COVID-19 & Slovenia, Fri 19/09: 137 New Cases Thursday, Mask Rules Shock Schools

By , 18 Sep 2020, 18:03 PM Politics
COVID-19 & Slovenia, Fri 19/09: 137 New Cases Thursday, Mask Rules Shock Schools

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STA, 18 September 2020 - The number of new coronavirus infections reached a new all-time high in Slovenia on Thursday, as 137 out of 3,557 tests came back positive, the government said on Twitter on Friday. The number of active cases is also at a record high of 1,116. Sixty-seven Covid-19 patients are meanwhile in hospital, eleven in intensive care.

Three people were discharged from hospital, while four people infected with coronavirus died, putting the national death toll at 140, the government said.

According to the tracker site, the number of total confirmed cases now stands at 4,195 and 194,970 tests have been performed since early March.

Government spokesman Jelko Kacin told the press later in the day that only two Thursday cases had been imported, and that the number of cases of local origin was double the number of cases of unknown origin.

Two persons who died yesterday are related to a care home in the northern region of Koroška, one of whom died at the UKC Ljubljana hospital. The identity of the other two deceased persons has not been revealed.

The coronavirus spokesman also announced two government decrees, to be adopted at today's correspondence session, including the one tightening rules for wearing face masks in outdoor places frequented by many people and at schools.

Asked by a journalist whether people should also wear masks while walking in crowded streets, like Čopova Street in Ljubljana, he said: "I will be walking along Čopova with a mask."

Kacin added that employers should also start purchasing devices for taking temperatures of employees, and that bars and restaurants would have to cancel some events as working hours would be limited to between 6am and 10pm.

He said that some other measures were also on the table, including further limiting the number of people for public gatherings from the current ten to six, but this will certainly not happen in the next two or three days.

Meanwhile, the Educations Ministry also published the numbers for infections at schools and kindergartens.

On Thursday, there were nine confirmed cases among employees in kindergartens, 46 among employees in primary schools and seven among staff in secondary schools.

One kindergarten child was infected as well, as were 55 primary school children and 23 secondary school students.

Also quarantined were 31 kindergarten staff along with 31 children, 133 employees at primary schools along with 208 children, and 16 employees at secondary schools where 82 pupils had to stay at home just like their infected classmates.

The ministry said that data after the third week of school did not suggest a shift was needed from the current model, which has children attending lesson in class, albeit with protective measures.

Schools, kindergartens shocked by new mask rules

STA, 18 September 2020 - Schools and kindergartens are upset by the new rules making face masks obligatory in classroom for teachers and children from 7th class, and for kindergarten teachers. The SVIZ trade union of teachers criticised the new measures as absolutely unacceptable and impossible to implement.

SVIZ head Branimir Štrukelj told the STA on Friday their phones had been ringing off the hook today, with teachers and other school and kindergarten staff warning that talking with a face mask for six hours was impossible. The new rule is particularly unacceptable for kindergartens, he said.

The Association of Slovenian Kindergartens said it was extremely surprised by the government's decision. According to its head Janja Bogataj, the government has made the decision without consulting kindergartens and without any kind of consideration about the consequences. "We don't know how we will be able to conduct the pedagogic process," she told the STA.

"I cannot imagine a kindergarten teacher signing songs, staging a play, dancing, exercising and at the same time comforting a child and offering them emotional support if the child will only see their eyes but no other facial expressions," she added.

Štrukelj believes the government's decision is merely transferring responsibility to schools and kindergartens. "This will have to stop, because we are close to the boiling point and we will present demands regarding additional staff in a few days."

Additional support staff will also be needed, as cooks and cleaners wearing masks are starting to suffer from burnout, he said.

If the authorities do not heed the demands, other measures will follow, Štrukelj announced.

Headteachers at schools and kindergartens have received no specific instructions yet regarding the regime that is to be introduced on Monday.

The principal of the Celje Center secondary chool, Gregor Deleja, told the STA that they only had information from the media.

"We would particularly like definitions of exceptions, as students and employees with asthma and other health problems would allegedly not need to wear masks," he said.

Education Minister Simona Kustec said today the ministry would send a set of instructions about the new measures to schools and kindergartens today.

She believes the new rules are not much different from the ones in place now, saying they were "nothing dramatic". "We all wear masks, we all know what distances we need to keep".

The minister said these were soft measures aimed at providing additional security so that schools and kindergartens did not become hotspots and that schools cloud remain open.

Asked who proposed the new rules, Kustec said the decision had been made by the government, which had been making decisions in cooperation with its advisory task force of epidemiologists.

Another issue is sufficient supply of masks for the staff and students.

Mojce Mihelič, the headteacher of the Ljubljana Danila Kumer primary school, is concerned how temperature screenings will be conducted in the morning when thousands of students and employees are entering school.

Lea Vidmar from the Šturje primary school in Ajdovščina finds the measures unacceptable for both teachers and students. "It is bad enough that students must be in the same classroom for so many hours, and now we will impose additions restrictions on them with masks."

The headteacher said the school had been cooperating with the municipality well, so it would provide them with masks and thermometers.

The parents' association said no detailed research had been conducted about parents' views on the new mask rules. But parents are wondering how 13- and 14-year-olds will be able to learn in classrom in a quality way while wearing masks, the association said.

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