COVID-19 & Slovenia, Night 27 March 2020: Deaths & Infections, 14-day Quarantine if Coming from Hotspots

By , 27 Mar 2020, 20:39 PM Politics
Life goes on Life goes on Gordana Grlič

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Covid-19 death toll rises to nine as two more deaths reported Friday

Infectologist says Covid-19 numbers do not show whole picture

Quarantine protocol to apply to all Slovenians returning from hotspots

Covid-19 death toll rises to nine as two more deaths reported Friday

STA, 27 March 2020 - The coronavirus death toll in Slovenia rose to nine on Friday as two persons died, the second day in a row that more than one fatality has been confirmed. By Thursday midnight the total number of confirmed infections rose to 632, up by a record seventy cases in a day, the latest government data show.

Two patients who died on Friday had been hospitalised at the Golnik hospital near Kranj and the Celje General Hospital, the Health Ministry said.

Similar to other deaths, the persons who died yesterday and today were elderly with underlying conditions, the government Communication Office told the STA.

Among the nine dead are four residents of the Metlika retirement home, while another three were allegedly residents of the retirement home in Šmarje pri Jelšah. Both towns have a high rate of confirmed cases.

The National Institute for Public Health (NIJZ) meanwhile said that the new infections stemmed from clusters that had formed around the first detected cases, which had been imported.

Commenting on the increase in positive cases, NIJZ said that these were expected, as most were related infections in the retirement homes in Metlika and Šmarje pri Jelšah. It expects the growth in cases to slow down because of the lockdown measures imposed in Slovenia nearly two weeks ago.

The first case of Covid-19 has also been confirmed in the ranks of the Slovenian Armed Forces. All who were in contact with the person have been traced down and tested negative. In a press release the military also said it had set up a mobile lab to help test the Slovenians returning from abroad upon arrival.

In the evening, public broadcaster TV Slovenija reported that the first case has also been discovered in the police ranks. The police officer was reportedly working at a cooperation centre for security bodies in Dolga Vas, near Lendava (NE), where police officers from Austria, Croatia and Hungary work together.

Apart from the Slovenian police officer, a Croatian and an Austrian officer have also been infected, TV Slovenija reported.

A total of 90 patients were hospitalised as of Thursday, of which 22 were in intensive care. More than 18,000 tests were carried out by midnight on Thursday, over a thousand yesterday alone.

Meanwhile, reports from hospitals suggest 101 patients were in hospital today. Covid-19 patients are currently being treated in four hospitals, apart from Golnik and Celje, also at UKC Maribor and the UKC Ljubljana's Clinic for Infectious Diseases.

The latter is treating 50 patients, the highest number among all hospitals. UKC Ljubljana is also monitoring 30 patients with mild symptoms remotely.

UKC Maribor has meanwhile announced stricter measures as of Monday, shutting down all activities bar emergency assistance because the number of patients in need of intensive therapy is growing very fast.

The hospital is also concerned because it had admitted a patient who tested negative for Covid-19 and was hospitalised for a different illness but was positive several days later, after already having been in contact with other patients who tested negative.

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Infectologist says Covid-19 numbers do not show whole picture

STA, 27 March 2020 - Infectologist Janez Tomažič believes that the number of cases of Covid-19 in Slovenia does not show the whole picture. Commenting on the highest increase in confirmed cases so far, he said that "if the increase is among the vulnerable groups, then I'm worried, but if the increase is among... the middle aged, then the problem is not so bad".

Speaking for the STA, the expert in infectious diseases who works at the UKC Ljubljana hospital, said it was key that Slovenia does not see an increase in positive cases among people over 60 with underlying conditions and persons with immune deficiencies.

The most recent data from the National Institute for Public Health (NIJZ) shows that the share of the disease is highest among people over 85 (88 per 100,000) followed by the 25-34 age group (42 per 100,000).

Covid-19 is especially problematic for retirement homes, where there are many elderly people in close proximity and the infection can spread rapidly. "All preventative measures must be followed, such as complete ban on visits and sick employees staying at home."

"We know the course of the illness quite good. Usually it develops slowly with mild symptoms in the early days, even in vulnerable groups. It starts to worsen around day seven and around day ten it becomes clear whether the patient will have a severe course of the illness."

The key thing is to avoid a rapid increase in hospitalisations. "We're worried it might come to random hospitalisations of patients who would not benefit from this or see the quality of life improved."

Tomažič illustrated that in Italy, decisions were sometimes made in panic, sending to hospital people for whom this was far from beneficial, as the hospitalisation only decreased the quality of their remaining life.

"The transportation alone, intubation, needles... and all for nothing. That is why these decisions are so incredibly important. But because they are very sensitive, the discussions with families need to be done expertly, humanely and with dignity."

Now is the time to discuss this, because the situation is relatively calm and this could be talked through without haste, in peace, humanely and with dignity. These patients need to receive expert and ethical care, he underlined.

"It is essential that these decisions and talks with the patient's family involve not only the GP... but also experts from secondary and tertiary institutions, a psychologist and, when at all possible, a palliative care specialist." Thus a task force has been established to assist retirement homes.

He believes good response and organisation within retirement homes is key, saying that the two homes that have seen the most positive cases, in Šmarje pri Jelšah and Metlika, have learnt a lot and became very well organised.

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Quarantine protocol to apply to all Slovenians returning from hotspots

STA, 27 March 2020 - The government announced on Friday that all Slovenians returning to Slovenia from coronavirus hotspots will be put into state-administrated quarantine. The measure has so far affected 445 persons, Jelko Kacin, the government's spokesman for the coronavirus crisis, told the press.

The announced was made after 41 Slovenian nationals who were flown in from Madrid late on Thursday were not sent into self-isolation but quarantined in a hotel in Velenje for a 14-day period.

It was said that the same quarantine protocol would be used for a second plane from Spain, to be organised on Saturday, but Kacin confirmed today it would apply to all Slovenians returning from coronavirus hotspots.

However, he singled out Spain again, saying that quite a few Slovenians remained there and that these flights would continue almost on a daily basis.

In an effort to assuage locals in Velenje, where the Paka Hotel was made available free of charge by Hisense, the Chinese-based owner of household appliances maker Gorenje, Kacin said this would not be the only town with a quarantine unit.

"There are many more Slovenians abroad and this is a good example of solidarity that is crucial in these difficult times. I hope this will serve as an inspiration to other companies with vacant accommodation facilities," he said. Railways operator Slovenske Železnice has announced it has made available the holiday accommodation facilities it owns for quarantine purposes.

There has been some resistance in Velenje, with Deputy Mayor Peter Dermol expressing indignation that the local community learnt about the Paka Hotel quarantine from the media and the fact that the local civil protection and health authorities had not been informed about the government's decision.

In the afternoon, the situation calmed down, with Andrej Šter, the head of the Foreign Ministry's consular service, apologising publicly for failure to inform the community and Dermol accepting his apology.

What is more, the care for those in quarantine has been taken over by the Velenje municipality. The Civil Protection has also said that 42 people are being quarantined at the Paka Hotel, among them two minors.

All of the people in quarantine will be tested again this evening, then again in six days and once more in a fortnight. Among them is also basketball player Zoran Dragić, who told the press press he believes two weeks' quarantine was too long and that nobody from the plane was infected.

One of the quarantined persons expressed worry to the STA over not having protective gear and over the danger of legionnaires disease because the hotel had been out of order. "Nobody warned us that tap water wasn't safe, we only received bottled water in the course of the day."

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