22 Jan 2021, 09:45 AM

STA, 22 January 2021 - Starting on Friday citizens of Slovenia and other EU and Schengen countries will be able to enter the country without quarantining if they are visiting to perform maintenance work on private property, to provide care or aid or to visit their child.

The government decided to expand the list of quarantine exceptions for travellers from red-listed countries Wednesday evening.

The list of exceptions for EU and Schengen citizens was expanded to allow quarantine-free entry to those providing care or aid to family members or other persons who need help, parents taking care of or visiting their children, those doing maintenance work on private property they own, lease or use in another country, as well as those dealing with threats to health, life or property. They must return no later than 12 hours after leaving Slovenia.

Since last week, owners of land near the border have been able to enter the country without having to quarantine. They must return immediately after completing their work.

All EU and Schengen countries are on Slovenia's red list, which means that persons travelling from there must self-isolate unless they provide a negative test result no older than 24 hours in the case of a rapid antigen test and no older than 48 hours in the case of a PCR test.

The only parts of the EU not on Slovenia's red list are the South-Aegean Islands, Crete, the Ionian Islands and the Greek region of Epirus. The red list also does not contain Norway, with the exception of the administrative units of Oslo, Rogaland, Trondelag and Viken.

The latest data on coronavirus and Slovenia

21 Jan 2021, 13:58 PM

STA, 21 January 2021 - Ski resorts in nine regions that have been moved to the red tier of coronavirus restrictions – Central Slovenia, Pomurska, Savinjska, Podravska, Gorenjska, Obalno-Kraška, Koroška, Zasavska and Primorsko-Notranjska – will enter the red tier will be allowed to reopen on Saturday. With few exceptions, skiers will have to produce a negative test result to hit the slopes and strict public health rules will have to be observed.

Under a decree adopted by the government last night, most ski resorts in the country will be able to reopen since the vast majority of Slovenia's ski resorts are in the nine regions that have been moved to the red tier.

All skiers except children under 12 and professional athletes, their coaches and their staff will have to produce negative tests no older than 24 hours. "This is necessary if we want the present trends to continue," according to Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec.

Ski resort managers may set up testing on site or simply require skiers to produce negative a test performed in Slovenia. If the situation continues to improve, the test requirement may be waived in the future.

Major skiing centres, including Pohorje, Rogla and Kope, will have testing available on-site. The Vogel ski resort will organise testing in Bohinjska Bistrica.

"I'm glad we are reopening ski lifts and that ski resorts can start operating in an organised fashion," the minister said.

Ski lift operators too said they were happy to be able to welcome visitors again.

Marprom, the company operating the Pohorje centre, said virtually all ski lifts and gondolas would operate on Saturday, so skiing will be possible all the way to the valley. Free coronavirus testing will be available on site between 8am and noon.

In gondolas, surgical masks will be required and only two skiers who are not from the same household will be able to ride together. Ski lifts will be occupied at half capacity.

Skiers are also urged to buy tickets online or at Petrol stations to avoid queuing at the site.

At Kope, all ski lifts will operate and testing will be available between 7am and 10am.

Aleksandra Fiorelli from the company operating ski lifts at Vogel told the STA all ski slopes would be ready by Saturday although she does not expect many skiers given the gloomy weather forecast.

She said the resort would adhere to all safety measures to help improve the epidemiological situation. "I hope we'll make it, so we can stay open until the end of the season," she said, noting that the Vogel resort had been open for just 14 days this season.

Slovenian ski resorts were briefly open in mid-December, but some decided to not do so since the ban on intra-municipal travel meant only locals could ski.

Skiing was again banned just before Christmas before resuming for a week after New Year's.

Luka Vrančič from the Krvavec resort said he was sorry that skiers missed out on truly ideal winter conditions in the last few weeks. The resort will open on Saturday but because of the weather not all ski lifts will be operational.

12 Jan 2021, 14:24 PM

STA, 12 January 2020 - The Alpine resort of Kranjska Gora has seen its official population double during the epidemic as over 2,000 have registered temporary residence, which allows them to invoke one of the exceptions to the ban on crossing municipal borders. While this is legal, local authorities say rules are being bent.

Accommodation capacities are "surprisingly full" and there are a lot of people who are not locals, said Gregor Jarkovič, the head of a municipal inspection service covering Kranjska Gora and two neighbouring municipalities.

The local authorities have discovered that accommodation typically reserved for tourists is being leased out to businesses, which are not covered by the Covid-19 rules that have shut down hotels and other tourism accommodation.

According to Jarkovič, it is very hard for inspectors to verify whether such conduct constitutes an infringement of the rules, which means they cannot sanction potential violators.

"The fact is that we all know what is recommended and what is not. We know it is necessary to refrain from contacts and keep a distance. Any such bending of rules does not contribute to an improvement of the epidemiological situation," he said.

Blaž Veber, the director of Kranjska Gora Tourism, noted that the current rules allowed property owners to lease out to business clients, but since this is poorly defined, it is very difficult to check how such leases are implemented in practice.

"We depend on tourism and place all of our hopes in compliance with the measures and stemming this wave. It seems that this is not the way to achieve that," he said.

Kranjska Gora has near perfect snow conditions and roughly a meter of snow at the moment. While the ski lifts are shut down, social media posts show hundreds hitting the slopes to go sledding at the weekend.

According to current Covid-19 restrictions, outdoor recreation is allowed within the statistical region of residence and in observance of general precautions, but those who have temporary residence in another statistical region may go there as well.

04 Jan 2021, 09:30 AM

STA, 3 January 2020 - At 12.08pm on Sunday the first Kočevje-bound passenger train since 1971 departed from the Ljubljana Rail Terminal as passenger service on the route resumed, bringing much needed mass transit to south Slovenia.

One of the first passengers on the first train was Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec, who said the resumption of service would alleviate road congestion, improve traffic safety and contribute to a cleaner environment.

"I think that after 50 years, this is one of the most important days for Ribnica, Kočevje and these places... The economy and tourism of the Ribnica-Kočevje region will be able to develop faster, people will be more mobile," Vrtovec said.

Ten trains per day will run between Ljubljana and Kočevje on workdays and eleven in the opposite direction. The journey will last between an hour and ten minutes to an hour and 25 minutes.

The Ljubljana-Kočevje rail was conceived in 1887 and construction started in 1892. The railway The railway was officially opened on 27 September 1893.

The development boosted the exports of brown coal and wood from the Kočevje and Ribnica region. In its heyday, up to 170,000 tonnes of coal and more than 130,000 tonnes of wood was transported per year.

Passenger trains were introduced simultaneously with freight transport. As of 1968, passenger trains only ran to Velike Lašče and after 1970 the line was completely abandoned and trains ran only to Grosuplje.

The track was no longer suitable for heavier modern trains and speeds were capped at 50 km/h. There were 81 level crossings. Cargo transport continued but was greatly scaled down.

The first phase of the overhaul started in 2008 and the final phase, the installation of signalling and telecommunications equipment, wrapped up at the end of last year.

Infrastructure Ministry data show the entire project cost in excess of EUR 100 million. Minister Vrtovec is convinced the investment was worth it.

01 Jan 2021, 12:47 PM

STA, 31 December 2020 - Rapid coronavirus testing will be available on five border crossings with Croatia and the Ljubljana airport from 2 January under a government decree adopted on Thursday that also expands the list of quarantine exemptions.

The general rule that passengers from red-listed countries must quarantine unless they produce a negative PCR test no older than 48 hours remains unchanged.

However, at the border crossings Obrežje, Gruškovje, Jelšane, Metlika, Središče ob Dravi and the Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airpot, passengers will be able to take rapid antigen tests and will not have to quarantine if the result is negative.

Third-country nationals who test positive or refuse to get tested will be rejected entry if they are on a non-urgent journey. Others who test positive or do not wish to get tested will have to quarantine.

There will also be five new exemptions to the negative test or quarantine requirement in addition to seven already in place: passengers who have scheduled a health service in Slovenia and plan to return to their country immediately; passengers attending to urgent family matters who return within 12 hours after crossing the border; children under 13 accompanied by adults who are not required to quarantine; athletes and sports staff provided they take a rapid test; and members of rescue services or police when they return within 48 hours after leaving the country.

The red list of countries remains the same. It includes 33 EU or Schengen zone countries, including all of Slovenia's neighbours, and 120 third countries.

24 Dec 2020, 12:48 PM

STA, 24 December 2020 - The government has shortened the list of exemptions allowing people from red-listed countries to enter Slovenia without having to quarantine or produce a negative PCR coronavirus test. Moreover, in terms of classification, the green and orange lists will have been scrapped on Friday, as entry from low-risk countries is considered safe.

See the list of red countries here, as of 19 December 2020

The Government Communication Office (UKOM) said in a press release Wednesday evening that the government has shrunk the list of exemptions down to seven. The changes will take effect on Friday.

Daily commuters who work in an EU or Schengen country will still be able to cross the border without having to quarantine or produce a negative test if they return to Slovenia within 14 hours.

People working in transport and logistics are also exempt from the quarantine rule, with hauliers obligated to pass through the country within eight hours.

Persons passing through the country may also enter without quarantine or a negative test, but must exit the country again in a maximum of six hours.

Foreign security officers (police or justice department officers) may also enter the country without restrictions but must leave immediately after completing their official business.

An exemption is also in place for persons transported into the country by paramedics and the accompanying staff.

Holders of diplomatic passports may also enter the country without restrictions.

The government has scrapped exemptions applying to those having to cross the border due to education, for urgent business reasons, for a scheduled medical procedure, owners of land across the border, those with close family members across the border and for access to services which are closer to one's home across the border than within Slovenia.

The government also simplified the classification of countries by risk, abolishing the green and orange lists of low-risk countries. This means that entry from countries or administrative units not listed as red is unrestricted.

The government updated the red list, which continues to include all EU member states, including all four of Slovenia's neighbouring countries.

The only parts of the EU not on the list are individual administrative units: Finnish Uusimaa, the Subcarpathian region in Poland, Madeira in Portugal, France's Brittany and Corsica, the Greek island of Crete and islands of the South Aegean.

While a majority of Norway is not on the red list, travel is restricted from the administrative units of Oslo and Viken.

The red list also includes virtually all non-EU members in Slovenia's proximity, including Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia.

Canada, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the US are also on the red list, UKOM said.

23 Dec 2020, 20:03 PM

STA, 23 December 2020 - Public transportation will continue to run during the festive season until the end of the year, even if it was initially relaxed only for the period between 15 and 23 December.

Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec said on Wednesday that trains and buses would run until further notice, but each vehicle could be filled only up to half capacity.

He reiterated the call to observe all precautionary measures, including wearing face masks and keeping safety distance.

"Let's stick to the measures so that public transportation can remain open."

The government also decided on Wednesday evening that ski gondolas, which are classified as public transport in Slovenia, will begin operating on 1 January, under the condition that the operator organises fast antigen testing.

They will be open to anybody who produces a negative Covid-19 test performed in Slovenia and no older than 24 hours, and to children up to the age of 12 accompanied by their parents.

Other services that were relaxed until today will no longer be available as of tomorrow, such as hair salons, flower shops, car washes and dry cleaners.

In few regions with the best epidemiological situation, footwear, apparel and sports equipment shops as well as car dealerships have also been open until today.

In these regions, it has also been permitted to cross municipal boundaries with an activated exposure notification app. However, the government decided late on Wednesday to remove as of 25 December the use of the app from the list of exemptions that allowed movement across municipal borders.

19 Dec 2020, 08:38 AM

STA, 18 December 2020 - The European Capitals of Culture Expert Panel has recommended the Slovenian border city of Nova Gorica to be the European Capital of Culture 2025 along with Germany's Chemnitz. Nova Gorica has been bidding for the title together with Gorizia on the Italian side of the border with the slogan Go! Borderless.

Announcing the decision, Cristina Farinha, the panel's chairperson, noted how the Covid-19 pandemic showed the importance of culture in people's lives, in particular during the lockdown.

However, she also noted that the culture sector has been one of the hardest hit in the crisis, offering the European Capital of Culture as a major opportunity to stimulate the sector.

Farinha said all four shortlisted Slovenian bids (Nova Gorica competed with Ljubljana, Ptuj and Piran) addressed topical and relevant European topics such as solidarity, borders, climate change and transformations.

Nova Gorica expressed its gratitude for being recommended for the title, with the organizers pledging their readiness and commitment to meet all their promises.

They believe they have won because the bid has grown out of long-running lively cooperation between the two cities and within the cross-border region, and because the bid has had undivided political support from both cities, the Northern Primorska region and the Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia.

The cities' residents and officials awaited the announcement enthusiastically in Europe Square connecting the two cities, which also hosted the main ceremony on Slovenia's joining the EU in 2004.

Nova Gorica Mayor Klemen Miklavič welcomed the news by saying it gave the two cities "as a single urban area" and the "hub of the cross-border region" an "opportunity to become an important spot in the EU".

He said the culture capital status would be an opportunity not only for cultural creativity and urbanistic development of the two cities but would also boost business, tourism and jobs.

"I dedicate this victory to the people of this unique territory who suffered so much but succeeded in creating a better future for the young," Gorizia Mayor Rodolfo Ziberna said.

He expects the title would allow them to attract new human and financial resources for economic development and jobs with the help of cultural, urbanistic and business initiatives.

Nova Gorica is planning more than 600 cultural events and more than 60 projects for 2025 bringing together over 250 partners from Slovenia and 34 other countries.

Congratulating the city, Slovenian Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti said he was very happy about the pick, being that it is a joint bid by the two cities.

He noted that Nova Gorica was also in the spotlight when Slovenia joined the EU, describing the bid as a commitment on a symbolic level for Nova Gorica to find its place on Europe's map together with Gorizia as a successful, culturally-aware city.

Maribor was Slovenia's first city to host the European Capital of Culture, in 2012.

Culture Ministry State Secretary Ignacija Fridl Jarc noted the Maribor 2012 European Capital of Culture evaluation report showed the events related to the title attracted almost 4.5 million visitors and viewers.

She said the experiences of past European Capitals of Culture showed the designation's great potential and positive effects for the bidding cities, including those not chosen for the title.

16 Dec 2020, 12:54 PM

STA, 15 December 2020 - The Ljubljana City Council has adopted a new strategy for the development of tourism in 2021-2027. The main goals include increasing off-peak season visits and average spending, and extending the average stay. The strategy acknowledges the post-coronavirus tourism recovery will take time.

The Slovenian capital seeks to increase the number of tourist nights by 14%, with the average spending per tourist to rise from EUR 101 to EUR 140 and average duration of stay to increase from 2.5 to 3 nights.

Two of the cornerstones of the city's tourism remain the same: meetings and short city breaks. The third pillar will be gastronomy, which the city sees as a significant development opportunity.

Overall, the success of the strategy will hinge on increasing visitor numbers between November and March.

One of the events designed to entice tourists in the off-peak season is a new Ljubljana Love Festival in February with a series of weekend events such as exhibitions, concerts and dance festivals.

November Gourmet, which would tie the city's gastronomy with local customs, music and dance, would revolve around St. Martin's Day, the traditional Slovenian celebration of must turning into wine.

The strategy was confirmed by the City Council at Monday's session.

15 Dec 2020, 14:56 PM

STA, 15 December 2020 - Another 1,524 people tested positive for coronavirus in Slovenia on Monday and a further 44 Covid-19 patients lost their lives as the number of hospitalised patients dropped somewhat, government data show.

Of the 5,634 tests performed yesterday, 27.05% returned positive results, meaning the positivity rate was slightly up again after dropping to 25.67% from over 31% the day before.

"Even though the share of positive tests remains high, the number of newly confirmed infections over the past three days compared with the figures a week ago is falling after all," Jelko Kacin, the government Covid-19 spokesman, said.

The number of new cases confirmed yesterday was down 103 from a week ago, as 49 fewer infections were confirmed on Sunday than a week ago and even 200 fewer on Saturday than a week ago, said Kacin.

The number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 dropped by 36 to 1,284 after 127 were discharged home and 115 were newly admitted, and the number of those treated in intensive care units fell by four to 204.

The latest figures take the total number of infections confirmed so far to over 98,000. The death toll has increased to 2,151.

The seven-day average of new cases is 1,496, and the 14-day incidence per 100,000 residents is 984, government data show.

Voluntary mass testing to begin in Ljubljana next week

STA, 15 December 2020 - Health Minister Tomaž Gantar has announced that voluntary mass testing for coronavirus could start in Ljubljana as early as next week prior to Christmas holidays, with testing to be made available more widely after New Year's.

"We'll start performing testing as a trial next week in the Ljubljana area; testing will be voluntary, with only health insurance card being required," Gantar said.

Announcing the plan at the daily coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, Gantar said in Ljubljana testing could be performed as early as between 21 and 24 December.

He said about 60 such rapid tests could be taken per hour and testing would be performed for about nine to ten hours a day.

Later, when 100 mobile testing units are available, mass voluntary testing will also be available elsewhere in the country.

The ministry last week issued a public call for mobile unit teams, receiving bids from 30 providers for 100 mobile testing units on the ground.

Although the first call for rapid antigen tests was unsuccessful with a repeat call expiring today, the minister expects 30,000 such tests to be available on 21 December and as many more on 28 December.

After the New Year the priority for testing will be teachers with the priority measure after the New Year being to allow schools to reopen on 4 January or a week later.

14 Dec 2020, 14:12 PM

STA, 14 December 2020 - Voters in Rogaška Slatina have confirmed plans by the local government to erect the tallest observation tower in Slovenia. At a cost of over two million euro, the 106-metre tower is designed to become one of the landmarks in a community best known for spa tourism.

Some 56% of voters endorsed the plan on a turnout of over 40% at a referendum Sunday called by opponents of the plan, who objected to the cost as well as the placement of the tower at the bottom of the valley and the perceived cost-to-benefit ratio.

The initiator of the referendum, local resident Eva Žgajner, said that despite the outcome, the local government should "make the project acceptable for everyone, which means changing the location of the tower".

rogaska slatina tower 01.jpg

Mayor Branko Kidrič said he was glad people recognised that building the tallest tower in the country was important for the development of the municipality and the knock-on effects it will bring.

The municipality has said the tower, called Crystal to evoke the rich glassmaking heritage of the region, would drive tourism figures. It thinks it will result in EUR 300,000 in additional local government revenue per year.

The project has been bitterly contested from the start and the referendum was held despite the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) issuing a negative opinion due to the coronavirus epidemic. The government opined the referendum could be held as long as all public health guidelines are followed.

Slovenia has seen a frenzy of tower construction in recent years after the success of the Vinarium Tower in Lendava, which has attracted tens of thousands of tourists to the region.

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