Lifestyle

10 Nov 2020, 15:22 PM

STA, 10 November 2020 - Slovenia recorded 1,084 new coronavirus cases from 4,457 tests on Monday as the increase in new cases continues to slow down. The share of positive tests was at slightly over 24%. Nevertheless, hospitalisations remain on the rise, the latest government data show.

There are now 1,171 people in hospital compared to 1,143 yesterday as incoming patients continue to outnumber discharged patients, with 196 in intensive care, up six from yesterday.

The death toll climbed to 605 after 27 people with Covid-19 died.

Slovenia has so far recorded 46,709 infections. The 14-day rolling average of new infections per 100,000 population declined to 1,007, according to the data tracker Covid-19 Sledilnik.

The latest data show that the situation has started to calm down in Gorenjska, the region with the highest share of infections, which went from a peak of over 2,000 new cases per 100,000 in 14 days on 4 November to slightly over 1,600 yesterday, according to Jelko Kacin, the government's Covid-19 spokesman.

Robert Carotta, the coordinator for hospital beds at the Health Ministry, said Gorenjska was currently self-sufficient in terms of the number of beds and the situation is under control.

The situation has been deteriorating in the eastern Pomurje region and the main hospital there, in Murska Sobota, has had to transfer patients to other hospitals in the country.

Pomurje had the second highest 14-day incidence in the country yesterday, at 1,481 new cases per 100,000 persons, according to Covid-19 Sledilnik.

Overall, the situation is gradually improving, Kacin said, but he warned against complacency. He said the situation across Europe remained serious and required people to remain responsible and comply with preventive measures.

Slovenia placed on Czech Republic's travel quarantine list

STA, 9 November 2020 - Slovenia has been added to the Czech Republic's red list of Covid-19 high risk countries. From Monday, Slovenian travellers to the Czech Republic have to either fill out a special form and get tested for coronavirus or go into quarantine.

The Czech Republic's decision to red-list Slovenia was announced on Friday by the Slovenian embassy in Prague.

The special form, which has to be submitted by all EU citizens arriving in the Czech Republic from Covid-19 high risk countries before entering the country, is available on https://plf.uzis.cz/.

Apart from the form, travellers are also required to show a negative coronavirus test.

They can either undergo the test abroad and show the result, not older than 72 hours, immediately after arriving in the country or they can get tested in the Czech Republic, presenting the result no later than five days after the arrival, reads the information posted on the website of the Czech Foreign Ministry.

The country's red list features most European countries, with the exception of Germany and Baltic countries, among others.

The Czech Republic has been one of the worst hit European countries in the second wave of coronavirus infections and one of the countries with toughest measures to contain the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, Slovenia has also recently expanded its list of Covid-19 high risk countries. From Sunday, travellers arriving from all of the country's four neighbours - Austria, Croatia, Hungary and virtually all of Italy, as well as Serbia and Spain have to quarantine. There are almost 20 exceptions to the rule though, including providing a negative test result.

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia

09 Nov 2020, 13:52 PM

STA, 9 November 2020 - Slovenia logged 464 new coronavirus cases for Sunday as the share of tests returning positive results inched lower still to 22.49%. However, the number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 has increased and another 24 have died.

Data released by the government show that a total of 2,063 Sars-CoV-2 tests were performed on Sunday, when testing is as a rule scaled down.

Speaking at the daily press briefing on Monday, spokesman Jelko Kacin said the most encouraging piece of news today was that the R0 number had fallen to 0.95, meaning that one infected person passes on the virus to fewer than one other person.

The number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals has increased to 1,143, including 190 in intensive care units, which compares to 1,125 and 176, respectively, the day before. 53 patients were discharged home yesterday.

However, even there Kacin offered graphs showing that the curve of daily discharges is climbing and nearing the falling curve of new admissions. The latter fell from the peak of 160 on 6 November to fewer than 100.

According to tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org, the rolling 14-day average of cases per 100,000 residents has dropped to 1,026.

The country's coronavirus case count has increased to 45,625, but the number of active cases has dropped to 21,514.

The death toll has increased to 578.

Region-wise, Kacin noted that the situation in the worst-affected Gorenjska region was on the mend, while it was worsening in Pomurje in the north-east.

Listing some of the hotspots, Kacin said that Beltinci, a municipality with a population of some 8,200, recorded 30 new infections yesterday, which compares to 40 in the capital Ljubljana.

New premises for Covid-19 patients opened in UKC Ljubljana

STA, 9 November 2020 - The UKC Ljubljana hospital opened on Sunday new premises for Covid-19 patients which currently feature 56 beds. The location may be expanded to receive up to 100 patients.

Announcing the opening in a video statement, UKC Ljubljana director general Janez Poklukar said that the facilities had been made ready in only ten days, as the country is rushing to secure additional beds for Covid-19 patients.

Poklukar added that the new premises in Slovenia's main hospital were also fully equipped when it came to providing food, cleaning, waste collection and logistics.

If the condition of some of the patients deteriorates and they need intensive care, this will be provided at the same location.

The new premises currently feature two zones, and the plan is to have a total of six zones for Covid-19 patients, each being able to receive 25 patients, Poklukar said.

The development is seen as an important part of efforts to fight the epidemic and when Prime Minister Janez Janša visited UKC Ljubljana on 28 October, he urged for a quick transformation of the premises.

Spanning more than 1,700 square metres, the space had been left undeveloped for over a decade, with the plan being that it house a diagnostic and therapeutic service complex.

Poklukar said the UKC Ljubljana employees had been waiting for 12 years for the new premises to be finished, adding that eventually, the extension to the main building would house 44 intensive care units and four operating theatres.

Tatjana Lejko Zupanc, the head of the UKC Ljubljana Department of Infectious Diseases, added that all beds intended for Covid-19 patients in the hospital were occupied, while there were some beds left in the intensive care unit.

Speaking at the daily government briefing today, Poklukar said that the hospital would start immediately accommodating patients there. "If necessary, we'll get involved in resolving the situation in Pomurje."

The eastern Pomurje region has seen an uptick in infections and hospital admissions in recent days and the Murska Sobota Hospital is close to capacity.

Beyond that, Poklukar said the new space would be helpful in the exit strategy, as Covid-19 patients will be concentrated there once the hospital figures start to decline so that other health services can be relaunched when other departments currently housing Covid-19 patients are emptied.

The new space was fully furnished by the contractor for EUR 2.4 million. The hospital had to buy additional beads and equipment, bringing the price tag to EUR 3.3 million. Some of the equipment has been relocated from other parts of the hospital, some was provided by the Civil Protection.

Poklukar thanked everyone involved in getting the new space ready, among them the Civil Protection, the army, the Ljubljana municipality and the hospital employees. "I'm sure UKC Ljubljana currently has the best team it has ever had."

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08 Nov 2020, 14:09 PM

STA, 8 November 2020 - As many as 889 new Covid-19 infections were recorded on Saturday from a total of 3,918 tests, meaning the share of infections in relation to tests dropped by over three percentage points to roughly 22.7% compared to Friday, the government's coronavirus spokesperson Jelko Kacin said on Twitter on Sunday.

The two-week average of infections per 100,000 residents was 1,058 on Saturday, down from 1,096 the day before.

Covid-related deaths have meanwhile risen by 23 to 554 today compared to yesterday, according to the covid-19.sledilnik.org tracker site.

The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care dropped by two to 176 compared to Friday, putting the number of hospitalised patients at 1,125, up from 1,084 on Friday.

Kacin said the number of patients in intensive care dropped despite the number of those discharged on Saturday - 42 - was more than half lower than on Friday - 93.

Although there were fewer tests carried out on Saturday, which is typical of weekends, he said the trend showed that "the measures are working".

He added that the epidemiological situation was also gradually improving in Gorenjska, the northwestern-region, hit hardest in the autumn wave of the epidemic.

There are currently slightly 22,167 active infections in Slovenia, below the Friday figure of 22,979.

Slightly over 45,000 infections have been recorded in Slovenia since the first case was confirmed on 4 March during the first wave of the epidemic.

More on Slovenia and coronavirus

07 Nov 2020, 16:48 PM

STA, 7 November 2020 - The highest daily Covid-19 death toll was recorded in Slovenia on Friday as 34 people died, bringing the overall death toll to 531. The number of hospitalised patients was up slightly to 1,084, of which 178 required intensive care, or ten more than on Thursday, the government said on Twitter.

The daily coronavirus tally was up by almost 50 to 1,612, but the number of tests was also up on Friday to 6,340. The share of positive tests was down by more than one percentage point to 25.42%.

Maybe you missed - Slovenia & Coronavirus, Fri 6/11: 1,565 New Cases, 26.5% Positivity; All of Austria, Croatia, Hungary on Quarantine List from Monday

A total of 93 patients were discharged from hospital yesterday, but the overall number of hospitalisations was up from 1,069 by 15 persons.

According to the national tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org, there are 22,979 active infections in Slovenia at the moment, while the 14-day average of cases per 100,000 residents has further dropped to 1,096.

The total number of coronavirus cases so far confirmed is 44,270, and the death toll has reached 531.

Leon Cizelj of the Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS) has told the STA that if the latest restrictive measures, taken on 26 October, produced results, the epidemic could be expected to peak in a few days.

The number of patients in hospitals is still the most reliable data, Cizelj said, while noting that the basic reproduction number was currently at 1.5, which meant that the number of positive cases doubled in 12-13 days.

Before the latest measures, the reproduction number was around two. The growth has slowed down, but the slowdown is nevertheless too low for the epidemic to be stopped yet.

As the Health Ministry has changed the testing strategy to include all persons suspected of contracting Covid-19, Cizelj said the effect would show in a few days and that the numbers would perhaps stabilise then.

All our stories on Slovenia and covid-19

06 Nov 2020, 12:26 PM

STA, 6 November 2020 - Slovenia's daily coronavirus tally dropped by over a hundred to 1,564 on Thursday as the share of positive tests inched down to 26.53%, and the daily death toll fell to 26 from 30 the day before. Hospitalisations kept increasing but at a slower pace and data presented by the government suggest the peak has been passed.

Government data show the latest cases come from 5,895 Sars-Cov-2 tests on Thursday, roughly on a par with the day before, while the positivity rate has decreased by almost two percentage points.

Presenting fresh data, government spokesman Jelko Kacin also said that the R0, the figure showing how many people one infected person passes the virus on, had dropped to 1, which means the outbreak is no longer expanding.

What is more, the 14-day and 7-day incidence graphs he presented at the press briefing on Friday show the peak had been reached days ago with the curve well on its path down and a simulation suggesting it could flatten sometime in early December.

According to tracker site sledilnik.org, the rolling 14-day average of cases per 100,000 residents fell to 1,113 on Thursday.

"The trend is good (...) if the trend continues the same way we can look forward to the future and can consider what the government could do next week," Kacin said, offering the promise of an easing of measures as the cabinet reviews restrictions next Thursday.

However, the number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals keeps increasing, but even there Kacin noted that the growth is slowing down.

Hospitalisations increased to 1,069 as 92 patients were discharged home, and the number of patients in intensive care units rose by a further seven to 168.

Yesterday, there were 50 new admissions when deducting discharges and fatalities, which compares to 76 at the peak on 31 October.

The tracker site shows the total number of coronavirus cases so far confirmed in the country has exceeded 42,600 with 23,336 cases still active. The death toll has inched close to 500, at 497.

All of Austria, Croatia, Hungary on Slovenia's quarantine list

STA, 5 November 2020 - The government has amended the coronavirus status of several countries as a result of which the whole of Croatia, Austria and Hungary plus Serbia will be on Slovenia's quarantine list starting from Monday, as will almost entire Italy.

Calabria will be the only Italian region not yet on Slovenia's red list, as the amended decree on the movement across the border takes effect, expectedly on Monday.

This is even as Calabria will be one of the four red regions that Italy will impose the tightest coronavirus restrictions on starting from Friday.

Meanwhile, even those parts of Croatia, Austria and Hungary that have so far been on Slovenia's orange list are being moved to the red, which entails mandatory ten-day quarantine, except for any of several exceptions.

Also moved to the red list are the whole of Serbia, Spain, Cyprus, Bulgaria, the Vatican and San Marino.

The list is thus being extended from 116 to 147 countries, some of those having only certain administrative regions on the list.

Arrivals from those countries can avoid quarantine with a negative coronavirus test, or if they fall under one of the 17 exceptions such as daily migrant workers, international hauliers, persons in transit and members of foreign official delegations.

Other exceptions include those attending to urgent business, having health examinations or surgeries, or owners of property in a neighbouring country. Some exceptions also include close family or household members when travelling together with the person eligible.

Presenting the latest changes to the government measures, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs said the government advised against all non-essential travel outside the country anyway.

He said the same restrictions to travel across the border as for Slovenian citizens also apply to foreigners residing in Slovenia who have relatives in other countries of the former Yugoslavia.

"As you arrive on the border and you don't produce [proof of] one of the reasons for the crossing of border municipalities, you will be fined," said Hojs.

This was after a line of vehicles stretching several kilometres formed at the Obrežje crossing with Croatia on Friday as many arrived there without documents proving their eligibility to travel.

The government today also extended the green list of Covid-19 safe countries that only comprises third countries to add Japan, South Korea, Rwanda, Singapore and Thailand. Arrivals from those countries can enter without quarantine.

All our stories on Slovenia and coronavirus

05 Nov 2020, 18:33 PM

STA, 5 November 2020 - The government has extended a ban on movement between municipalities and a ban on gatherings of more than six people for another week, while it has allowed some more services and businesses to reopen.

The businesses that are being allowed to reopen from Friday include pedicure services, and specialised shops selling baby, childcare and mother care items, technical goods, cars, bicycles, furniture, photographic and photocopying services, watch and jewellery shops.

Presenting the changes to the relevant decree, which were adopted at the government correspondence session today, Economy Ministry State Secretary Ajda Cuderman said restrictions were being eased on activities "where there's a very small possibility of transmission of infection".

For pedicure she said it was "of exceptional importance for preventive care of the many older people, and to prevent any serious conditions with the elderly, who have been warning of that".

The establishments that are being opened will need to observe additional safety measures, including limiting customers to one per 30 square metres, as opposed to 20 square metres per customer so far.

In shopping centres, entrances and exits for customers will have to be separated, with hand sanitisers at both ends and regular airing required, among other things.

Cuderman indicated that other services such as beauty shops and ophthalmologists would be allowed to reopen when the coronavirus situation has improved.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs said the ban on restriction to movement and gatherings was being extended for another week with small technical amendments to the decree.

He said that Serbia was additionally added to the list of Covid-19 unsafe red countries for which quarantine applies, from Monday, but said that the government advised against all non-essential travel outside the country anyway.

He said the same restrictions to travel across the border as for Slovenian citizens also apply to foreigners residing in Slovenia who have relatives in other countries of the former Yugoslavia.

"As you arrive on the border and you don't produce [proof of] one of the reasons for the crossing of border municipalities, you will be fined," said Hojs, referring to foreign residents.

Additionally, oversight of compliance with restrictions to movement can now also be exercised by city traffic wardens, aside police officers and health inspectors.

The government has also added new sports to the list of those where competition can resume for top athletes, including water polo and futsal.

This is the second time that the government has extended top-tier lockdown restrictions since imposing the highest level of restrictions on 24 October to cut coronavirus cases.

Only stores selling essential items or services remain open, including grocery shops ans supermarkets, produce markets, pharmacies, shops selling medical and orthopaedic equipment, farming and gardening stores, florists, DIY shops, car and bicycle repair shops, bank, postal and insurance offices, newsagents, pet food stores.

Delivery services are also allowed and restaurants can offer takeaway. A week ago, the government also allowed libraries and repair services to reopen.

The government will review the restrictions again in a week.

Schools to Continue Distance Learning

STA, 5 November 2020 - After two weeks of holidays, primary school pupils will not return to schools on Monday due to the coronavirus situation in Slovenia, as distance learning will be introduced once again. Secondary schools have already launched remote teaching at the beginning of this week.

Kindergartens remain closed as well, but childcare will continue to be available to parents who work in vital services.

Education Minister Simona Kustec said that the government would review the decision in a week, either extending or ending the measure.

Universities and other higher education institutions also remain in remote schooling mode. Moreover, schools for children and adults with special needs will remain closed as well.

The latter, especially, can be demanding for students, parents and teachers, with the minister saying a special memo had been sent to special needs teachers, adding it was expected the teachers did their best for special needs education to be as normal as possible.

When asked whether the government had considered reopening schools that have few or no coronavirus cases, Kustec said that the Slovenian Constitution stipulates that all students get the same access to education, meaning that school must be the same for everybody.

The government has instructed schools and local communities to organise free meals for underprivileged children, which will be covered by the state budget.

Municipalities and schools are to invite parents and children to apply for meals, which they will be able to pick up at their school. Lunch deliveries are also to be organised for children who cannot pick up their meals.

The Association of Towns and Municipalities (SOS) has meanwhile said that meals should be organised by the state and primary schools, adding that municipalities can assist the schools if required.

The association noted that under the law, the state provides funds for education programme, while local communities are obligated to maintain and invest in infrastructure. In line with this, it is also the state's obligation to provide warm meals to pupils in emergency situations.

The Ljubljana municipality also responded by saying that it cannot take on this obligation. Organising meals in this way, in Ljubljana this would amount to 5,000-6,000 a day, is impossible and irrational, the city said. It proposed that children be allowed to come to school to eat, adding also it would be even better if schools reopen completely.

The Education Ministry forwarded to the STA on Tuesday numbers showing the extent of coronavirus infections in schools and kindergartens.

In kindergartens, 524 members or 3.74% of all staff have contracted the coronavirus since the beginning of the school year in September. Additional 637 staff (4.55%) have been quarantined.

In primary schools, the number of reached 1,207 (4.84% of staff), with additional 1,261 people (some 5%) in quarantine, while in secondary schools, it reached 110 (1.18%), with another 1,261 in quarantine (just over 5%).

All our stories on Slovenia and coronavirus

05 Nov 2020, 14:38 PM

STA, 5 November 2020 - Following an uptick to about 2,000 cases on Tuesday, daily coronavirus infections recorded in Slovenia fell to 1,685 in 5,991 tests performed on Wednesday. The number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients however increased from 979 to 1,023 and 30 people died, both new highs. The number of patients in intensive care rose by 3 to 161, a new record too.

The share of positive tests, at 28.1%, decreased by four percentage points on Tuesday, government spokesperson Jelko Kacin pointed out. According to him, the rolling 14-day average per 100,000 residents fell to 1,114, which he said was a good sign.

He added the reproduction number had fallen to 1.11 on 4 November, from 1.14 on 3 November, 1.17 on 2 November and 1.21 on 1 November.

According to the latest data on tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org, Slovenia's coronavirus case count has increased to over 41,000, with an estimated 23,432 cases still active on Wednesday. The death toll stands at 471.

Kacin said the the number of infections has also increased in care homes, with 101 new cases among residents on Wednesday contributing to 1,133 active infections among them.

He announced a government session would take place today following which another press conference will be held to present potential changes to coronavirus measures. He expects the existing restrictions will be extended, as "no risk is permissible in the face of such numbers". He does allow for the possibility of some measures changing.

Meanwhile, also on hand at the morning briefing was Matjaž Jereb of UKC Ljubljana's infectious diseases clinic, who stressed that the 160 critically ill patients were more double the figure in the entire spring wave of the epidemic when 72 patients needed intensive treatment.

Jereb, who heads the intensive care department at the clinic, expressed hope that the general figures presented today hold and that Slovenia has reached the peak of the second wave.

He warned that the number of hospitalisations would continue to grow, as patients arrive with a week's delay, which is how long it usually takes for complications to develop.

"We expect the number of hospitalisations to peak in a week or two, with the possibility of an additional delay for the intensive care peak. Everything will be clear by the end of November," Jereb assessed.

He sees the bed availability situation as alarming, warning that while additional beds were being provided this could not go on indefinitely.

There is also a shortage of healthcare staff, with staff falling ill and being exhausted as well. Some issues are also emerging with access to medicinal equipment, with Jereb highlighting infusion pumps.

Meanwhile, the press quizzed spokesperson Kacin about the decision on how the education process will be resumed next week following two weeks of holidays, but Kacin could not yet provide any details.

All our stories on Slovenia and coronavirus

05 Nov 2020, 12:17 PM

STA, 3 November 2020 - Slovenia places 11th in the European Union in the latest Gender Equality Index, the same rank it had in 2019. With a score of 67.9 points out of 100, slightly lower than last year, it is just below the EU average.

The index, compiled by the European Institute for Gender Equality, measures countries' performance across six core domains - work, money, knowledge, time, power and health.

Slovenia's scores are highest in the domains of health (86.9 points) and money (83 points). Its highest ranking is in the domain of time, where it ranks 7th.

Gender inequalities are most pronounced in power (55 points) and knowledge (55.9 points). In these domains, Slovenia ranks 12th and 21st in the EU, respectively.

As the Ministry of Labour, the Family, Social Affairs and Equal opportunities pointed out on Tuesday, compared to last year Slovenia made headway only in the segment money, where average net incomes increased for both men and women, while the at-risk-of-poverty rate for women decreased by 0.4 percentage points.

In the two indicators that measure work - labour market participation and the segregation and quality of work - Slovenia achieved 0.2 points less than the year before due to increased segregation in employment, according to the ministry.

The institute also highlights gender segregation in education. Just over 41% of women study education, health and welfare, humanities and arts, whereas the share of men in these study programmes is 16.8%.

The ministry notes, however, that Slovenia's figures are not significantly different than the EU average.

In the domain power Slovenia reached 2.6 points less than last year as a result of fewer female members of the government, MPs and local councillors. The share of women on the boards of listed companies and the board of the central bank decreased as well.

In health, Slovenia slipped by 0.2 points. According to the ministry, men's self-perceived health is higher than women's, even though life expectancy for women is on average six years higher than for men. Differences in access to health services are minimal.

This year's thematic focus was on digitalisation. The data for Slovenia shows there is significant segregation in the education and labour market with men accounting for over 80% of all ICT graduates and over 70% of scientists and engineers in high-technology sectors.

Slovenia will dedicate special attention to this issue during its stint as the presiding EU country, the ministry said, adding that a responsive labour market is a key priority.

Digital skills are becoming an increasingly important part of the active employment policy and projects such as informal education and on-the-job training, which typically involve a higher share of women, have put new digital knowledge at the forefront, the ministry said.

You can find the full report for Slovenia here

04 Nov 2020, 13:09 PM

STA, 4 November 2020 - Slovenia has recorded a new uptick in daily coronavirus infections with 2,027 of 6,311 tests performed on Tuesday returning positive results, or as many as 32%. The country also reported 29 fatalities, a new daily high, according to government data.

Despite a new increase in daily cases (the last time the country recorded over 2,000 cases was on 28 October), government spokesman Jelko Kacin noted that the reproduction number kept falling, which he labelled as a valuable and encouraging piece of information.

The R0 number fell to 1.14 on 3 November, from 1.17 on 2 November and 1.21 on 1 November with Kacin projecting it will reach a point when one infected passes on the virus to just one other person in three to four days.

So has the incidence per 100,000 residents been halved to an average 535 a day over the past seven days, compared to 1,120 over the past 14 days, as of 2 November, which Kacin said showed the measures taken by the government and put into practice by the people had borne fruit.

However, the situation in hospitals remains very serious, said Kacin, who echoed PM Janez Janša's warning last night that the situation would remain serious for at least a month longer.

Covid-19 hospitalisations have increased to 979, up by 54 from the day before, with 158 patients now in intensive care units, twelve more than the day before. Sixty-three patients were discharged home yesterday.

Kacin also presented charts showing an increase in hospital admissions. Yesterday, there were 57 new admissions per million residents, discounting discharges and fatalities.

Still, Robert Carotta, the coordinator for Covid-19 hospital beds at the Health Ministry, said there were enough hospital beds and equipment, the main problem was staff, especially intensive care staff, but even that "is sustainable" for the time being.

"Compared to other countries in Europe, Slovenia is coping excellently with the epidemic. Regardless of the fact that we had one of the steepest growth in Covid-19 infections, Slovenian healthcare is working and everyone who needs care gets it," said Carotta.

Similarly, Bojana Beović, the government's chief Covid-19 adviser, commented yesterday that despite the large number of patients needing hospital treatment, "we have not had the chaos seen in Italy or Belgium", which she said was thanks to excellent staff.

Health Minister Tomaž Gantar, who also addressed the government press briefing today, said the health system had adapted exceptionally well to the new situation as regular services were being scaled down to make space for Covid-19 patients.

Offering some figures, he said the number of Covid-19 hospital beds had been expanded from 227 regular and 54 ICU beds on 16 October to 821 and 150, respectively, and the number of testing points had expanded from 16 in the first wave to 50 with more being added.

The providers have been urged to increase ICU beds by a further 100 over the next ten days, as the number of Covid-19 patients is expected to keep increasing over the next few weeks.

Gantar said this meant lockdown restrictions could not be eased yet. "Until the need for new admissions is higher than the number of patients discharged, it makes no sense talking about easing the measures," he said.

To scale up testing, the ministry has formed a taskforce which has approved 17 to 19 rapid antigen tests and based on their availability in the market, the ministry can secure enough to test employees in critical services on a regular basis, to detect even asymptomatic cases.

The ministry would also like to allow testing within 24 hours to persons that are showing symptoms or have been in contact with the infected. Gantar said more than 10,000 such tests could be ordered in a matter of days.

A mass testing using rapid tests is "a realistic option, almost a necessity", Gantar said about the possibility of mass testing hinted at by Janša a while ago, but he said the priority was those employed in the critical infrastructure.

The country's coronavirus case count has increased to 39,410, with an estimated 23,417 cases still active, according to tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org, which puts the rolling 14-day average per 100,000 residents at 1,117 as of 3 November.

A total of 441 patients with Covid-19 have died.

All of our stories on Slovenia and coronavirus

04 Nov 2020, 12:28 PM

STA, 3 November 2020 - Tomaž Kavčič, a chef running a Michelin-starred restaurant, has made an urgent appeal to prevent what he sees as an imminent collapse of the top-notch culinary industry, floating the idea of a positive discrimination as a way out of the coronavirus lockdown.

In a letter addressed to the public and decision-makers, the chef writes that the top-class cuisine sector is on the brink of collapse.

"If we let it collapse, it will take starting from scratch (...) Generations of chefs, waiters and sommeliers may disappear, become scattered at the far ends of the world or leave for other type of business," he wrote.

Despite the relatively positive experience following the spring shutdown, Kavčič, the chef of the Pri Lojzetu restaurant at Zemono Castle in the west of the country, has "the feeling it won't be the same this time around".

Talking with the STA, he said it was right that healthcare, education and other key systems should take an absolute priority and that the first job at hand was to deal with the health crisis and abide by government measures.

However, he also hopes that Slovenia as one of the first countries in the region to adopt restrictions in the second wave of coronavirus, will also be the first to restart businesses.

When the time comes, he proposes a gradual reopening of hospitality establishments where those that respect all government preventive measures and can meet the highest safety standards be allowed to open first.

"My proposal is that a group to form the needed standards and examine compliance with them should also involve experienced experts from our hospitality field," Kavčič says in his appeal to the authorities.

Creative hospitality should be recognised as "the top of the pyramid, as providers who guarantee highest standards at all levels".

Hospitality providers should be divided between those who can create the conditions to serve in their establishments, those who can meet the conditions for delivery and those who cannot meet proper standards in the given circumstances.

"It would be a positive discrimination to preserve at least a tiny bit of normality and keep in shape an industry that is becoming a leading motive for visiting Slovenia," says Kavčič.

He also called for financial aid proportionate to last year's revenue and to the headcount, a full writedown of social charges, interest-free bank loan repayment deferrals, equalising VAT rates for food and beverages at 9.5% (rather 22% for beverages) and allowing movement between regions and municipalities based on a restaurant bill or booking.

However, Kavčič says the priority at the moment is to behave responsibly so that the coronavirus situation in the country can improve.

02 Nov 2020, 15:12 PM
An earlier version of this story said 2,244 new cases in the headline, when this is really the number of tests

STA, 2 November 2020 - A total of 25 patients with Covid-19 died in Slovenia on Sunday. There were 557 new coronavirus cases from 2,244 tests, show official government data. Hospitalisations continued to rise.

The number of tests was significantly smaller than a week ago, reflecting the decision by epidemiologists to reduce testing to focus on the most vulnerable groups. The share of positive tests declined to just under 25% from almost 28% on Saturday.

Jelko Kacin, the government's Covid-19 spokesman, told the press on Monday that the figures showed government measures had been timely, but he stressed that Sunday figures in general were atypical. He said it would probably take until Wednesday to see whether and how the curve is flattening.

There are currently 868 patients in hospital compared to 821 yesterday, as 113 new patients were admitted and 50 were discharged from hospital. 135 are in intensive care, up from 131.

Speaking at the government's daily coronavirus briefing, Kacin said the pressure on hospitals remained severe. Marko Vogrin, the medical director of UKC Maribor, added that the number of hospitalisations would continue to rise in the coming days, with health staff exhausted.

Leon Cizelj, the head of the reactor technology department at the Jožef Stefan Institute and author of an influential model of the epidemic, told the STA yesterday that hospitalisations were expected to peak at around 960 towards the end of this week, while ICU admissions are expected to reach a record of roughly 245 in mid-November.

On the brighter side, an X-ray machine that was moved from the Role field hospital to the outdoor premises of UKC Ljubljana's Infectious Diseases Clinic this weekend will facilitate safer and quicker treatment of Covid-19 patients, said Dimitrij Kuhelj, the head of the hospital's radiology department.

Chest radiograph can be used to diagnose or monitor Covid-19 pneumonia, noted Kuhelj. UKC Ljubljana currently treats some 200 Covid-19 patients.

Slovenia has so far recorded 388 Covid-19 deaths, while the number of positive cases has been 36,206, according to data by the tracker Covid-19 Sledilnik.

The 14-day increase in new cases per 100,000 population, a benchmark widely used in the EU, rose to 1,075, while the number of active cases increased to 22,521.

Third Covid-19 wave to hit in late December

STA, 2 November 2020 - The third wave of coronavirus infections is expected during the flu season at the end of December, said epidemiologist Irena Grmek Košnik on Monday, adding that the influenza period usually lasted until March or April.

"The third wave will be very challenging since doctors will not know whether the patient has the flu or Covid-19. Given that, flu vaccination is of vital importance," said Grmek Košnik, an epidemiologist with the Kranj unit of the National Institute of Public Health, at the government coronavirus briefing.

The epidemiological situation in the Gorenjska region remains poor because as much as 85% of Covid-19 patients there have had a mild case of the disease and felt well, meaning the virus had spread more easily.

Another reason for such an extensive spread of the virus in the region is private gatherings. Moreover, people who had been in close contact with the infected continued to go to work since there was no system of pay compensation in place in such cases between 12 October and last week, said the epidemiologist.

The situation has taken a turn for the better though including due to stricter measures, she added. This was also echoed by Jelko Kacin, the government spokesman, who said the region's infection curve was flattening out.

Regarding two cases of a repeat coronavirus infection in Gorenjska, Grmek Košnik said that further research was needed. Antibodies last for three months after the infection, according to the latest findings, however relevant research is on-going.

Grmek Košnik noted that the role of coronavirus superspreaders had been overlooked. Everybody could be a superspreader, she said, adding that contact tracing app #OstaniZdrav (#StayWell) should thus become mandatory.

Next week, additional rapid antigen tests and contact tracing protocols will help determine superspreaders as well, she told the briefing.

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