Lifestyle

19 Jan 2022, 13:07 PM

STA, 19 January 2022 - New quarantine rules kicked in today for schools and staff at health care and social care institutions, and some changes apply to the protocol of PCR testing as daily numbers of coronavirus infections continue to break records.

The healthcare, social care and education staff are from now on exempt from quarantine if they had a high-risk contact, although they will have to get tested every day for seven consecutive days with a rapid antigen test and use a FFP2 face mask at work.

Similarly, kindergarten kids, primary and secondary school children and university students will have to get tested with rapid tests for seven days if they were in contact with an infected person at school.

Under the new rules, an entire class will be sent into quarantine only if the share of infected children in it reaches 30% in a two-week period.

The rules for the PCR protocol also changed today as labs are being overwhelmed with huge numbers of tests.

From now on, persons who have no Covid-19 symptoms do a rapid test or self-test, and if it is positive, they also undergo a PCR test.

Persons with a respiratory infection are meanwhile divided into two groups.

The first group - persons suffering from chronic diseases, those with a compromised immune system, pregnant women and children - must call their GP to refer them a PCR test.

The second group are all the other persons with symptoms of a respiratory infection. They will have to do a rapid test or self-test. If it is positive, they will also have to take a PCR test.

If the rapid test result is negative, the person with respiratory infection symptoms must nevertheless self-isolate up to three days.

If the symptoms persist beyond three days, they must call their GP to get an appointment for a PCR test. If the test is positive, they have to isolate for ten days. If the symptoms disappear in three days, the person is not considered to be infected.

19 Jan 2022, 13:04 PM

STA, 18 January 2022 - Out of 126 persons who were vaccinated for Covid-19 in the Šentjur Community Health Centre last Friday, 36 were mistakenly given a shot of saline solution that had been put in empty vials.

All 36 persons were contacted, with 34 responding immediately, and the remaining two persons, who had not been reachable at first, being informed about the mistake later.

All of them have subsequently received shots of the Pfizer vaccine, except one person, who will be vaccinated next week.

The Šentjur Community Health Centre said on its website on Tuesday that 30 of these persons had received proper shots on the same day, four persons on Saturday and one on Monday.

The centre said that the correctness of the procedure was checked periodically during vaccination by comparing the number of used vials with the number of vaccinated persons.

It was established during a regular check that 36 people were vaccinated only with saline from a total of six vials, and a correction was immediately made in the central register of patients for those who did not respond to the call on Friday.

The error was also reported to the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), the centre said, adding that apologies were sent to all affected persons with an explanation of what had happened.

"We are very grateful to all persons involved for accepting this with understanding and immediately responding to repeated vaccination," said the community health centre from the town east of Celje.

18 Jan 2022, 11:51 AM

STA, 18 January 2022 - The Ministry of Education, Science and Sport has introduced a separate quota for the enrolment of Slovenians without Slovenian citizenship in universities in Slovenia. The separate quota has been advocated by Minister for Slovenians Abroad Helena Jaklitsch, who has welcomed the change.

The relevant rules have so far stipulated a joint quota for Slovenians without Slovenian citizenship and for foreigners from non-EU countries.

According to the proponents of the separate quota, this has often made it difficult for Slovenians from the neighbouring countries and Slovenian emigrants who fall into this category to get enrolled in Slovenian universities.

Last July, the government instructed the ministry to draft changes to the rules under which a separate enrolment quota would be introduced for Slovenians without Slovenian citizenship, on an initiative from Minister Jaklitsch.

This change and the accompanying changes to the rules were published in the Official Gazette last week.

Jaklitsch said on Tuesday that the changes would enable faculties in Slovenia to "increase the number of enrolment spots intended for our compatriots by taking into account both the actual needs and, above all, Slovenia's interests."

The Government Office for Slovenians Abroad added that some faculties had already announced that they would do so.

"We are firmly convinced that it is in the undisputed interest of Slovenia that as many Slovenians from the neighbouring countries and abroad study in Slovenia," the office said, adding that this would strengthen their Slovenian identity.

As they are also expected to improve their knowledge of the Slovenian language and culture, they become informal ambassadors as they return to their home environments, while some of them decide to permanently settle in Slovenia, it added.

The office noted that the change had also been endorsed by the chancellors of the four universities in Slovenia at a recent meeting with the ministry.

13 Jan 2022, 10:40 AM

STA, 12 January 2022 - An unexploded Second World War bomb has been found at a construction site in Maribor. The site has been cordoned off as a precaution and a bomb disposal team will neutralise and remove the device, which weighs 250 kilos, on Sunday.

The explosive ordnance disposal team has been dispatched to the site after police received a report about the unexploded bomb on Tuesday afternoon and cordoned off the area. The team decided it will defuse and remove the bomb on Sunday, early in the afternoon.

All residents will be evacuated from a 300-metre zone around the site, said Maribor Deputy Mayor Samo Peter Medved, urging people to adhere strictly to the rules and instructions.

In addition to evacuating locals in the 300-metre zone, movement will be restricted in a 600-metre zone around the site. People will be allowed to stay in their homes in this area, but they will be forbidden to move outside, either on foot or otherwise.

The Maribor Police Department has asked the media to stay away from the scene for their own safety and not to interfere with the work of the experts on the site.

"We will inform you when the bomb has been removed and, if necessary, we will keep the public informed of any measures taken in connection with the removal of the bomb," it said.

Maribor, Slovenia's second largest city, was one of the most bombed cities in the lands of the former Yugoslavia during the Second World War.

The most high-profile find in recent years was the discovery of two unexploded bombs near the city's largest shopping centre and the UKC Maribor medical centre in October 2019, when their removal also prompted the evacuation of people from the surrounding area.

This time around, the device has been found in the Tezno borough in the south-eastern part of Maribor, and the removal plan is the same as what unfolded in 2019.

Darko Zonič, the head of the disposal team who was also in charge of the bomb removal in November 2019, said that in the worst-case scenario the device, a typical aerial bomb with two fuses, will have to be detonated.

The Maribor municipality meanwhile noted that last autumn the city council adopted a new decree on protection against natural and other disasters, including protection against unexploded ordnance.

The regulation envisages three levels of hazard, and in areas with a higher or medium level of hazard, prior to the start of construction work, a preliminary site investigation is required due to the possibility of finding bomb residues.

"Unfortunately, this did not happen in this case, but fortunately there were no consequences," said the deputy mayor, confirming that the Tezno area is one of those where the probability of finding unexploded ordnance is quite high.

In the Maribor area, 29 bomb attacks were carried out and a total of 15,795 bombs were dropped between January 1944 and April 1945.

The possibility of finding unexploded ordnance in the areas of Allied bombing is thus relatively high, and so is the possibility of an accident due to the uncontrolled activation of the bombs, the municipality warns.

12 Jan 2022, 15:49 PM

STA, 12 January 2022 - One out of ten primary school children and 16% of all secondary students are self-isolating with a total of 1,431 classes being taught remotely due to coronavirus infections as of Tuesday, Education Ministry data available on the tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org shows.

As many as 936 classes at primaries and 495 classes at secondary schools were quarantining on Tuesday, the total number being three times that of the figure before Christmas holidays.

A total of 19,651 primary pupils and 12,808 secondary students were isolating on Tuesday.

Only at primaries 1,068 infections were confirmed in pupils and an additional 406 in staff. At secondary schools, where the vaccination rate is higher, 379 infections were confirmed among students and 84 among staff.

At kindergartens, 171 classes numbering a total of 2,446 kids were isolating. On Tuesday, 74 infections were confirmed in kindergarten children and 235 in kindergarten staff.

Before Christmas holidays, as of 23 December, 372 primary and 52 secondary school classes were quarantined.

Gregor Pečan, the head of the Headteachers of Primary and Music Schools, said the situation was getting critical, suggesting for winter holidays to be moved forward to coincide with the peak of the 5th wave.

Pečan's school saw three teachers sent into quarantine only on Tuesday. "If that happens in two more classes, we can shut down years 5 to 9 because there will be no staff to give lessons," he told the STA.

He says the main problem is the new rule under which the teacher is ordered to self-isolate if they were in the same classroom with an infected pupil for 15 minutes, up from the previous rule of 45 minutes.

Since epidemiologists expect the 5th wave of infections to culminate in two weeks, Pečan suggested considering moving winter school holidays from the end of February to the end of January.

Radio Slovenija has reported the Ljubljana Secondary School for Pharmacy shifted fully to remote classes on Monday and the Ljubljana Secondary School of Economics is moving online on Thursday.

Nives Počkar, the head of the Association of Secondary School Teachers, also told the radio further schools would have to be closed due to infections and quarantine orders.

Slovenia reported a record 7,420 coronavirus infections for Tuesday.

10 Jan 2022, 14:38 PM

STA, 10 January 2022 - A total of 32 murders or attempted murders were recorded in Slovenia last year, one of the lowest numbers in recent years. Statistics and surveys show that Slovenia remains one of the safest countries in Europe and globally in terms of murder.

Damjan Miklič of the murder and sexual offences department of the General Police Administration has told the STA that this was also shown by a global survey of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime from 2019.

American and African countries are at the top of this list in terms of the number of murders, followed by Asian countries, while Europe accounted for less than 5%.

"On this list, Slovenia ranks 8th in the world in terms of the number of murders per 100,000 residents, which puts us among the safest countries in Europe," Miklič said, noting that the number of murders in Slovenia had been steadily declining.

In the 1990s, criminal investigators dealt with up to 100 murders and attempted murders a year. After 2000 the number dropped to 60 to 80 cases, and since 2007 it has been at around 40 cases per year.

There were some departures from this average in 2015, 2018 and 2020, when there were 45 or more such cases, while in 2016 there were only 26 such cases.

Although the general belief is that the vast majority of the bloodiest crimes occur within the family, Miklič notes that such cases represent 30-35% of all cases. Standing out were 2018 and 2021, when the share of such cases was 40%.

About one-fifth of such cases occur between spouses, former spouses or cohabitating partners, he said, adding that at least 40% of murders were committed out of revenge or hatred.

Around 15% of murders in Slovenia are committed for personal gain, about 15% are committed without any real motive, possibly due to mental illness, 10% due to jealousy, and about the same share as a consequence of other criminal acts.

A vast majority of severe criminal acts against life and limb has been successfully investigated, with slightly more than one percent of such cases in the last three decades remaining unresolved.

Nine murders or manslaughters committed after 2000 remain unresolved, while there are 14 such cases that happened earlier. The oldest unresolved case is murder with a firearm in the Ljubljana borough of Kodeljevo from December 1991.

10 Jan 2022, 11:43 AM

STA, 10 January 2022 - Several changes to the regulation on measures aimed at preventing the spread of Covid entered into force on Monday, cutting the duration of quarantine and validity of tests, and reducing the number of passengers in public transport in line with guidelines issued by the National Institute of Public Health.

From today, quarantine after a high risk contact or when entering the country without a Covid pass is cut from ten to seven days.

Under the new rules, to avoid quarantine when entering Slovenia, passengers who are vaccinated or recovered will need to present a negative PCR test no older than 48 hours or a rapid test no older than 24 hours.

The quarantine ordered at the border can be cut short with a negative PCR tests at least five days after arrival.

Buses will be allowed to accept only as many passengers as the vehicle has been registered for with the seats right of the driver and behind the driver empty.

Passengers will be allowed to stand in city buses if they stand at least one metre apart, except for persons from the same household. The standing spots must be clearly marked.

Passengers will only be allowed to enter at the front door, while other bus doors will only be used to exit.

Trains will be allowed to accept only as many passengers as they have seats, while the same rules as for buses are in place for standing room.

Special transport vehicles with up to eight seats will accept only six passengers, with the seat right of the driver free.

09 Jan 2022, 13:45 PM

STA, 8 January 2022 - 2021 made for a quite dry, sunny and warm year in Slovenia but the month of December in Ljubljana was one of the dullest on record with only 18 hours of sunshine. New Year's Day hit a new temperature high.

Over the past 50 years Slovenia warmed up by just over 2 degrees Celsius and it now has about 200 more hours of sunshine a year than half a century ago.

Last year was the 17th warmest in 60 years with temperatures roughly 0.7 degrees above the average for 1981-2010, Gregor Vertačnik, a climatologist at the Environment Agency (ARSO), has told the STA.

2021 was also the 12th driest and the 7th sunniest over the past 60 years with about 11% more sunshine than in an average year.

Ljubljana residents may well disagree with that as the months of November and December in particular saw the Slovenian capital shrouded in fog or low cloud.

The city had 48 hours of sunshine in November, which compares to the average of 66 hours for that month. December was even worse with only 18 hours of sunshine, compared to the average of 55 hours in 1981-2010.

Otherwise, February and June were one of the warmest on record in the country with temperatures exceeding the long-term average by more than 3 degrees Celsius.

By contrast, the month of May was 2 degrees below the long-term average. Temperatures were also below average in April and October.

Some of the freakiest weather events include a record high of 25 Celsius measured in the western Vipava Valley in February and 20.6 degrees below zero in the Bloke area in south central Slovenia in April.

Several metrological stations recorded all-time highs for the period around New Year's Day with temperatures above 15 degrees.

The record high temperature for 1 January was recorded in Godnje near Sežana in Kras where the mercury hit 19.1 Celsius this 1 January, said Vertačnik, noting the record for January is just over 21 degrees.

Only a week later, temperatures dropped to below -20 on Saturday morning. Data from Neurje.si and ARSO shows the lows falling to -5.6 Celsius in Ljubljana, -3.4 at the seaside airport of Portorož, -21.4 in Bloke and the cold spot called Mrzla Komna measured 36.8 Celsius below zero.

One peculiar feature of 2021 was the record amount of snow in spring. The thickest blanket at Kredarica, Slovenia's highest mountain weather station, measured 510 centimetres on 26 May 2021.

06 Jan 2022, 15:50 PM

STA, 6 January 2022 - The Public Administration Ministry has developed in cooperation with administrative units a new system for making an appointment for administrative services. The service allows clients to choose their appointments via a call centre or through an online app, and it is currently available at three administrative units.

The system is currently operating for Ljubljana, Logatec and Litija

Public Administration Minister Boštjan Koritnik explained at a press conference on Thursday that the Covid-19 epidemic has necessitated adjustments also in the organisation of work in public administration.

To protect the health of clients and employees during the epidemic, many administrative units have introduced a system of obligatory prior appointments for their services, while they also extended working hours and reinforced staffing.

The minister said that clients reacted positively to the changes recently introduced at administrative units, including the web service that allows them to check the expected waiting times at each administrative unit.

"Clients want faster processing at administrative units, which are already overloaded," said Koritnik. That's why, in recent months, the ministry has developed a system for online appointments.

According to the minister, this new system will simplify procedures for clients, saving them time, while it will also be a welcome simplification for employees at administrative units.

When making an online appointment in the system, clients can select a preferred date and the location of the service, and enter additional requirements (such as the presence of an interpreter) in the notes section.

Aleksander Vojičić from the ministry's administrative units service explained that the system works on two levels, as an online appointments service and as a call centre.

Both levels are currently available at administrative units in Ljubljana, Logatec and Litija, and up to 20 more administrative units are expected to implement the online appointment system in the coming months, said Koritnik.

The Public Administration Ministry carried out a public procurement procedure worth EUR 345,000 for the service, which will be provided by the consulting and marketing company Ortus Inc.

02 Jan 2022, 16:06 PM

STA, 1 January 2021 - Slovenian pensioners are looking at higher pensions in the new year, as a pension rise, expected to stand at some 4%, is to be introduced in February after one-off bonuses for low-income pensioners are paid in January.

Under the latest Covid relief package, adopted in late December, pensioners with pensions under EUR 732 a month will receive one-off bonus of either EUR 130, 230 or 300 by the end of January.

Solidarity allowance, totalling EUR 150, will be also paid out to the disabled and war veterans by the end of March.

In line with the relevant law, pensions will be indexed in February, when the adjusted amount will be paid out, the ZPIZ public pension and disability fund has said, adding that the January adjustment will also be made.

It is still up in the air whether there will be a pension rise to fully eliminate the shortfall that pensioners suffered as a result of austerity measures during the financial crisis.

The Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) has proposed a 3.5% pension rise to compensate for this, but even if such indexation takes place, the amount is open to question. The last unscheduled indexation occurred in December 2020 with the indexing rate at 2%.

The annual pension bonus will be paid with June pensions and will range from EUR 140 to EUR 450. Those with pensions of up to EUR 570 will receive the highest amount.

Disability allowance bonuses will meanwhile stand between EUR 140 and EUR 250. People with disabilities who receive the disability allowance of up to EUR 805 will get the highest sum.

In 2022, persons with disabilities will benefit from stepped-up social inclusion activities starting from 30 June. Moreover, attendance allowance will increase by 2.5% in March.

There will be some new rules for retirement in 2022. For men, the pension for 40 years of pensionable service will be calculated at 61.5% of the pensionable age, an increase of two percentage points compared to 2021.

Moreover, the age required to be eligible for a widow's pension will be 58, an increase of half a year compared to 2021.

The new year will also see the start of implementation of the long-term care act that will enter into effect on 18 January.

The ZZZS health insurance institute will be kept busy in 2022 as the statutory provider of compulsory long-term care insurance. The institution must be ready for the new duties by the end of the year at the latest.

The benefits provided by the act will be gradually phased in by 2024, starting with the right to long-term institutional care and to a caregiver on 1 January 2023.

The new system will be financed from the budget for the first two years, whereas in 2025 a special law on compulsory long-term care insurance is planned to be enacted.

31 Dec 2021, 12:30 PM

STA, 31 December 2021 - Housing prices have risen rapidly since the market rebound in March with soaring demand underpinned by low interest rates and the availability of credit. The Surveying and Mapping Authority (GURS) says that price growth is not expected to taper off until the supply of new housing outstrips demand.

Prices of residential property have risen sharply this year and by the third quarter they were up by 12.9% at the annual level, according to Statistics Office data.

Prices of second-hand flats in multi-apartment buildings rose by around 8% in the first half of this year from the end of last year. This marks the highest six-month price growth since the 2008 housing market crisis, GURS notes in its report on the Slovenian real estate market.

The record growth was driven by the prices of flats in multi-apartment buildings in the largest cities, with the exception of Ljubljana. In Koper, Kranj, Celje and Maribor, prices thus jumped by 10%-12%.

In Ljubljana, which remains the most expensive city, prices rose by 6% in the first half of this year, reaching new record highs: the median price of a second-hand apartment on Ljubljana was EUR 3,250 per square metre.

The acceleration in residential property price growth is also reflected in the residential property price overvaluation indicators, Slovenia's central bank Banka Slovenije noted in its report on the performance of banks for December.

"Most of the overvaluation indicators already reflect a overvaluation of property prices of around 10% relative to the dynamics of other macroeconomic indicators," the central bank wrote.

Although nominal prices have already surpassed the 2008 peak, real prices are still around 10 percentage points behind.

The rapid price growth has been driven by strong demand, underpinned by low interest rates, readily available credit, and limited supply of new-build properties, according to GURS.

They added that low interest rates were encouraging both purchases of property for own use and investment purchases.

Rising prices are also increasingly affected by rising land prices, and indirectly by rising construction costs due to the global increase in transport and building material prices.

In the first half of 2021, GURS recorded 20% more sales of land for the construction of residential buildings than in the second half of last year, and 90% more than in the first half of last year.

"The accelerated growth in demand for land for the construction of residential buildings points to a strong demand for the construction of apartments for subsequent sale on the market and the construction of family houses for own use," they explained.

The number of transactions involving land for the construction of residential houses even exceeded the number of sales of residential houses themselves in the first half of the year.

The central bank also notes that household lending has picked up since the first quarter of this year with the year-on-year growth in housing loans reaching 8.1% in October.

In its macroeconomic outlook for December, the central bank notes that the gap between supply and demand was particularly pronounced, especially in larger cities. It therefore expects residential property investments to strengthen.

"We estimate that stronger demand will continue to be one of the key drivers of housing construction and development, given the buoyant labour market and favourable credit conditions," they wrote.

Similarly, GURS notes that the supply of new housing is still lagging behind demand practically everywhere in Slovenia, despite the fact that more new residential properties are coming to market.

"The growth in housing prices is not expected to stop until the supply of new housing outstrips demand, and the time required to sell new housing becomes significantly extended, or inventories of unsold housing start to build up," they said.

"So far, despite record prices, most of the newly built residential properties in the biggest cities and popular tourist destinations are still being sold before they are even built," according to GURS.

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