken place.

When the incubation period expires for the attendants next week, it will be possible to assess whether new local outbreaks of infections can be expected and how massive they could be, he said.

Kacin did not specify which events may be problematic, but there was significant merry-making in Murska Sobota after the local football club won the first title of national champion.

He said they were still very concerned about what lifting of restrictions in sports could cause.

The plan at the moment seems to be gradual lifting of restrictions. "We will not miss out on anything if we keep the current regime for another weekend," he said.

The government also slightly amended the rules for convention industry, which was allowed to resume on 21 May under the condition that employees are either tested, vaccinated or reconvalescent, and visitors move only in one direction.

While initially the number of persons was limited to one person per 10 square metres, now the number of persons in closed public spaces or open air venues with fixed seats will be restricted to 50% of seating capacity with one seat empty between visitors.

In open-air venues with no fixed seats, the seats will have to be placed one metre apart. In open-air venues with no seats, visitors will have to keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres.

Slight easing of border restrictions, new red list of countries confirmed

STA, 26 May 2021 - The government has amended the decree governing coronavirus restrictions on borders. Effective on 30 May, accompanied children under 15 will not need to have a Covid certificate and the red list of countries will be split to lower- and higher-risk countries, designated as light and dark red.

Children under 15 who cross the border in groups accompanied by teachers or custodians, or who travel with family members who are not required to quarantine, will not have to produce a negative test to avoid quarantine.

Covid certificates from Serbia will be recognised, after the move had been announced by both countries' foreign ministers yesterday.

Since early May, Slovenia also recognises negative PCR tests done in Serbia as well as in all EU and Schengen zone members, Australia, Israel, Canada, New Zealand, Russia, the UK, and the US. At airports tests from Turkey are recognised as well.

Covid certificates proving that the passenger has had Covid-19 in the past six months are also recognised from all these countries.

The red list of high-risk countries has been split into light red and dark red.

Countries are placed on the dark red list when the 14-day incidence per 100,000 population exceeds 500, there is increased risk of more virulent Covid-19 variants, or when the number of weekly tests they perform is below 300 per 100,000 population.

Among EU and Schengen zone countries, the dark red lists contains only individual administrative units of France, Croatia, Lithuania, Netherlands and Sweden, plus 38 third countries.

For the light red list, the thresholds are a 14-day incidence of 50-100 and the test positivity rate of 4% or higher, or when the 14-day incidence is 150-500 cases.

The remaining EU and Schengen zone members plus 86 third countries are on the light red list.

It was not immediately clear from the press release after the government session whether the entry requirements for light red and dark red countries will be different.

The news portal 24ur reports they will be the same, adding that the new dark red list was introduced for the sake of having a single standard at the EU level.

More details on the red list and crossing the border in general, from the official government site (in English)

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