STA, 15 January 2020 - A 6am-6pm ban on overtaking for lorries on the A1 motorway between Šentilj and Koper entered into force on Friday. Police controls will be beefed up.
The new regime will be in place for lorries weighing more than 7.5 tonnes. Overtaking will still be allowed for these vehicles during the day in three-lane sections, and on the entire motorway at night.
A ban on overtaking for lorries is already in place during the morning and afternoon rush hours in some motorway sections, in tunnels, at intersections and on some ring roads.
The sections where overtaking is banned during rush hours are marked and a fine for violations amounts to EUR 300.
Last year, more than 1,500 violations were recorded, up from 1,100 in 2019, 775 in 2008 and little more than 1,000 in 2017.
The ban on the A1 motorway, which has the most heavy traffic, was announced by Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec in early November 2020.
He said this would make traffic run more smoothly and improve safety. The government also plans to introduce motorway police as another way to boost safety.
In the first phase, one unit will be set up in the Ljubljana area, presumably in the first months of this year.
A total of 15 patrol cars are to monitor the motorway network eventually.
STA, 14 January 2020 - In light of an expected rise in the number of Covid-19 hospitalisations, hospitals are taking the necessary steps to boost the number of Covid beds. Staff shortages, particularly a lack of intensive care staff, are the crux of the problem, Robert Carotta, the coordinator for Covid beds at the Health Ministry, said on Thursday.
Hospitalisation data show that there has not been any progress for a while, he told the government daily briefing.
"For practically the second month in a row we've been stuck on a plateau of between 1,200 and 1,300 hospitalisations."
The epidemic projections show that Slovenia will need around 1,500 Covid beds during the third wave, up by 10% on the maximum level of bed capacities in mid-December.
Carotta announced the total of beds would be increased according to the needs. He warned that the main problem was providing enough staff not just beds and equipment, particularly specialist staff to work in intensive care units.
"Not only is there not enough of them, but they are also tired with many on sick leave due to coronavirus infections."
Carotta added that a system of patient transfer to other hospitals that was set up in autumn was working fine with the Maribor dispatch centre playing a key role.
The situation in hospitals varies mostly according to epidemiological status in individual regions. Since mid-December, the Murska Sobota hospital in the north-east has been worst hit with 36% of its bed capacities used for Covid-19 patients.
The hospital had it worst already in autumn. In recent days, the number of hospitalisations has been on the rise again, the hospital's director Bojan Korošec said.
Moreover, the Covid-related mortality rate is most alarming in the Pomurje region - 269 Covid-19 patients per 100,000 residents died last year.
On the other hand, in the Izola and Valdoltra hospitals in the western Primorska region, which has been seeing one of the best epidemiological situations in the country, the numbers of Covid beds are near 10% of total capacities.
In the run-up to the third wave, efforts to lessen the burden on the Murska Sobota hospital began this week with its patients being transferred to the Izola and Slovenj Gradec hospitals.
The Nova Gorica hospital in the west is also struggling. Wednesday's rapid testing of staff and patients at its internal medicine departments, an emerging coronavirus hotspot, confirmed twelve new infections, the regional Civil Protection unit said today.
So far, 26 patients being treated at the departments have been infected. The hospital's Covid unit is currently recording peak figures or 61 patients, the hospital's medical director Dunja Savnik Winkler said. Moreover, more than 30 staff members have been infected so far.
In all the above-mentioned hospitals the share of Covid beds has increased compared to mid-December. Elsewhere, the situation has improved though, show data released by the ministry.
In the Jesenice hospital in the north, where Carotta is employed, the situation is currently the same as it was during the biggest strain on hospitals, kept under control due to help from UKC Ljubljana and the Golnik University Clinic of Respiratory and Allergic Diseases.
Carotta said that one of the future projects would be to ensure additional capacities for patients who have recovered from Covid-19 and suffer from lasting damage from the disease.
All the latest data on COVID and Slovenia
STA, 14 January 2020 - A ban on travel between municipalities has not reduced people's mobility, which makes its efficacy questionable, shows a study that analysed mobility and contact tracing during epidemic waves. Mobility is a major factor in the epidemic's development, researchers said, adding that the current situation was mostly a result of belated measures.
The study, conducted by the Institute for Biostatistics and Medical Informatics of the Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine, focused on mobility in the first and second epidemic waves to establish why the epidemiological situation was so strikingly different in the autumn compared to the spring.
Major changes in population mobility coincide with the timeline of adopting certain measures, such as restricting gatherings, declaring epidemic, closing schools, suspending public transportation and closing bars, restaurant and hotels, the study shows.
During both waves, movement in residential neighbourhoods increased, whereas there has been a downward trend regarding movement in workplaces or other venues.
The biggest drop was recorded in the spring when workplace mobility was halved and movement caused by other activities dropped by 60%, coinciding with the adoption of Covid measures.
In November, workplace mobility decreased by 30% and movement prompted by other errands by 50%. Such mobility was down also during summer months but it reached pre-Covid levels in September.
The institute drew up three scenarios of possible epidemic developments, taking into account various mobility levels from March through November and deeming neighbourhood mobility less key than other movements.
If Slovenians had been as mobile in early November as they were in the spring, there would have been up to 30% reduction in the death toll until early December.
The researchers also note that the second lockdown began too late since the theoretical possibility of a death toll that would be lower by more than 30% was not realisable any more due to the rapid coronavirus spread.
If the lockdown, which was imposed on 26 October, had already started in mid-September and would trigger the same response regarding mobility levels, the number of deaths could have been reduced up to 80%, meaning some 1,000 deaths fewer between March and December.
If mobility restrictions had been imposed at the start of October, the death toll could have still been reduced by 80%, however the measures would have to be stricter, at least as strict as during the first wave.
The institute also prepared a model of what the situation would have looked like if contact tracing and quarantine measures had been consistently effective throughout the epidemic.
Taking into account the actual timeline of imposing measures and their efficacy, the mortality rate would have then been reduced by 75%, the researchers said, noting that the figure was hypothetical as contact tracing is unlikely to be equally effective amid such high case numbers.
"The current epidemiological situation is thus mostly a result of belated and disproportionate measures in the autumn. Hence, the growing number of new cases reached such a level that the spread of the epidemic no longer allowed active contact tracing."
If contact tracing and quarantine regime had remained operational, 15%-20% reduction in mobility compared to pre-Covid levels would have been enough to contain the epidemic, the institute said.
"Oscillating between extreme measures and complete relaxations could be replaced by somewhat more moderate but constant contact restrictions and active contact tracing. The goal should be to come up with measures that reach an appropriate level of restrictions in a sustainable way."
STA, 14 January 2020 - The government has provisionally approved the release of overdue budget payments to the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) as required by the 7th economic stimulus package, the Government Communications Office (UKOM) said on Thursday.
The provisional release of funds was cleared based on a message by EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager which "indicates the possibility of a positive European Commission decision regarding the transfer of state aid for the STA" as the government awaits a final decision, UKOM said.
The government turned to the Commission to inquire whether public service payments to the STA may constitute illegal state aid after an amendment was adopted to the 7th economic stimulus act stipulating that overdue liabilities to the STA must be settled.
The Commission indicated in its public statements that the STA public service payment did not fall under its purview and deferred to the Slovenian authorities.
The STA had not received statutory payment for its public service for October and November, or payment under a separate contract for the provision of commercial services to the public administration for the two months.
Today, overdue payments for both the public service and for the commercial services were released.
The STA met the development with a relief, while making a renewed appeal to the government to provide financing in 2021 without making it dependent on any further conditions.
"Financing of the public service provided by the STA cannot be a mere temporary solution, it is an obligation on the part of the government under law," the STA management and staff said in a press release.
They noted that Commissioners Margrethe Vestager and Vera Jourova, in their letter to the STA yesterday, made it clear the Commission's assessment as to whether financing of the STA was a matter of illegal state aid is unnecessary. They also noted the special role of public media and that EU member states should refrain from attempts to put pressure on them.
As the STA supervisory board has adopted the agency's business plan for 2021 and has submitted it to the government, the legal basis for the funding of the public service in this year has been met.
"The STA expects that the government will respect legislation and will fulfil its obligations, as the STA has been for almost 30 years fulfilling its obligation of keeping the public informed," the release from the STA reads.
The independence of the national press agency is guaranteed by the STA act, implemented in 2011 to regulate the agency's status in accordance with modern standards.
Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said on Twitter that "we have managed to resolve the current complication regarding the financing of the STA, which will receive funding for the performance of public service.
"However, the responsibility of everyone involved is to sort out the contractual relationship between the STA and the UKOM in avoidance of such problems recurring."
EANA, the European Alliance of News Agencies, which in December described the suspension of financing as a form of pressure on the agency, said this was "good news for our member".
The release of funds was also welcomed by the Slovenian Journalists' Association (DNS) and the Trade Union of Slovenian Journalists, which urged UKOM to also tackle the financing of the STA public service in 2021.
The DNS called the development a "small, but important step following a fast European reaction".
Regarding that the approval of funds was merely provisional, the trade union said in a Facebook post that the European Commission had already given its answer regarding the issue of state aid.
Quoting European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager and Commissioner for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova, the union said an additional assessment by the Commission was not necessary if the annual aid amount was not higher than EUR 15 million, while the STA receives about EUR 2 million annually from the state to perform public service.
STA, 13 January 2020 - Some hundred protesters gathered in Republic Square in front of the National Assembly building on Wednesday to air their disagreements with Covid restrictions, including mask-wearing, and vaccine recommendations. A relatively heavy police presence was in force for the protest, which was peaceful and ended in about two hours.
The police warned the demonstrators that public gatherings were not permitted during the epidemic as a helicopter circled the rally. A perimeter fence was also erected around the parliament building.
The protesters were ID-ed and urged to disperse, but they did not comply with the requests, expressing their disagreement by whistling at police officers.
The protest was not held by organisers of Friday anti-government protests which left an indelible mark in 2020 but were suspended due to the second epidemic wave and are now only evoked by occasional protest actions that heed prevention measures.
The opposition parties have also distanced themselves from today's demonstration, which was announced on social media by the civil initiative Maske Dol (Down with Masks) with its initiator Anica Bidar urging participants to protest peacefully.
Addressing them in Republic Square, she said that "corrupt politics that restricts all the freedom" should be stopped. "We want to be free, healthy, so we spread peace, love and health," she added, announcing a repeat protest.
Another person who encouraged people to attend the protest and was present there was Anis Ličina, who is allegedly one of the main initiators of the violent 5 November demonstrations.
Today's protest saw a number of Slovenian flags as well as banners warning about what the protesters see as dangers of Covid-19 vaccination. Slovenia's anthem was also sung.
The police said ahead of the protest that they were not encroaching on people's rights to assembly and freedom of expression, but given the extreme situation it was key to protect public health and comply with Covid rules.
STA, 14 January 2020 - The police have so far established more than 200 violations of the Covid rules banning public gatherings that were processed at Wednesday's protest by anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers. Data gathered so far show no one was hurt during the demonstration, the Ljubljana Police Department said in a press release on Thursday.
Coercive measures or the use of force by the police were applied against one person due to failure to comply with police orders.
So far, the police have established 118 violations of the public assembly act, 96 violations of the temporary Covid rules banning assemblies, one violation of the public order act and six violations of the ID act.
Objects that are not permitted at rallies were confiscated in six cases. Procedures have been launched against three persons - the protest's organisers.
The rally, which saw initially some 20 protesters gathering in Republic Square in front of the parliament building around 2pm, was also banned by an administrative decision, the police noted, adding they would continue with their investigation.
Altogether, the demonstration numbered some 100 protesters who oppose Covid restrictions. A relatively heavy police presence was in force for the protest, which was peaceful and ended in about two hours. Police officers IDed the demonstrators as a helicopter circled the rally.
The protest was not held by organisers of Friday anti-government protests, but was announced on social media by the civil initiative Maske Dol (Down with Masks) with its initiator Anica Bidar urging participants to protest peacefully.
Another person who encouraged people to attend the protest and was present there was Anis Ličina, who is allegedly one of the main initiators of the violent 5 November demonstrations.
This summary is provided by the STA:
Daily rise in coronavirus down nearly 40% from week ago
LJUBLJANA - Slovenia logged 2,092 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, down nearly 40% on the record daily figure a week ago. A total of 17 patients died, the latest government data show. The number of patients in hospital increased by 42 from the previous day to 1,244, of which 206 in intensive care. Slovenia has so far reported nearly 143,700 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 3,070 deaths. Slovenia's health organisations, faculties of medicine and the National Medical Ethics Committee recommend residents get vaccinated against Covid-19 if there are no health reasons to avoid vaccination.
Coronavirus restrictions extended until 22 January
BRDO PRI KRANJU - The vast majority of existing coronavirus restrictions will be extended until 22 January, the government decided as it conducted its weekly review of the measures on Wednesday. The only major change is an extension of the formal state of the epidemic by 60 days. There are very few changes compared to existing restrictions, most of them having to do with the crossing of borders.
Furlough scheme will be extended, Janša says
LJUBLJANA - The furlough scheme, a measure aimed at preventing lay-offs due to the Covid-19 epidemic, which was to expire at the end of the month, will be extended with the eighth stimulus package at least until the end of April, Prime Minister Janez Janša tweeted before today's cabinet session dedicated to the epidemiological situation. The measure was one of the first introduced to help companies and has been in force since the first day of the first wave of the epidemic in the spring.
Janša calls for faster vaccination within EU
LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša called for speeding up vaccination as he attended an informal video conference of EU health ministers on Covid-19 vaccination in his capacity as health minister. He also proposed increasing capacities for vaccine production within the EU. Based on the experience so far, future measures must be planned to make sure "we will be better prepared in the future", Janša stressed.
EU commissioners say state aid to STA may be provided without prior notification
LJUBLJANA - Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner for competition, and Vera Jourova, the Commission vice-president for values and transparency, stressed that the state may support news agencies as entities performing a service of general economic interest under EU state aid rules if they so wish, and without prior notification, as they responded to an STA letter on the suspension of the agency's financing. In their letter they say "it is crucial for democracy and for our common EU values that media should be able to work freely and independently everywhere in the European Union".
Committee endorses opposition amendments to STA act
LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Culture Committee voted 10:8 in favour of amendments to the act governing the STA that would require the STA English Service to report on the work of NGO as a legal requirement, amidst warnings that the STA has still not received overdue payment from the government for the performance of public service. The Left tabled an identical bill and resubmitted it after it was voted down in October.
Janša announces police pay reform
LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša announced that the "operative part" of the police force would be extracted from the single public sector pay system to make pay ratios fairer. Janša, responding on Twitter yesterday to the controversy following the release of pay data of almost 8,700 Interior Ministry employees, including police, said the problem of police pay was not its being public or not but rather pay ratios in the force. Public sector trade union representatives expressed disagreement and called for social dialogue.
Public sector unions bring class suit over risk bonuses
LJUBLJANA - The KSJS association of public sector trade unions, acting through a police union, has brought a collective labour dispute to demand all public employees who have worked in their workplace during the coronavirus epidemic get a bonus amounting to 65% of hourly pay for risk working conditions for all the hours put in during the formal duration of the epidemic. The dispute was brought before the Labour and Social Court based on the collective bargaining agreement.
Počivalšek discusses space technology at European Space Conference
LJUBLJANA - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek took part in the virtual European Space Conference to present the opportunities for Slovenian science and economy brought by the country's participation in the European Space Agency. He sees this sector as an opportunity for successful recovery after the coronavirus crisis. At the conference hosted by Business Bridge Europe, the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Space Agency and the European Investment Bank, the speakers pointed that space technology would be given special attention and additional funds in the coming years.
Slovenia slapped with EUR 750,000 fine over delay with MIFID II
LJUBLJANA - The EU Court of Justice ordered Slovenia to pay a EUR 750,000 fine for failing to timely transpose into national legislation the 2016 changes to the EU directive on markets in financial instruments or failing to notify the European Commission about this. The European Commission sued Slovenia over the matter in 2018, the year when the relevant changes to the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MIFID) entered into force.
More funds raised for quake-hit Croatia
LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian chapter of Caritas continues to raise funds for earthquake-stricken Croatia and has so far transferred EUR 220,000 to its Croatian counterpart to enable the purchase of more than 30 new housing containers for families in the Petrinja area. The Slovenian Beekeeping Association has meanwhile raised EUR 23,000 for the fellow organisation in Croatia, with the funds contributed by its members, beekeeping companies and business partners.
Anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers protest over Covid restrictions
LJUBLJANA - Some hundred protesters gathered in Republic Square in front of the National Assembly building to air their disagreements with Covid restrictions, including mask-wearing, and vaccine recommendations. A relatively heavy police presence was in force for the protest, which was peaceful and ended in about two hours.
Arms manufacturer Arex expanding to Brazil
ŠENTJERNEJ - The Šentjernej-based military gear and weapons producer Arex, owned by the Czech private fund RSBC, is expanding to Brazil where it will set up its first subsidiary abroad. The director and former owner of Arex Ivan Kralj, who said the company operated at a profit last year, told the STA that in 2021 a plant to manufacture handguns would be launched some 150 kilometres away from Brazil's capital in a joint venture with Brazil based on a defence agreement signed between the two countries.
Fires damage Riko and Treves production premises
TREBNJE/RIBNICA - The premises of the companies Treves in the village of Bič near Trebnje (E) and of Riko Hiše in Ribnica (SE) went ablaze over the night. No person was reported injured in either of the incidents but the damage at Treves appears to be substantial. The blaze engulfed the entire building of Treves, the French-owned manufacturer of interior equipment for cars whose clients include Revoz, Magna, Jaguar and Fiat and which numbers around 100 employees.
Teen killed by train amid photo session
MARIBOR - An underage girl was killed after she was hit by a passenger train in Maribor on Tuesday with preliminary police inquiries indicating she and her friend had been taking photos on the tracks. While the investigation is ongoing, a release from the Maribor Police Department said foul play and suicide had been ruled out. The online edition of Večer quotes well placed sources as saying the death of the 14-year old might have been the consequence of a social network challenge.
Slovenia looking to set new milestone at handball worlds
LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian men's handball team will open its world championship campaign in Egypt on Thursday against South Korea in what is seen as an opportunity for Slovenia to earn a third medal at major tournaments. They are among the favourites. "If everything falls into place and the players' preparedness is at the highest level, then we can reach very high," head coach Ljubomir Vranješ said.
If you're learning Slovenian then you can find all our dual texts here
STA, 13 January 2020 - The vast majority of existing coronavirus restrictions will be extended until 22 January, the government decided as it conducted its weekly review of the measures on Wednesday. The only major change is an extension of the formal state of the epidemic by 60 days.
There are very few changes compared to existing restrictions, most of them having to do with the crossing of borders.
Most notably, as of 16 January there is a waiver of quarantine requirement for owners of land on both sides of the border who cross the border to tend to their property.
Passengers crossing into Slovenia must still produce a negative coronavirus test unless they fall within one of the exemptions, and now the validity of the result of rapid antigen tests has been reduced to 24 hours. The results of PCR tests can still be up to 48 hours old.
On the other hand, those who want to cut their quarantine short can now do so by producing a negative rapid antigen test.
The red list of countries from which passengers must quarantine has been extended with the addition of Ireland, which has seen a surge in new cases in recent days.
Most businesses must remain closed, but dry cleaners have now been added to the exemptions. The change takes effect on 16 January.
The formal state of the epidemic will be extended by sixty days from 17 January. The state of epidemic mostly allows for greater involvement of civil protection services in the coronavirus relief effort.
STA, 13 January 2020 - Slovenia logged 2,092 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, down nearly 40% on the record daily figure a week ago. A total of 17 patients died, the latest government data show.
This comes from 6,193 PCR tests, of which 28.5% were positive, and 5,750 rapid antigen tests, where the positivity rate was 5.7%.
While infections and cases were down, the number of patients in hospital increased substantially.
There were 1,244 persons in hospital, up 42 over the day before, of which 206 in intensive care, 14 more than the day before.
Slovenia has so far reported nearly 143,700 confirmed cases of coronavirus, corresponding to over 7% of the entire population.
The National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) estimates there are currently almost 24,000 active cases in the country.
A total of 3,070 persons with Covid-19 have died.
Slovenia had a 14-day incidence of 1,130 cases per 100,000 population yesterday, and an average of 1,667 daily cases over the past seven days, according to NIJZ data.
More data on Slovenia and coronavirus
STA, 11 January 2020 - The port operator Luka Koper generated EUR 206 million in net sales revenue in 2020, which is 8% less than in 2019. Cargo transshipment was down by 14% to 19.5 million tonnes, shows the company's preliminary and unaudited report, published on Monday.
"The reason for revenue dropping at a smaller rate than transshipment is better operations in additional services, filling and emptying of containers and in higher revenue from storage charge in certain segments," the company said.
The operator of Slovenia's sole maritime port in Koper added that it had felt the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but that transshipment of containers as a strategic group of goods had nevertheless remained stable.
Transshipment of general cargo was down by 26% to 954,807 tonnes, of containers by 2% to 9.27 million tonnes, of cars by 10% to 998,201 tonnes, of liquid cargo by 23% to 3.32 million tonnes and of bulk cargo by 25% to 19.52 million tonnes.
A total of 945,007 container units were transshipped in Koper last year, which is 1% less than in 2019, and the number of transshipped cars dropped by 13% to 617,157.
The impact of the pandemic is direct when it comes to liquid cargo, as the sales of petroleum products dropped, in particular in the aviation industry, the company said.
It added that the drop in car production had affected the entire supply chain, and that it showed in transshipment of general cargo, including steel products, and in the terminal for bulk cargo, where raw material for steel industry is transshipped.
A part of the decline in transshipment of bulk cargo is attributed to the general drop in the use of thermal coal as a consequence of the increasing taxes on greenhouse gas emissions.
In car transshipment, a positive trend was recorded in the second half of 2020 on the account of exports of cars to the Far East, which is why the drop was much smaller than in other comparable European ports, Luka Koper said.
STA, 12 January 2020 - The Slovenian part of the Adriatic Sea has not been spared from the impact of climate change in recent decades, with the worst consequences including bleaching and die-off of corals, as well as the arrival of non-native species due to tropicalisation. Seaside wetlands are also expected to gradually disappear due to the rising sea level.
Presenting the situation at Tuesday's virtual lecture, marine biologist Lovrenc Lipej said that the consequences of climate change were already causing concrete problems in the Slovenian territorial waters.
Lipej, who works in the Marine Biology Station in Piran, pointed to the damage done to the cushion coral, a stony coral that forms the only true coral reefs in the Mediterranean Sea.
It is an endangered species that may be found in the Strunjan nature reserve, and is important due to its role of bio-architect, as it provides housing to various marine organisms, thus contributing to biodiversity.
This coral is sensitive to high temperatures, which may cause bleaching. This is a recoverable state, but in the worst-case scenario it causes die-offs.
Both occurrences have already been observed in Slovenia, where seawater temperature is not as problematic as the fact that relatively high water temperatures (up to 26 degrees Celsius) persist late into the autumn, Lipej noted.
What is more, due to tropicalisation, non-native species are expanding towards the north of the Adriatic Sea. A number of such species have been observed in the Slovenian sea in recent years, including the eyespot puffer and the bluefish.
In addition to environmental damage, these species may also cause economic damage, as the bluefish preys on the mullets and other commercial fish species, he added.
Due to the rising sea level, it is expected that certain wetlands along the Slovenian coast will become submerged, including the Sečovlje Saltworks and the Škocjanski Zatok nature reserve.
Biodiversity is expected to be affected there as the areas serve as nesting grounds for certain bird species.
According to Lipej, there are also issues that experts cannot attribute to climate change with certainty, such as the vanishing of seagrass beds and meadows.
He added that the Marine Biology Station was looking for possible solutions, such as repopulation of seagrass beds, growing young corals in laboratories, precise monitoring and elimination of non-native species and measures for balanced exchange of fresh and sea water in lagoons.