COVID-19 & Slovenia - Thursday 28 May, Evening: Numbers; Big Changes Monday; Primary Schools; Hungarian Border; Masks No Longer Mandatory

By , 28 May 2020, 18:43 PM Politics
COVID-19 & Slovenia - Thursday 28 May, Evening: Numbers; Big Changes Monday; Primary Schools; Hungarian Border; Masks No Longer Mandatory JL Flanner

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Two new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, no new deaths

Major easing of restrictions announced for Monday

Primary schools to fully reopen next week

Slovenia and Hungary open border for their citizens

Masks no longer mandatory, still recommended

Two new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, no new deaths

STA, 28 May 2020 - After conducting 631 coronavirus tests, two new coronavirus infections were confirmed in Slovenia on Wednesday in what was a second day of the daily case count exceeding one after two weeks of zero or one infections per day. No new Covid-19 fatalities were reported, show the latest official data.

The total of confirmed infections has thus risen to 1,473. The national death toll has remained at 108.

Seven Covid-19 patients remain in hospital care, including two in intensive care. One person was released from hospital on Wednesday.

The UKC Ljubljana hospital said today that one of the infected persons was an employee of the Ljubljana Clinic for infectious diseases.

As a result, some departments in the clinic will closed in the coming days, but there will be no disturbances in the unit for Covid-19 patients or the paediatric unit.

The person was tested after getting fever, and has been on sick leave since Wednesday.

So far, 77,210 coronavirus tests have been performed in the country.

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Major easing of restrictions announced for Monday

STA, 28 May 2020 - Major easing of restrictions has been announced for Monday as all tourism facilities will be allowed to reopen, and gatherings of up to 200 people will be allowed again. Gyms and spas will reopen as well, government spokesman Jelko Kacin told the press on Thursday.

 The changes to the government decree on the movement of people in public areas will enter into force on 1 June.

After reopening tourist accommodation with up to 30 rooms on 18 May, all hotels regardless of their size as well as spas, health centres, gyms and pools will be able to reopen next month.

Only night clubs and discotheques remain closed. Shops too will remain closed on Sundays and holidays, Kacin said.

The government said in a press release that the exceptions were filling stations and pharmacies, adding that the minimum working hours of food shops would remain.

The general restrictions for shops were lifted on 18 May. Bars and restaurants started serving patrons indoors again last week as well.

Employees are still advised to minimise contact with shoppers and patrons and it is the "responsibility of employers to provide employees with protective equipment and make sure guidelines are followed," the government added.

National Public Health Institute (NIJZ) director Milan Krek said that, as regards gatherings of up to 200 people, that this did not come without certain conditions, including the safety measures to prevent the spread of infection.

As the latest easing of restrictions concern tourism facilities, it has become pertinent how and when citizens will be able to make use of tourism vouchers which are part of the legislation currently discussed in parliament.

Kacin said that instructions for the use of vouchers were being prepared and that more about that would be presented by Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek on Friday.

Krek added that wearing of face masks was no longer obligatory, but a recommendation for protecting oneself from getting infected and preventing possible spreading of the infection.

"No one will run after you, no one will threaten you, or punish you. The virus will do this if you catch it," he said when answering a question about wearing of face masks in enclosed spaces.

Krek advised people to wear face masks in places where it is not possible to maintain social distancing, regardless of whether this is requested or not, be it in a shop, bus or an institution.

Face masks are mandatory for persons who are infected with coronavirus and those who take care of them, he added.

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Primary schools to fully reopen next week

STA, 28 May 2020 - Fourth and fifth graders will return to school on Monday, the first day when the Covid-19 epidemic will no longer be in place. Those in grades six, seven and eight will return on Wednesday, Education Minister Simona Kustec told the press on Thursday.

This represents a full reopening of primary schools after children in the first three grades returned to classrooms on 18 May and those in ninth grade this week.

Also as of 1 June, children from the first three years will no longer be split into smaller groups of up to 15 children per classroom, going normally back to their original classrooms with their original classmates, the minister said.

The same relaxation will apply to kindergartens as of Monday.

Distance learning will meanwhile continue for secondary school students, expect for those in their final year, who returned to classrooms on 18 May to prepare for the school-leaving matura exam.

This is because there are still some restrictions applying to secondary school dormitories, explained Kustec.

Social distancing of 1.5 meters will still have to be observed as well as all other precautionary and hygienic measures.

Children will not be required to wear masks, but teachers are advised to wear them.

Despite the return to classrooms, the instruction to teachers that children should get only one grade before the end of the school year remains in place.

National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) director Milan Krek said that despite the relaxation of public life, infection risks remain, so caution is needed.

In case of any respiratory infection, school children and teachers are advised to stay at home, he stressed, noting that if the virus appears in a school, it would have to be closed.

Schools closed on 16 March when the country went into lockdown four days after the epidemic was formally declared.

The Association of Head Teachers responded to the news by saying that the government had not given schools enough time to prepare, and that there would be problems in organising travel, meals and after-school activities.

"We are getting all these guidelines and circular letters too late. This one we received on Thursday and we are supposed to implement it on Monday," the association's head Gregor Pečan told the STA.

Pečan thinks that this shows a "great deal of disrespect for students and their parents, not to mention school employees and managers", as "people, health and lives are in play", so it is indecent to handle things this way.

Branimir Štrukelj of the SVIZ teachers' union was also critical, saying that teachers had not been consulted, which is a message from the government that they "do not have the right to participate in the creation of education policy."

He added that the responsibility of a potential spread of coronavirus due to this decision would have to be taken by those who had taken it, and not by head teachers and teachers.

Schools closed on 16 March when the country went into lockdown four days after the epidemic was formally declared.

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Slovenia and Hungary open border for their citizens

STA, 28 May 2020 - Slovenia and Hungary have agreed to lift restrictions on the crossing of state border for the citizens of both countries as of Thursday based on a favourable epidemiological situation in both countries and following successful diplomatic coordination, the Foreign Ministry said.

The announcement came after talks between the Slovenian and Hungarian foreign ministers, Anže Logar and Peter Szijjarto, who met at the Dolga Vas checkpoint.

The talks were dedicated to the current rules on the border, the coronavirus epidemic and the situation of ethnic minorities on both sides of the border.

The ministers assessed that Slovenia and Hungary are among the EU countries which have been the most successful in dealing with Covid-19, and called for the reopening of borders in the region as soon as possible.

Logar said the agreement reached today was an important diplomatic achievement. He said he was also happy with the conclusions of the talks on the issues of the Slovenian minority in Hungary and the Hungarian minority in Slovenia.

Szijjarto said the pandemic had shown how closely countries in central Europe were connected, especially neighbouring countries. Slovenia and Hungary reaffirmed their friendship, partnership and cooperation during this difficult times, he added.

According to Logar, the talks on the new border regime with neighbouring countries with a similar epidemiological situation were based on partnership and opinions of the National Institute for Public Health on which countries are safe.

He is confident that Slovenia will continue these talks in the coming days. If such a deal is reached with Austria, the borders with the country will open before 15 June.

Italy does not meet the epidemiological standards yet, and Croatia is working to create a regime that will make travelling easier for Slovenians who have real estate there or for other purposes, Logar said.

The ministers also discussed activities at the EU level, including on the current Commission's proposal for the multi-year financial framework, which includes setting up a recovery and resilience facility.

Logar argued for a rapid and ambitious agreement on the multi-year framework to fight off the consequences of the pandemic. Cohesion policy remains a priority for Slovenia, he stressed.

Szijjarto said that a new post-pandemic world order was being formed in which new dilemmas would cause new conflicts. "The Slovenian and Hungarian governments support each other; we will advocate the same views and help each other, be it with regard to illegal migration, preservation of cohesion funds, or the EU enlargement."

The ministers also reviewed progress in cross-border transport and energy projects, especially the power line between Cirkovce and Heviz, and the gas pipeline between Kidričevo and Nagykanizsa.

Logar will meet representatives of the Slovenian minority in Szentgotthárd today.

Hungary closed the border with Slovenia because of coronavirus in early March, and erected checkpoints through which limited goods transport was allowed into the country.

As of today all restrictions are lifted on the four existing border checkpoints: Hodoš-Bajansenye, Dolga vas-Redics, Pince (motorway)-Torniyszentmiklos (Orszagut) and Pince (local road)-Torniyszentmiklos (Helyi ut). The remaining points of crossing are to open on Tuesday.

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Masks no longer mandatory, still recommended

STA, 28 May 2020 - Wearing of face masks in closed public spaces is no longer mandatory in Slovenia, but it is still recommended according to guidelines by the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ).

"The wearing of face masks is not an obligation, it is a recommendation designed to protect ourselves ... and to prevent transmission," NIJZ director Milan Krek told the press on Thursday.

In fact, masks have not been obligatory since 18 May, when a new government decree that allowed the gathering of up to 50 people in public entered into effect.

The decree no longer included the provision that made face masks mandatory, it is just that nobody appears to have noticed that the obligation was extinguished since the decree overrode a previous decree that made masks mandatory.

Instead, the new decree determines only that social distancing rules must be observed.

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