COVID-19 & Slovenia, Afternoon 23 March: 442 Cases, New Testing Rules, Ban on Gatherings Working, Police Powers for Army, the Homeless & Coronavirus

By , 23 Mar 2020, 16:22 PM Politics
COVID-19 & Slovenia, Afternoon 23 March: 442 Cases, New Testing Rules, Ban on Gatherings Working, Police Powers for Army, the Homeless & Coronavirus Xenia Guzej

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Number of coronavirus cases up by 28 in a day to 442

New Covid-19 testing rules in place

Ban on movement and gatherings largely successful

Pahor supports giving army police powers

Homeless stay in streets as they fear infection in overcrowded shelters

Number of coronavirus cases up by 28 in a day to 442

STA, 23 March 2020 - A total of 442 coronavirus cases were confirmed in Slovenia by 2pm on Monday, an increase of 28 over the past 24 hours. The figure comes after 13,812 tests conducted, 714 more than by Sunday, fresh data posted by the National Public Health Institute show.

Currently, 32 patients are being treated at the UKC Ljubljana hospital, and eight of them are in intensive care, the government said on its Twitter profile.

Another 11 patients are at the Maribor UKC hospital, where two patients are in intensive care. Both have already been intubated, according to the hospital.

Coronavirus patients are also being treated at the Golnik Clinic of Respiratory and Allergic Diseases and yesterday the Celje general hospital admitted its first Covid-19 patient.

The number of coronavirus-related deaths in Slovenia rose to three today as a 67-year-old man with multiple underlying conditions died at UKC Ljubljana. The other two fatalities were patients in their 90s who had underlying conditions as well.

Coronavirus infections have been confirmed in 107 out of Slovenia's 212 municipalities with 57 of those recording two or more cases.

The biggest increase in cases over the past 24 hours was recorded in Ljubljana, increasing by seven to 99.

The second and third biggest outbreaks are in Šmarje pri Jelšah in the north-east and Metlika in the south-east. The former saw its case count increase by one to 46 and the latter did not register new cases in the past day so the number remains at 25.

Most patients are between 30 and 49 years old, 71 of them women and 74 men. A hundred and four patients fall in the 60+ category, the most at risk group, half of them are women and half of them men.

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Ban on movement and gatherings largely successful

STA, 23 March 2020 - Slovenians have mostly complied with government directives aimed at containing the coronavirus epidemic and are abiding by a ban on gatherings and socialising, suggest reports from several municipalities. Nor have people flocked to the coast or lakeside resorts over the weekend.

While the vast majority of the people appear to have complied with the ban, in the seaside town of Izola the locals did spot a few surfers on Sunday who were trying to capitalise on strong winds. The town will thus ban any sports activities on the local beaches and fine any violators.

Izola has reported though that people were mostly staying at home over the weekend. A stiff bora wind that pushed through the western Primorska region on Sunday probably played a role in this situation as well.

Piran, otherwise the most visited Slovenian municipality, reported that people were mostly complying with the lockdown as well. The town authorities are not planning to ban the use of beaches for now.

Koper has also recorded a drop in visitors, however the city has received a few reports from locals of gatherings taking place despite the ban. Mostly, the cases transpired to be individuals or small groups of up to three people.

Meanwhile, lakeside resorts in the Slovenian Alps, another tourism hotspot in the country, were mostly empty as well, apart from the locals. Colder weather might have been a factor.

In the Bohinj area, people were generally acting in line with instructions. The number of residents has increased by up to 2,000 since the start of the crisis due to locals living and working elsewhere returning home. The area has also seen an influx of those who own holiday homes there.

The municipality authorities have pointed to the issue of those returning home from abroad, saying that they should act responsibly and self-isolate.

Generally speaking, police officers from the northern Gorenjska region have reported that people have been taking the situation increasingly more seriously by the day, having recorded only a few actual violations of the ban so far.

One of them was a gathering of people on a motocross track near Brnik on Saturday who dispersed immediately and without a protest after a police officer with a guide dog reminded them of the decree.

Since the implementation of the ban, the police have been receiving numerous reports of violations, but mostly such reports turn out to be unwarranted.

The General Police Administration has reported that most people have been complying with the ban or heeding police warnings, reminding potential violators that they would be putting at risk themselves as well as others.

Jelko Kacin, the spokesman for the government coronavirus crisis unit, said on Saturday that the government was planning to ban movement out of one's municipality of residence to step up its efforts to curb the epidemic. He also urged people not to travel to popular touristy places in Slovenia, a trend that had been detected earlier despite the epidemic.

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Pahor supports giving army police powers

STA, 23 March 2020 - Responding to an initiative by the new government to activate legislation giving the army police powers, President Borut Pahor said in his capacity of commander-in-chief of the Slovenian Armed Forces that he understood the need to give the military additional powers within the bounds of law.

The response comes after Interior Minister Aleš Hojs recently said he was considering proposing the activation of article 37.a of the defence act, which allows the Slovenian Armed Forces to help the police in "broader protection of the state border".

Activated only if endorsed by a two-thirds majority vote in parliament, it allows soldiers to carry out tasks such as temporarily restricting the movement of persons and taking part in crowd control.

The president's office said on Monday that Pahor believed that such decision of the National Assembly would be sensible in the given situation, "but must be implemented strictly within the legal framework, for thee months at the most."

The president separately met with Hojs and Defence Minister Matej Tonin today over the matter, and decided that this is acceptable in circumstances when the country is facing an increase in illegal migration and the coronavirus outbreak.

Pahor noted that all relevant authorities and services, including the police, were giving their best, but that the situation required additional assistance in the protection of the Schengen border.

The president meanwhile believes that there are no reasons for the military to participate in other tasks performed by the police.

Some parties on the left have criticised the idea to give the army limited police powers, as they fear it could be abused.

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Homeless stay in streets as they fear infection in overcrowded shelters

STA, 23 March 2020 - One of the population groups in Slovenia that has it hardest during the lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak are the homeless. The situation is becoming paradoxical as many of them opt to stay in the street in the cold as they fear they could get infected in overcrowded shelters.

Many of the homeless have nowhere to go to self-isolate and many of them have chronic conditions which could be fatal in combination with coronavirus, the Kralji Ulice association for assistance and self-help for the homeless said on Monday.

The association has closed its daily centre, and other activities are also on hold, while the expert service is still operational.

"People come mostly individually, as their documents or money is kept in the centre, and they also need clothes and personal hygiene items," Hana Košan of Kralji Ulice told the STA.

The situation for rough sleepers is worsening, as certain public toilets and duty outpatient clinics are closed. Shelters meanwhile remain open and the programme of accommodation in apartments is also functioning.

While the operation of shelters has been adjusted to the restrictive and safety measures, both the homeless and the staff lack personal protective equipment.

Košan said that the epidemic had additionally exposed the shortage of staff in shelters. "All of us will probably continue working even if we get infected and fall ill."

The association has called on the relevant institutions not to forget people on the margins. It needs more rooms which would accommodate a lower number of persons and wants to provide the homeless with constant care so that they do not need to leave shelter.

The existing shelters are overcrowded. "People are leaving some shelters. They say that there are too many people there and that they are afraid of getting infected. They think they are better off in the streets, although the situation is not rosy out there either."

Košan said that the government decree banning public gatherings was an additional problem, but none of the homeless in Slovenia has so far reported being fined by the police.

"Where could they retreat to if they live in public areas, if they do not have a home," she said, nevertheless calling on the homeless to stay in their shelters, if possible, to be in small groups and to take care of personal hygiene.

Solitude is another problem as the public life has ground to a halt. "People say that, after the closure of daily centres and other activities, they are very lonely," Košan said, adding that this was also one of the reasons they were returning to the street.

The association is concerned about the scenario in which the homeless get seriously ill due to complications brought by coronavirus. Many of them are old and many have chronic conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or diabetes.

"In foreign countries, when they started running out of beds in hospitals, there was no room any more for the homeless, drug addicts and others from the margins of the society. We fear that these people will be left in the street."

The distribution of the association's magazine, which was a source of income for many of the homeless, has been suspended.

The association has thus called on the readers and supporters to donate money, which would be distributed among the regular sellers of the magazine, whose number is between 170 and 200. Around EUR 2,000 has so far been donated.

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