STA, 23 August 2022 - Free kits for Covid-19 self-testing for primary and secondary school students in the new school year will be available in Slovenian pharmacies from Monday. Testing will be voluntary and will take place at home, with funds for the campaign being secured from the national budget.
As Health Ministry State Secretary Tadej Ostrc announced at a press conference on Tuesday, the voluntary self-testing is aimed at finding individuals with signs of coronavirus infection, and not at finding asymptomatic cases.
He added that the anti-epidemic measures in the autumn would be aimed mainly at protecting vulnerable groups - older people and people whose immune system has been compromised.
Ten free-of-charge kits for self-testing will be available for every primary and secondary school student on a monthly basis.
The ministry's decision follows the recommendation from the relevant task force at the National Institute of Public Health that home self-testing be conducted for students with coronavirus symptoms and those who have been in close contact with infected persons.
For the second phase, which would be triggered under a worsened epidemiological situation, mandatory weekly self-testing has been proposed for primary and secondary school, and for university students and participants in adult education programmes.
Ostrc said the ministry would send today relevant instructions to head teachers of schools and to social care institutions, and that it was also in close contact with the Chamber of Pharmacy.
STA, 9 August 2022 - The new school year is to kick off with home coronavirus testing for those showing symptoms and for those who were in contact with an infected person, experts have decided. Classrooms are to be ventilated very frequently, as often as every 20 minutes during the winter, while windows should remain open during warmer seasons.
An education task force, one of the sub-groups within the National Institute of Public Health's coronavirus advisory group, today expressed support for the guidelines the advisory group put together last week.
Nives Počkar from the Secondary School Headteacher Association told the STA that the main goal was to avoid shutting down schools. She hopes people will accept home testing as part of a responsible attitude required so that schools and preschools remain open.
The plan entails two scenarios that will be implemented depending on epidemiologic situation.
If the situation remains similar to now, home testing will be obligatory for those with infection symptoms and those who have been in contact with an infected person.
However, if a new variant creating a high risk of severe illness starts spreading, a second scenario will be implemented, requiring weekly home testing for all students and teachers.
In both cases, home tests will be available for students free of charge at pharmacies.
The education task force also supports the recommendation of frequent ventilation of classrooms, Počkar said.
Since only few schools have ventilation systems installed, ventilation will be created by opening windows.
STA, 22 July 2022 - As Covid figures have been increasing again in Slovenia, the Covid-19 task force recommended on Friday that face masks be again introduced in all indoor public spaces and that they become obligatory in the health system again. Vulnerable groups and those over 60 have been urged to work from home and get vaccinated.
"We ask employers to enable that and decision makers to create the legal basis for working from home," the group's head Mario Fafangel told the press. He stressed this was the basis for long-term co-existing with the virus.
All vulnerable groups and those over 60 years old are strongly recommended to use face masks when distancing is not possible. Masks are also recommended for all in indoor spaces such as public transport, shops, cinemas, he said.
The task force also called for masks to again become obligatory indoors in hospitals, community health centres, pharmacies, care homes and other social care institutions. Many of these institutions have already made mask wearing mandatory themselves.
Fafangel said that the epidemiological situation in Slovenia was improving and that the reproduction number was slowing approaching one, meaning that one infected person on average still infected more than one person.
The number of infections in this summer wave will peak next or perhaps even this week, he said. Then the curve could stagnate for a while before turning downwards in the best case scenario, he said.
Infectious disease expert Mateja Logar said rapid antigen test were currently used to confirm infections, while in the coming weeks PCR testing would be enhanced, as it enables further sequencing to determine the sub-variant of the virus.
Persons with Covid symptoms must stay home for seven days since the start of the symptoms. If the person tests negative after seven days, the isolation ends.
Logar stressed the importance of early detection of the disease, as the drugs available, remdesivir and paxlovid, are effective in preventing complications if taken early enough.
Currently, about 10% of beds are available for Covid patients in 15 Slovenian hospitals, according to the head of the task force coordinating Covid hospitalisations, Matjaž Jereb. He said the most problematic were patients treated for other conditions who get infected with coronavirus.
Calculations show that hospitalisations should peak in mid-August. "Let's hope that the pressure on hospitals will nevertheless be lower in the coming weeks," he said.
Health Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan said all measures would be introduced in cooperation with experts and presented to the public. No measure will be introduced overnight, he said.
"We want to prepare an open model, which Omicron currently allows for, but we must protect the vulnerable groups. We will strive to keep both our society and health system open," he said.
He announced the government would prepare an emergency Covid law to help manage the epidemic and its consequences. The bill will be sent to the Economic and Social Council next month, and will be passed in September, he said. It will be retroactive, taking effect from the start of July until the end of next year, he said.
Plans are also being made within the task force for the new school year. Gregor Pečan, a member of the subgroup for education, said the idea was to address the main challenges by autumn, so that school work could be conducted like in pre-pandemic times.
STA, 19 July 2022 - A total of 2,764 new cases of coronavirus were recorded in Slovenia on Monday in what is a 17% increase over the same day a week ago, and the highest daily case count since 4 April. Hospitalisations continue to increase on a weekly basis, and one Covid-19 patient died yesterday.
A total of 84 patients with Covid-19 as their main condition were in hospitals on Monday, which is 27 more than a week ago, the data from the Health Ministry shows. The number of intensive care patients was up by one to nine on a weekly basis.
The seven-day average of new daily cases was up by 63 on the day before to 1,556, and the 14-day case notification rate per 100,000 residents rose by 47 to 957, the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) reported.
According to the NIJZ, an estimated 20,267 people are now actively infected in Slovenia, almost a thousand more than yesterday.
Due to the increasing number of infections, many hospitals have introduced restrictions for visits to one healthy person in a certain time interval, and the use of protective face masks is again mandatory in most hospitals.
In the UKC Maribor hospital, visits have been prohibited from Monday, and may be exceptionally permitted by the heads of departments, while the use of face masks is mandatory for all.
Visits have also been prohibited as of today in the Celje general hospital, with the exception of visits to critically ill and dying patients and for hospitalised children and infants in the maternity ward.
The country's largest hospital, UKC Ljubljana, which re-introduced mandatory wearing of face masks on 7 July, told the STA that complete prohibition of visits is not planned for the time being. Such a ban could applied for individual departments.
STA, 30 June 2022 - Slovenia will receive EUR 1.49 billion in grants from the EU post-Covid recovery mechanism, which is almost EUR 286 million less than the initial allocation, show recalculations by the European Commission. The lower amount is a result of more favourable economic trends in 2020 and 2021 than originally estimated.
Just shy of EUR 1.78 billion was first earmarked for Slovenia under the EUR 672.5 billion European Recovery and Resilience Mechanism that is part of the EUR 750 billion Recovery Fund.
The calculation of these funds was based mainly on the size of population, GDP per capita compared to the EU average, and the average unemployment rate in 2015-2019 in relation to the EU average.
In addition to these criteria, the calculation for the allocation of 30% of the final amount also took into account the fall in GDP in real terms in 2020 and the overall real terms decline in economic activity in 2020-2021.
Regarding this segment, the regulation took into account the Commission's autumn 2020 economic forecast, but also provided for new recalculations for EU member states based on final data. The deadline for publishing the new figures was today.
In the Covid year 2020, Slovenia recorded a decline of "merely 4.2%" in GDP, and a 8.1% growth in 2021. Meanwhile, Brussels forecast in November 2020 that Slovenia would suffer a 7.1% GDP decrease and a 5.1% growth in 2021.
The actual situation was thus significantly better, and since the Slovenian economy fared better during the Covid crisis, with increased public spending and government stimulus measures, the country will now receive less in recovery grants.
Up to EUR 3.2 billion in loans are available to Slovenia in addition to these grants as part of the mechanism, under which the Commission borrows on behalf of member states and then allocates the funds to them, either through loans or grants. This ceiling is calculated as 6.8% of gross national income in 2019.
Same as other member states, Slovenia prepared the National Recovery and Resilience Plan based on this mechanism. The roadmap was approved at EU level a year ago, and the country envisaged EUR 2.5 billion to fund programmes and projects, including the entire quota of the grants allocated and EUR 705 million in loans.
Due to a lower grant allocation, the country will now have to make up the gap with loans. Even before the latest developments, the new government coalition said that it will strive to make use of the entire spectrum of possible funds through changes to the national plan. It has until the end of August 2023 to amend the plan.
Slovenia already received EUR 231 million in advance funding from the Commission for the implementation of the recovery plan last September, and is expected to apply for the first instalment of the grants of just over EUR 57 million by the end of this month.
STA, 24 June 2022 - A Slovenian network of NGOs that has played a major role in challenging controversial government restrictions during the COVID pandemic is among the recipients of this year's European Citizens' Prize conferred by the European Parliament.
The Legal Network for the Protection of Democracy (Pravna mreža za varstvo demokracije) is among the 30 winners of the prize from 24 countries, the European Parliament announced on Friday.
It has received the recognition for a project supporting individuals and organisations in the use of legal means to challenge measures, procedures and policies that are unlawful, unconstitutional and undemocratic.
The European Parliament noted that the NGO network had been nominated for the prize by citizens, and that the initiative had been established in 2021 on the basis of the values of the protection of democracy and the rule of law.
With legal opinions, positions and calls, the legal network protects democratic, open, free and solidarity-based society, and thus contributes to strengthening the rule of law and protecting democracy, the press release says.
The European Parliament added that the Legal Network for the Protection of Democracy had become one of the most recognisable organisations in the field of the protection of the rule of law in the last year.
It has cooperated with the Polish and Hungarian counterparts that face similar challenges, and has managed to attract young people, which is important in the face of the European Year of Youth 2022, the Parliament said.
The award ceremony is scheduled to take place in Brussels on 8 November.
The European Citizens' Prize is conferred annually by the European Parliament for national, cross-border and pan-European projects that promote closer integration and cooperation between the residents of the EU.
The prize also promotes the values of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, such as dignity, equality, solidarity, justice and civil rights and freedoms.
The previous winners from Slovenia include jurist Lovro Šturm, authors Boris Pahor, Alojz Rebula, Drago Jančar and Evgen Bavčar, philosopher and sociologist Spomenka Hribar, humanitarian Tomo Križnar, the Simbioza association, the Union of Pensioner Associations and the Beekepers' Association.
Last year, the prize went to Kristine Modic, the executive director of the Association of Lymphoma and Leukemia Patients, and Samo Zver, the head of the Haematology Department of the UKC Ljubljana hospital.
STA, 13 April 2022 - Masks will no longer be mandatory in public spaces as of Thursday under a government decision that keeps the mask mandate only in hospital and care facilities. Mask use is still recommended, especially for the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
The government advisory group for Covid-19 initially proposed that the mask mandate be lifted once the total number of Covid patients in intensive care units drops below 35 for seven consecutive days, which trends suggest would have happened in about a week.
The government has however decided to speed things along given that Covid has been in retreat for some time. ICU cases have been below 35 for two days now.
The mask mandate was the only major restriction still in place, but even that has already been loosened since it was waived for schools in early March.
The mask mandate was first introduced in March 2020 and save for a brief intermission in June the same year the restriction has been in place to varying degrees since then.
At one points masks were mandatory outdoor as well, a measure that proved hugely unpopular.
Infectious diseases specialist Bojana Beović and Milan Krek, the head of the National Institute of Public Health, said today masks have been one of the key public health measures during the pandemic.
Without masks the figures would have been far worse, especially before vaccines were available in sufficient quantities, Krek stressed.
STA, 29 March 2022 - Slovenia recorded 4,412 new coronavirus cases on Monday, over a tenth fewer than the figure reported the same day a week ago as the downward trend continued for the fifth day running. Just one patient with Covid-19 died, Health Ministry has reported.
A total of 186 patients were still treated for Covid-19 at hospitals this morning, two more than yesterday. The figure includes 37 in intensive care, the same figure as reported yesterday.
The National Institute of Public Health estimates there are now just below 39,000 actively infected people in the country, roughly 260 fewer than the previous day but still almost 4,000 more than estimate a week ago.
The 7-day average of new daily cases dropped to 2,710, down 77 from the previous day and down 95 compared to the figure reported a week ago.
The 14-day notification rate per 100,000 people is now at 1,844, up by 11 from a day ago and up by 187 week-on-week.
Monday's cases were picked up from 2,018 PCR tests and 17,966 rapid antigen tests.
All the latest data on COVID and Slovenia
STA, 14 March 2022 - Administrative units (upravne enote) will return to business as usual after the government on Monday revoked a decree that severely restricted in-person operations by requiring that customers schedule appointments for services such as issuance of documents.
"Clients will be able to submit applications without having to schedule appointments, although the option of scheduling will remain," the Government Communications Office said.
Access to administrative units has been severely restricted for much of the pandemic, leading to long waiting times.
With most other coronavirus restrictions now lifted or relaxed, there have been complaints in recent weeks about the continued inaccessibility of administrative services.
The decree will enter into effect a day after it is published in the Official Gazette, presumably on Tuesday.
STA, 3 March 2022 - Teenagers aged 12 to 18 can now get a coronavirus booster shot after this change to vaccination has been recommended by the task force on immunisation at the National Institute of Public Health. They will get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine booster, the task force's head Bojana Beović told the STA on Thursday.
The immunisation group recommends booster for the children aged 12 to 18 who suffer from diseases that could worsen their Covid-19 should they fall ill with it.
"However, healthy youth can also get vaccinated with a booster shot," stressed Beović.
The immunisation group followed the recommendation of the European Medicines Agency's (EMA) human medicines committee from 24 February.
The committee said the available evidence was sufficient to conclude that the immune response to a booster dose in adolescents would be at least equal to that in adults.
A booster shot is recommended three months after the basic two-dose vaccination.
Those who have recovered from Covid but have not been vaccinated are meanwhile recommended to receive a booster three to six months after recovering from the disease.
EMA last week also approved the Moderna vaccine for children over 6, which has so far been approved only for kids over 12, but the Slovenian immunisation task force has not yet discussed this change.