Slovenia Declares End to Covid Epidemic, Borders Open to EU Nationals

By , 15 May 2020, 08:54 AM Politics
Slovenia Declares End to Covid Epidemic, Borders Open to EU Nationals YouTube: screenshot of an old tourism ad

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STA, 14 May 2020 - The Slovenian government has formally called an end to the coronavirus epidemic. Key containment measures remain in place, but the one major restriction has been lifted: EU nationals will be free to cross the border, with some caveats.

The current epidemiological situation "makes it possible to relax measures that were urgent to contain and manage Covid-19, but they cannot yet be completely abolished," the Government Communications Office said in a press release after Wednesday's session.

It noted that Slovenia had had 35 cases in the past 14 days, while the reproduction number, which shows how many people a patient infects on average, had fallen below 1.

Although the government decree marks the formal end of the epidemic, which had been declared on 12 March pursuant to the communicable diseases act, the majority of public health measures remain in place.

The government said testing, contract tracing, isolation, quarantine for high-risk contacts, observance of caught etiquette and physical distancing would remain the key measures to fight the epidemic.

In another decree, the government decided to allow EU nationals to cross the border at selected checkpoints, ending the policy of seven-day quarantine.

Third-country nationals will be subject to a two-week quarantine, with some exceptions.

The decree will enter into effect a day after it is published in the Official Gazette, presumably on Friday.

More information on borders

STA, 15 May 2020 - EU residents are free to cross into Slovenia from Austria, Italy and Hungary at pre-determined checkpoints while most non-EU nationals will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine, in what is a major step for the country as it accelerates the easing of restrictions.

Under the government decree adopted late on Thursday, there will be 19 checkpoints on the border with Austria, nine on the border with Italy and five on the border with Hungary.

The listed checkpoints largely correspond to checkpoints where passengers may cross at present.

Some crossings are open only to locals or daily cross-border commuters and special exemptions are in place for owners of land on both sides of the border.

Three airports and two ports are among the ports of entry listed in the government decree.

The decree also covers Slovenia's border with Croatia, which is the external EU border, but there it does not limit crossing to specific checkpoints.

Under the new rules, those with permanent or temporary residence in the EU will be given instructions issued by the National Institute of Public Health upon entering Slovenia but will not need to quarantine, which they have to do for seven days at present.

When such a person declares they have coronavirus or symptoms thereof, or clearly show symptoms, they will be rejected at the border if they do not have permanent residence in Slovenia; those who do will be referred to medical services.

Third-country nationals must undergo a mandatory two-week quarantine, with exceptions for diplomats, members of rescue and relief services, attendance of funeral, lorry drivers and persons with certificates issued by the competent Slovenian ministry showing they will provide urgent services.

Notably, if it is believed a person entering the country may not be able to leave because of the measures of neighbouring countries, they will be denied entry.

The new policy will initially benefit mostly owners of property in Croatia, thousands of whom have been keen to visit their holiday homes but many reluctant to do so due to the mandatory seven-day quarantine upon return.

But even more importantly, it paves the way for a relaunch of cross-border tourism, which has been suspended for two months due to lockdown measures around the world.

It will also be a relief for businesses, which have been calling on the government to relax rules for business travel as cross-border commerce kicks into higher gear.

The decree was adopted last night, after the government formally declared the epidemic over while keeping in place all measures adopted to combat the disease.

While the decree comes into effect today, it will only be in application from 31 May on.

The decision was based on the assessment of the National Institute of Public Health, but unless the government declared the epidemic over last night, measures from the mega stimulus package, now in force until the end of May, would be extended by a month.

Slovenia has had low single-digit daily case increases since the end of April and the epidemic, declared on 12 March, is seen as being under control.

The country has confirmed 1,464 Covid-19 cases and 103 people have died since the first case was recorded in the country on 4 March. The biggest hotspots were care homes.

Slovenia is the first European country to declare an end of the coronavirus epidemic.

Only yesterday some medical professionals expressed reservations in a anticipation of such a move, as some restrictions were only being lifted now so it was hard to say what the easing would bring.

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