COVID-19 & Slovenia, Night 25 March: Protective Equipment Arrives

By , 25 Mar 2020, 21:23 PM Politics
COVID-19 & Slovenia, Night 25 March: Protective Equipment Arrives Xenia Guzej

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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 Xenia Guzej. You can see more of her work here.

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Fifth Slovenian Covid-19 victim confirmed

Major shipment of protective equipment in Slovenia

Slovenia requests tax and tariff exemption for medical gear imports

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.

Gantar said that fifty new cases of Covid-19 infection had been confirmed since yesterday, bringing the total number to 528. According to him, 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.

The National Public Health Institute later said that 528 positive tests had been recorded by midnight on Tuesday, but that the number of positive persons was actually 526, as some of the tests had been repeated.

"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 dozens of persons had been discharged 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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Major shipment of protective equipment in Slovenia

STA, 25 March 2020- A major shipment of much needed personal protective equipment arrived in Slovenia from the Czech Republic on Wednesday as an increasing number of business are joining the effort to meet the needs.

A plane carrying 25,200 N95 surgical masks, 500,000 other surgical masks and 5,000 protective suits landed at Ljubljana airport, the Civil Protection and Disaster Relief Administration said.

Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec, who was present upon the landing, tweeted that the flight form Pardubice had been organised as a matter of urgency overnight.

"This and other shipments expected in Slovenia these days will significantly improve the material situation at Slovenian hospitals, which also means better and safer working conditions for doctors and other health staff," the ministry stated on its Facebook profile.

Prime Minister Janez Janša has thanked the Czech Republic for the equipment via Twitter.

Defence Minister Matej Tonin, also communicating via Twitter, has said that distribution of the equipment to health institutions and nursing homes has already begun.

The Commodity Reserves Institute has also supplied an additional 3.36 million pairs of latex gloves and 920 washable masks.

A total of 526 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Slovenia, including 73 health staff. Four of the patients who have died have been residents of nursing homes, which have proved major virus hotspots in the country.

Medical organisations and trade unions urged the government today to supply health staff with suitable personal protective equipment on time, pointing to a dire lack thereof.

"What had been unacceptable [in terms of safety standards] only a week ago, has become a daily practice due to a lack of protective equipment," the organisations said in a joint appeal.

They say the equipment is needed urgently to contain the spread of the infection in health institutions, which they say were a ticking bomb.

The organisations also called for health staff that could get infected while treating Covid-19 patients to be provided accommodation outside their home.

The call comes as a growing number of Slovenian businesses are shifting production to make protective masks, with one of the companies starting to 3D print masks.

Having manufactured industrial protective garments and goggles for thirty years, the Ptuj-based company Zaščita had already developed an ergonomic reusable mask even before the coronavirus outbreak.

"We first offered masks to our business partners for their employees. Due to huge demand, we implemented strict hygienic measures for the safety of our employees and expanded production," company official Žiga Tement said.

The 40 employees are now working two shifts to put out between 3,000 and 4,000 masks a day in cooperation with external partners. They put most of them on the market, but have offered part of them to health institutions.

The dental lab of the Križaj Clinic in Muljava in central Slovenia has designed a reusable mask to be made on 3D printers that also includes a filter that keeps away 99.95% of 0.3 micron particles.

Before use the masks will be tested at the high-tech company Bia Separations.

Masks are also being made by individuals as well as several other companies, including Supreme, the Izola-based family business manufacturing sails. Employing only two people, they make 100 masks a day and could increase the output to 150 a day.

Several companies are donating equipment, including the Chinese-owned household appliances manufacturer Gorenje, which donated 1,000 masks to the Velenje municipality.

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Slovenia requests tax and tariff exemption for medical gear imports

STA, 25 March 2020 - As part of the measures to tackle the coronavirus epidemic ramifications, the Finance Ministry called on the European Commission on Wednesday to enable Slovenia imports of protective gear, medical devices and other commodities needed to contain the spread of the virus in Slovenia without VAT and customs duties.

EU regulations allow such an exemption in case of disasters and under certain conditions, reads the ministry's press release.

The relevant provision can be activated at the request of a member state or a number of them following a discussion between all EU countries.

The imported equipment or devices exempted from VAT and customs duties must be then distributed among the victims of the epidemic free of charge, with the commodities remaining in the ownership of the organisations that have imported them.

Italy has been the first member state to address such a request to the EU Commission.

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