COVID-19 & Slovenia, Afternoon 25 March: 5th Death, 528 Cases, Austrian Border, Tourism Numbers, Animal Shelter

By , 25 Mar 2020, 14:52 PM Politics
COVID-19 & Slovenia, Afternoon 25 March: 5th Death, 528 Cases, Austrian Border, Tourism Numbers, Animal Shelter Alexander Sandi

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All our stories on coronavirus are here, while those covering covid-19 and Croatia are here. We'll have an update at the end of the day, and if you want newsflashes then we'll post those on Facebook

We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists. Today it’s Alexander Sandi. You can see more of their work here.


Fifth Slovenian Covid-19 victim confirmed

No hold-ups at Austria border checkpoints

Proposal to give army limited police powers on hold for now

Tourism not yet affected in February, but drastic drop to follow

Ljubljana animal shelter preparing to admit animals of Covid-19 patients

Fifth Slovenian Covid-19 victim confirmed

STA, 25 March 2020 - A fifth coronavirus-related death in Slovenia was confirmed Wednesday as another person died in the Šmarje pri Jelšah nursing home, one of the hotspots of the epidemic in the country, Health Minister Tomaž Gantar announced.

Fifty new cases of Covid-19 infection have been confirmed since yesterday, bringing the total number to 528. According to Gantar, 73 of the infected persons are healthcare workers.

This is the largest daily increase in the number of infected persons in Slovenia, surpassing the previous record of 45 on 13 March.

However, a direct comparison is not possible since the methodology has changed: the cases used to be counted by 10am, now they are counted from midnight to midnight. The latest daily increase thus refers to the entire Tuesday.

"We expect a growth in the number of patients in the coming days. At this point we cannot project when the epidemic will peak," Gantar said.

He added that the situation could deteriorate very quickly if citizens failed to respect all the instructions and restrictive measures.

The minister also said that it was hard to project possible additional measures in the healthcare system, as these would depend mainly on the trends in patient numbers.

A total of 16,113 persons have been tested, with 1,243 being tested on Tuesday alone.

A total of 72 patients have so far been hospitalised, of whom 14 are in intensive care. Nationwide there are 539 beds available for coronavirus patients, of which 56 in intensive care, and the number could be increased to up to 1,000 if other health services are scaled back.

Gantar said that the government would reorganise the healthcare system as needed to adapt it to the growing number of Covid-19 patients.

The number of regular services has been reduced because of the limited staff capacity, equipment and premises, he said, adding that the ministry wanted to connect hospitals around the country when it came to the most important fields.

Coordinators for individual fields will be appointed in individual hospitals to gain a comprehensive insight into the developments and capacities in the country.

Intensive care will be organised as a single hospital. "This way we will know at any moment where enough staff, equipment and room is available for potential new Covid-19 patients," the minister explained.

Asked how many patients had recovered, Gantar said that there was no clear definition of recovery, while noting that ten persons had been released from hospital.

Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj added that nursing homes around the country remained the hot spots, but added that the operators had been well prepared for the situation, which was under control.

Both ministers noted that protective gear remained one of the main challenges both in nursing homes and medical institutions.

More about this topic is expected to be known on Thursday, with Gantar saying that small shipments continued to arrive on an ongoing basis.

The system has a sufficient quantity of medication for the next 30 days, and procedures are under way to purchase additional quantities, he added.

The minister noted that foreign countries had started to restrict exports of medications, adding that Slovenia had contacted Japan in relation to a medication which was expected to be used for treatment of Covid-19.

"There are many experimental studies, but there is not enough scientific evidence for us to go for quick imports of some of other medications," he said.

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No hold-ups at Austria border checkpoints

STA, 25 March 2020 - Traffic at the border with Austria is running smoothly after Slovenia introduced border checks at 13 points as of midnight to contain the coranavirus epidemic. Maribor police, who control four check points, said no foreign citizens had been denied entry to the country in the first twelve hours.

"We did not deny entry to any passenger in the period when the checks were introduced and midday," the Maribor Police Department, which controls Jurij, Šentilj and Trate border crossings, told the STA on Wednesday.

"There are no tailbacks," the police said, but added traffic could become a bit more dense at times at the Šentilj motorway border crossing, which is the busiest one.

Similarly, Slovenian workers commuting daily to Austria, who are not subject to the checks, have not experienced any major delays on their way to work, according to head of their trade union Mario Fekonja.

The same regime of checks of foreign citizens applies on the Slovenian border with Italy, with passengers being checked their body temperature.

They need to produce a medical certificate showing they tested negative for the coronavirus no more than three days ago.

Should they not have it, medical staff assesses their health condition; they are allowed entry if their body temperature is below 37.5 degrees Celsius and they show no symptoms of infection such as coughing, sneezing and difficulty breathing.

The restrictions do not apply to Slovenian citizens or to persons with permanent or temporary residence in Slovenia.

While rail transport with Austria has also been suspended, transit is allowed only in agreement with the neighbouring country.

Cargo transport and humanitarian convoys are excluded from the restrictions.

Slovenian citizens are meanwhile also checked by Austria. The new regime on the Austrian side was introduced on Friday.

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Proposal to give army limited police powers on hold for now

STA, 25 March 2020 - The government has decided to wait before it formally proposes the activation of a legislative provision that gives the military limited police powers in controlling the border. Before a formal proposal to that effect is made, parliamentary factions will be consulted, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs said on Wednesday.

 "We decided yesterday that I withdraw the proposal from the government's agenda for now... I will first conduct talks with all deputy groups. We want deputy groups to contribute their ideas and their thoughts, but most of all we want to include all deputy groups in relevant decision-making as to the appropriateness of this measure," he said.

A two-thirds majority in parliament is needed to give the military police powers and the majority of leftist parties have been apprehensive about the plan. Some have said it is unnecessary at this point, others have expressed fear about the potential for abuse. Hojs has already talked to some of the deputy groups, the remaining meetings are scheduled until Friday.

The minister stressed that the army was not currently needed in Slovenian cities or on the country's roads, but it is "badly needed on Slovenia's southern border" with Croatia.

This is because a portion of the police force had to be deployed to the border with Austria, where police checks were introduced at midnight, while a segment of the force had been put on standby to step in if some officers become ill. Soldiers would fill any remaining gaps.

The checks on the border with Austria have been put in place to prevent Slovenia from becoming a pocket for stranded foreigners, Hojs said.

"We've restricted access for those who cannot continue from Slovenia to their homeland. We're talking about nationals from Southeast Europe: Serbs, Bulgarians and Romanians. Slovenia cannot become a pocket."

In recent days several hundred Serb nationals have converged on Slovenia. They had wanted to return home to Serbia from across Europe but were turned away on the Serbian border and dozens had been seen camping out in front of the Serbian embassy in Ljubljana.

Many were put up in a sports hall Tuesday night and will be evacuated to Serbia in special convoys today and tomorrow.

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Tourism not yet affected in February, but drastic drop to follow

STA, 25 March 2020 - Before an expected dive in March due to coronavirus, the tourism sector in Slovenia continued to do well in February, recording an only 4% year-on-year drop in arrivals to 302,000 and a 1% decrease in overnight stays to 853,000, show data released by the Statistics Office on Wednesday.

February in a fact saw an increase in the number of arrivals by foreign tourists, by almost 3% to 173,000. Italians accounted for 13% of all foreign visitors. Tourists from Serbian and Austria followed with 12% each, while Croatians accounted for 11% of the total.

The capital was doing particularly well, recording an 8% rise in the number of overnight stays compared to February 2019.

The figures are expected to change drastically over coronavirus in March. All tourist accommodation had to close in mid-March, air traffic has ground to a halt, and borders have been closed.

The government has responded to the expected woes of business and vulnerable groups with a EUR 2 billion stimulus package that is expected to be finalised by the end of the week.

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Ljubljana animal shelter preparing to admit animals of Covid-19 patients

STA, 25 March 2020 - The Ljubljana animal shelter has limited the admission of animals to urgent cases and is making preparations to take in the animals of potential Covid-19 patients who have nobody to look after their pet during their illness.

While the animals will be subjected to a 10-day quarantine, which is standard procedure at the shelter, a special protocol has been put in place for the handover.

Owners are urged not to bring the animals to the shelter but instead notify it via phone or get a healthy person with an authorisation notice to deliver it.

The head of the shelter, which has the capacity to admit about 50 animals, Marko Oman has told Delo that the staff is already used to working in protective gear, which is why protocols did not need to be changed much.

Omar is urging caution even if there has been no evidence so far that pets can also contract the novel coronavirus.

"It is recommended to avoid petting the animals, since we don't know as much about the disease as we would like to," he said.

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