COVID-19 & Slovenia, 22 March: Second Death, Slovenes Back from Paris

By , 22 Mar 2020, 19:42 PM Politics
COVID-19 & Slovenia, 22 March: Second Death, Slovenes Back from Paris © Aleksander Sandi

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Second Covid-19 patient dies in Slovenia

PM drawing links between epidemic and independence war

Stranded Slovenians returning home from Paris

Second Covid-19 patient dies in Slovenia

STA, 22 March 2020 - A second coronavirus patient in Slovenia has died, Health Minister Tomaž Gantar announced on Sunday with unofficial information available to the STA indicating the victim was an elderly woman from the Metlika nursing home with several underlying conditions with the infection not seen as the cause of death.

Gantar told reporters that both patients who had died were in their 90s and had underlying conditions.

"It's hard to say at the moment that anyone has died only because of being infected with Covid-19. Both persons to have died in Slovenia so far were around 90 years old and had other accompanying illnesses," said Gantar.

This would be a second fatality of the Metlika outbreak, which erupted after a doctor at the community health centre there tested positive at the beginning of March. It had been reported that he had also seen patients at the nursing home. Later several residents and staff tested positive.

Prime Minister Janez Janša paid a visit to the Metlika nursing home today to get acquainted with the situation first hand and thank those responsible for their response and cooperation.

Quoted by the Government Communication Office, Janša said the government was doing everything in its power to curb the epidemic and to provide enough protective equipment to health institutions, nursing homes and other critical services.

The nursing home director Iva Lozar said that a pair of Health Ministry representatives were volunteering at the home, with more volunteers and nurses due to arrive tomorrow to alleviate the burden on the staff.

Slovenia recorded 414 confirmed coronavirus cases until 2pm today, an increase of 31 over the past 24 hours. A total of 13,098 tests had been taken with Gantar noting that Slovenia was among the countries with the highest testing rates.

Minister Gantar said that 55 Covid-19 patients were being treated at hospitals, one fewer than on Saturday. Ten of the patients are in intensive treatment units, one more than on Saturday.

He highlighted that securing enough personal protective equipment was key at the moment, with the Economy Ministry being in charge of purchasing the supplies and the Health Ministry coordinating the allocation.

Another top priority was protecting at risk groups, such as the elderly, people with chronic diseases and those with a weakened immune system.

Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj announced today that mobile medical teams would be conducting coronavirus testing at nursing homes to make it easier for the residents as well as to reduce the workload of certain emergency services.

Asked about the planned crisis bonus for pensioners and other vulnerable groups, he said that any such measure would be fair in addressing the needs of those people.

The Pensioners' Association Union called on the government today to clearly specify who would be entitled to the bonus, for how long and what would be its actual impact.

Apart from the Metlika nursing home, another coronavirus hotspot in Slovenia is a nursing home at Šmarje pri Jelšah near Celje in eastern Slovenia, the second biggest outbreak in the country, only preceded by the capital.

A total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at the nursing home there is 18 so far, four more compared to Saturday.

Overall, Šmarje pri Jelšah has 45 confirmed cases, four more than the day before. The outbreak erupted after a primary school teacher tested positive for the virus in mid March. Both she and the doctor from Metlika reportedly got infected while on holidays in northern Italy.

Janša visited Šmarje pri Jelšah yesterday.

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PM drawing links between epidemic and independence war

STA, 22 March 2020 - Ten days since Slovenia declared a coronavirus epidemic, Prime Minister Janez Janša urged the country to persevere in these challenging times as well as illustrated the severity and significance of the situation by drawing parallels between the current crisis and Slovenia's independence war.

"Today Europe looks as it did in the middle ages, cities filled with fear of the plague, with defensive walls and checkpoints at every corner. Only the internet was missing. Currently, we can only depend on ourselves and what we ourselves produce, grow and collect from our own supplies," the prime minister described the current situation.

He said that the government was making efforts to tackle transport and sales hold-ups as well as repatriation of Slovenian citizens stranded abroad, including in EU countries.

"But we will manage. At the end of the day, during Yugoslavia's collapse we had a war, closed borders, lost 80% of the market. But we bounced back quickly and started picking up speed and catching up with the developed world," Janša said, attributing Slovenia's success in the independence struggle to patience, unity, knowledge and bravery.

Meanwhile, Archbishop of Ljubljana Stanislav Zore also encouraged the citizens to persevere and show solidarity during the crisis, saying that the times were challenging but also showed signs of hope.

"The virus infects anybody who comes in contact with it, thus erasing differences between us and turning us into brothers and sisters," he added.

After carrying out the key measures to slow down the spread and curb the epidemic, the government is preparing the first wider legislation package to help the population and economy.

The government announced today that it would discuss on Monday a proposal on pay reimbursement for companies that had to close shop or reduce production due to the epidemic.

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Stranded Slovenians returning home from Paris

STA, 22 March 2020 - A group of Slovenians stranded abroad due to air traffic cancellations and restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic is to return home on Sunday. A repatriation commercial Air France flight from Paris will then head back to France with French citizens who have found themselves in a similar predicament.

The repatriation flight is carrying 22 Slovenian citizens and two people with permanent residence in Slovenia, and is expected to land at Ljubljana airport at 5:25pm, the Foreign Ministry told the STA.

The flight is one of the few commercial flights landing at or taking off from Ljubljana airport. The flight tickets allegedly cost some 300 euro, according to the ministry.

In the coming days, the Slovenian citizens stuck abroad can count on a few other repatriation flights. Related discussions with other countries are focussing on evacuating EU citizens, most notably from Asian countries.

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