COVID-19 & Slovenia, Night 4 April: Numbers, Police Happy, Holmec Border Partly Open

By , 04 Apr 2020, 20:31 PM Politics
COVID-19 & Slovenia, Night 4 April: Numbers, Police Happy, Holmec Border Partly Open © Igor Andjelić

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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 Igor Andjelić. You can see more of his work here.


Number of coronavirus cases rises to 977; 22 deaths confirmed

No major violations of new movement restrictions

Austria partly opening Holmec border crossing

Number of coronavirus cases rises to 977; 22 deaths confirmed

STA, 4 April 2020 - Two more deaths related to the new coronavirus in Slovenia were recorded on Friday, putting the death toll at 22. The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases rose by 43 to 977 in a day, the government said on Twitter.

A total of 1,188 tests were performed yesterday. The number of hospitalised persons dropped from 112 to 109, while the number of patients in intensive care rose by one to 31.

According to coronavirus crisis spokesperson Jelko Kacin, ten people were released from hospital on Friday.

The country's biggest hospital, UKC Ljubljana, had 49 Covid-19 patients today, including 14 in intensive care, the hospital said on Twitter.

The Celje hospital reported of 16 patients on Twitter this morning, of whom five were in intensive care. Two patients were released today.

Old-age facilities remain a hotspot of the disease in the country, with the number of persons infected in these facilities rising by 16 to 195 on Friday. Among staff, 42 people were infected, seven more than on Thursday, show data from the Ministry of Labour, the Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.

The first coronavirus test in Slovenia was conducted on 27 January. Until the first infection was confirmed, 313 tests were performed per infection. Between 4 March and Friday, additional 27.109 tests were conducted.

Medical staff has been warning they are under tremendous pressure and will not be able to keep up like this for much longer. If the functioning of the health system in other areas will be this restricted for long, this could cause more deaths in the long-term than coronavirus, they warn.

Staff in intensive care is particularly burdened. According to Tomaž Vovk, a specialist in dialectology and intensive care, who works with Covid-19 patients at UKC Ljubljana, doctors are working 12-hour shifts and treat three to four times more patients than normal.

"Another problem is the protective gear. In order to make full use of it, we sometimes work in it for five, six or seven hours without a break, which means we cannot go to the toilet or drink," he told the STA.

He said the situation was currently still manageable but if it continued for a long time, it would become too much to handle. "Everyone who needs intensive care receive it. We have enough time available to treat these patients," he said.

He welcomed all state measures to contain the epidemic and people's cooperation. "We do not wish to be in a situation where we would not be able to offer intensive care to these patients and would be forced to chose between patients," he said.

Epidemiologist of the National Public Health Institute Tit Albreht and GP from the Celje community health centre Katarina Skubec Moćić meanwhile pointed to the needs of citizens who are not infected with coronavirus but have other health problems.

American analyses have shown that if only as many people got ill as the health system can handle then the epidemic would last for 18 months. But if the public health system were paralysed in this way for 18 months then other medical conditions and chronic diseases could kill more people than the virus, Albreht said.

Skubec Moćić warned that people have the same health problems as before the epidemic while the accessibility of health services was much lower. "The pressure on patients and medical staff is stepping up by the day. I think next three weeks will be crucial to see whether the measures we have adopted were sufficient," she said.

The virus is not going to simply disappear, so it would make sense to slowly start providing certain health services again in a controlled area, she believes.

However, ensuring enough protective gear has been one of the main challenges of this epidemic for all countries not just Slovenia. The country continues to receive shipments of protective gear but Civil Protection head Srečko Šestan said today they sufficed only to cover day-to-day needs, primarily in health.

Today, a shipment of 336,000 three-pleat masks and 10,800 protective suits arrived, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek announced on Twitter. On Friday, he said three millions of three-pleat masks were in, and on Thursday 19,500 FFP2 masks arrived.

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No major violations of new movement restrictions

STA, 4 April 2020 - Police were checking compliance with movement restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus across the country, detecting no major violations on Saturday. Increased oversight will continue the entire weekend, focussing on popular tourist spots.

Police are patrolling public surfaces and checking passengers at motorways and other roads. Officers are also responding to reports of alleged violations from citizens.

People are mostly honouring restrictions, police say.

Since the new movement restrictions stepped into force on 30 March, confining citizens to their home municipalities, 836 warnings have been issued and in just over 1,000 cases violations were reported to the health inspectorate, which can issue fines.

Police officers working on the border have not been transferred inland yet to help check compliance with movement restrictions, as there has been no need for this so far, said acting Police Commissioner Anton Travner as he visited the Fernetiči border crossing with Italy today.

"At this point, Slovenian police has the situation under control but as the disease progresses the situation will surely change," he said.

He believes there is not enough police officers to respond to multiple challenges, related to the new coronavirus on the one hand and the issue of migrations on the other.

According to him, the army could be very helpful in controlling the migrations to help police. Since the entire population is becoming infected with coronavirus, Travner expects police officers to get infected as well. "Perhaps even in greater numbers, because they are much more exposed than ordinary population."

Travner hopes 700-800 troops could help out police exclusively on the border in dealing with migrants.

About 1,000 police officers are conducting tasks related to movement restrictions due to coronavirus around the country on a daily basis.

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Austria partly opening Holmec border crossing

STA, 4 April 2020 - Foreign Minister Anže Logar and his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg have agreed that the Holmec border crossing, which Austria recently closed as it put in place additional restrictions to contain the spread of coronavirus, will be partly open as of Monday so as not to cause problems for Slovenians commuting to work to Austria.

Holmec is very important for the people in the Slovenian border region Koroška, many of whom use it for their daily commute to work in Austria, the Slovenian Foreign Ministry said.

This is why diplomatic efforts had been under way the past few days to keep the crossing at least partly open.

The ministers agreed it will be open between 5am and 8am and 3pm and 6pm.

"Austria's move reflects its flexibility in respect to the needs of the people living on the border, and we see it as a sign of neighbourly cooperation in the times of crisis and stepping up of measures in the pandemic of the new coronavirus," the ministry said.

On Thursday, Austria closed Holmec along with several other border crossings. The move upset the people from the Mežiška valley who would subsequently have to commute to work to Austria through the Vič border crossing, which however is open only between 5am and 11pm, which means those who start work in Austria early would be late for work.

The region's mayors have thus appealed to the ministries of foreign and interior affairs for the crossing to remain open just like the other two crossings connecting the region with Austria, Radelj and Vič.

Austria had initially closed dozens of crossing points as of 18 March. On 27 March Slovenia reintroduced police checks on what is the EU's internal border and introduced 13 points of crossing.

There are now restrictions in place on all of Slovenia's borders, either introduced by Slovenia or by the neighbouring countries.

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