Ljubljana related

24 Nov 2020, 16:48 PM

STA, 24 November 2020 - Bojana Beović, the head of the government's coronavirus task force, has announced that the group will propose the extension of existing restrictions this week. It is not possible to talk about potential changes until the most recent measures show effects, which is expected at the end of this week, Beović told the STA.

Beović said that the novel coronavirus continues to circulate among the population to a great degree, even though some measures, such as the closure of kindergartens, schools etc., have been in place for a month already.

Arguing that it does not help to prescribe measures if these are not observed, Beović said that some countries, for instance Austria, saw the situation calming after a few weeks of restrictions.

This was not the case in Slovenia, which she attributes to a different perception of these measures in our society. Beovič argued this perception was also the result of what she described as an absence of support or the polemics about the measures in the central media.

Beović, an infectious diseases specialist, noted it was obvious the virus was spreading in work environments, since kindergartens, schools and bars are closed. Thus it will also not be possible to advise relaxing measures affecting businesses. For this to happen, companies will need to do their part and prevent the virus from spreading among workers.

She moreover commented on Prime Minister Janez Janša's announced of mass voluntary testing. She said the task force was leaning towards targeted mass testing, meaning tests for high-risk groups. Weekly testing for healthcare workers has already begun, while systematic testing is also planned in care homes.

24 Nov 2020, 13:43 PM

STA, 24 November 2020 - Slovenia saw a record 59 fatalities among patients with Covid-19 on Monday, which takes the death toll from the disease to 1,156. Another 1,302 coronavirus cases were confirmed, while 1,299 patients are still being treated in hospitals, including 204 in intensive care.

Fresh data from the government show that 5,596 coronavirus tests were performed on Monday, which means 23.27% of the tests came back positive, down from almost 27% the day before and almost 30% on Saturday.

Hospitalisations rose by seven to 1,299, after more than 120 new admissions yesterday and 78 patients being discharged. The number of patients in intensive care rose by three to 204.

Slovenia has so far confirmed 67,080 coronavirus cases. The number of active infections has increased by 214 to 20,337. The rolling 14-day average per 100,000 residents is 970, according to tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org.

Presenting the latest statistics at a press briefing on Tuesday, government Covid-19 spokesman Jelko Kacin said the infections were spread throughout the country, with numerous hotspots.

Outbreaks at care homes continue to be the major problem with 174 new infections confirmed among the elderly residents on Monday, for a total of 2,618 active infections among that most vulnerable population.

The number of actively infected staff at care homes rose by 52 in the past day to 935, Kacin said. There are about 12,300 staff caring for about 19,000 elderly in some 100 care homes in the country.

In the five special social care homes, the number of infected residents remains the same as the day before at 165, as the number of infections among the staff there rose by three to 98.

The most new cases were confirmed in a care home in Kamnik, as many as 32 of the 37 infections in that municipality to the north of Ljubljana, and the Bokalce unit of the Vič care home in Ljubljana, which accounted for 19 of the 182 infections in the capital.

Of the 59 fatalities yesterday, 41 were patients in Covid-19 hospitals, three in nursing hospitals and 15 died in care homes.

The main reason for the outbreaks in care homes is deemed to be transmissions by asymptomatic staff and patients returning from hospitals to the homes, said Gabrijela Valenčič, the head of the Koper regional civil protection team for care homes.

All our stories on Slovenia and coronavirus

23 Nov 2020, 14:59 PM

STA, 23 November 2020 - Slovenia's death toll among patients with Covid-19 has increased to 1,097 after 45 more deaths were reported for Sunday, as confirmed infections fell to 470 on a test positivity rate of 27% according to government data.

The number of reported cases fell to a two-week low, but due to changes in testing scope and protocols the figures are not really comparable.

Government data show only 1,742 tests were carried out on Sunday, which compares to 1,792 a week ago when 501 infections were confirmed, and 2,063 tests on the Sunday two weeks ago when 464 cases were confirmed.

The number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 rose by 48 from the day before to 1,292 as the number of those requiring intensive treatment increased by three to 201. 29 patients were discharged.

Commenting for TV Slovenija morning show, infectologist Mateja Logar of the Ljubljana UKC's department of infectious diseases, said "we're still at a high level, there's been no substantial decline in the number of infections".

She said flattening the curve was much harder now than in spring because of the great number of infected persons in the population.

According to tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org, the country has currently 20,123 active infections, out of the total of 65,778 so far confirmed. The rolling 14-day average per 100,000 residents remains at 960.

Hospitals using rapid antigen tests among staff

STA, 23 November 2020 - Hospitals across Slovenia have started or stepped up using rapid antigen testing for Covid-19 to screen staff members as a way to prepare for a weekly systemic testing. The country's central medical centre, UKC Ljubljana, plans to carry out a round of tests at its gynaecology department first, checking for antibodies as well.

Mandatory systemic testing of healthcare staff came into force today, however the implementation of the new measure will be gradual to give hospitals and other health institutions enough time to purchase tests and come up with a testing protocol.

UKC Ljubljana is testing some 620 staff members at the gynaecology department today, with those working at the emergency department being next in line. The hospital plans to perform some 10,000 tests per week.

UKC Ljubljana director general Janez Poklukar told Radio Slovenija that the hospital will also check for antibodies in all the staff members. Those whose blood results will show that they have already had Covid-19 will not be tested in the next three months.

The rapid antigen testing will merely serve as an additional support since the hospital has otherwise opted for PCR molecular-based tests and is still waiting for the decision to be cleared by the Health Ministry.

Meanwhile, UKC Maribor medical centre launched additional rapid testing of staff today, but said it was not yet testing all its staff, which counted 3,589 at the end of September.

Periodic tests at key departments worst hit by absences due to infections have been performed once a week for a while with about 500 staff a week tested in exposed units such as Covid-19 and intensive care units.

Data presented on Friday show 275 staff at UKC Maribor were absent, including 46 doctors and 132 care staff, of whom 116 because of child care.

The Nova Gorica hospital has begun conducting tests in all the departments where there is a risk of exposure to the infected. The hospital will thus screen up to 600 staff out of a total of some 1,000, Dunja Savnik Winkler, the hospital's medical director told the STA.

The hospital has been using rapid tests since the start of November to check for the presence of the coronavirus in critical patients and health workers who have been in contact with the infected. The hospital already bought 500 rapid antigen tests and plans to boost the supplies.

The Novo Mesto hospital has been screening its staff members with Covid-19 symptoms using molecular-based tests, however, in line with a decree on the systemic testing of healthcare staff with rapid tests, the hospital will commence rapid antigen testing this week.

The additional testing protocol will be introduced gradually, first among staff working at the department of infectious diseases. Until 7 December, the deadline set down in the decree, the hospital will be able to screen all of its staff, the hospital told the STA.

From 7 December, healthcare providers will be required to test their staff every week, with the exception being those who have already recovered from Covid-19.

Franc Vindišar, medical director of the Celje hospital, told Radio Slovenija that the hospital plans to carry out some 1,000 rapid tests per week.

Such tests have been already providing support at the hospital's emergency department and in the case of critical patients. The hospital has also been testing staff members showing Covid-19 symptoms, those who have been in close contact with the infected and those working at a department where many infections had been confirmed.

The ministry will reimburse the cost of rapid as well as molecular tests to a certain extent - when it comes to PCR tests, the hospitals will be refunded EUR 6 per swab and EUR 55 per lab analysis, and in the case of antigen tests, they will get EUR 3 per swab and up to EUR 9 for tests.

The earmarked funds are meant to go for testing conducted between 24 October and the end of 2021. The ministry has cleared a total of 31 antigen tests of various suppliers.

The price tags of rapid tests in Slovenia raised some dust last week as RTV Slovenija reported that certain hospitals had been paying up to five times more than others at home and abroad.

UKC Ljubljana and UKC Maribor are among those hospitals that have been purchasing antigen tests at much higher prices than others, some EUR 24 per piece.

The Jesenice hospital paid even more, EUR 32, whereas the Slovenj Gradec hospital purchased tests at roughly EUR 5 apiece.

All our stories on Covid and Slovenia

23 Nov 2020, 13:38 PM

STA, 23 November 2020 - The Ljubljana police were tipped off this weekend about an illegal party in one of the bars in the capital. Despite lockdown and a ban on socialising, several people were partying without masks and even hid in the bar's warehouse when police came. The bar's owner and 13 people will be fined, including for violating the public order.

According to the Ljubljana police station, officers found 13 people in the bar's warehouse who had been partying and drinking in the four-square-metre bar despite a ban on the bar's operations and a ban on socialising.

The owner, who claimed the bar was not open, will be fined for violating the temporary ban on offering goods and services to consumers, and the health inspectorate will be notified of a violation of the communicable disease act.

All 13 people, aged between 24 and 69, including a 17-year-old, will also be fined. One of the persons also faces charges for crime against public order because of indecent behaviour towards police officers.

Police again called on everyone to adhere to the government measures to curb the spread of coronavirus and not to put their own health or the health of others at risk with irresponsible behaviour.

22 Nov 2020, 13:11 PM

STA, 22 November 2020 - Slovenia recorded 1,024 new coronavirus cases for Saturday as the test positivity rate reached nearly 30%. Another 26 patients with Covid-19 died, bringing the overall death toll to 1,052, data from the government show.

A total of 3,432 tests for the novel coronavirus were performed yesterday, which means the test positivity rate climbed to 29.84%, up form 25.68% the day before.

The number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 rose by 25 from the day before to 1,244 as the number of those requiring intensive treatment increased by one to 198. 39 patients were discharged home.

According to tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org, the country has currently 20,119 active infections, out of the total of 65,308 so far confirmed. The rolling 14-day average per 100,000 residents has risen to 960.

Covid-19 mortality higher in second wave

STA, 21 November 2020 - More than eight months after the first Covid-19 fatality was recorded in Slovenia on 14 March, the number of deaths exceeded 1,000 on Saturday. While a total of 108 people died of coronavirus in the first wave, the figures have been much higher the second time round, with more than 600 people dying in November alone.

The second wave started in late summer and escalated in October, with data showing that nearly 900 people died since the start of September.

The highest weekly toll was recorded between 9 and 15 November, when 253 people died, while the highest daily number of deaths was 45, recorded on 16 November. So far, 638 people died this month.

Data from the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) show that mortality per 100,000 residents in the last two weeks in Slovenia was at 12.9, putting Slovenia in place 7 among EU members. Higher mortality rates were recorded in the Czech Republic, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Lichtenstein.

But while the mortality rate for the entire population is higher in the second wave, the mortality rate for those who test positive seems to be lower.

Between 1 September and 20 November, 1.4% of those who tested positive died, while in the first wave 108 people died out of a total of fewer than 1,500 who tested positive, putting the mortality rate among those infected at 7.3%.

Mortality rates are also lower among patients requiring intensive treatment. The head of intensive therapy at the infections clinic of the Ljubljana UKC hospital, Matjaž Jereb, said a week ago that the mortality rate of ICU patients was currently at about 15%, compared to 30% in the first wave.

He said it was impossible to predict the outcome for any of the patients requiring intensive care, and also warned against comparisons of Covid-19 with the flu.

Mortality estimates for Covid-19 and the flu vary, he said, but it is indisputable that mortality in Covid-19 patients is at least ten times as high as in flu. The number of patients requiring intensive care is also ten times higher than in flu.

Jereb told the STA that Covid-19 patients died due to organ failure that developed in addition to severely affected lungs. Most die following pulmonary embolism complications, with lung failure due to pneumonia the second most common cause.

In younger patients the cause of death is usually complications from underlying chronic diseases, especially heart disease.

Most of the fatalities in Slovenia were people over the age of 85, as mortality increases with age. The youngest fatality in Slovenia was a patient aged between 35 and 44, who died in October.

In the first wave, 80% of those who died (87 people) were nursing home residents. Preliminary data from the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) show that 471 nursing home residents have died so far in the second wave, with total deaths in this wave nearing 900.

The Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS), a top research facility, has projected that at least another 400 people will die in the second wave.

In case that restrictions fail to show effect and reproduction number remained at around one, Slovenia can expect to see the death tally to reach 2,500 by the end of the year, says IJS. If, however, reproduction number drops to 0.5, 2,000 people are projected to die by the end of January.

All out stories on Covid and Slovenia

21 Nov 2020, 14:00 PM

STA, 21 November 2020 - Slovenia' death toll from the Covid-19 epidemic exceeded 1,000 after 31 deaths were reported for Friday. A total of 1,690 cases were confirmed in 6,580 tests, the government announced on Twitter.

As the number of new cases remains below the 2,000-plus, the situation in hospitals appears to be stabilising.

There were 1,219 people in hospital after 129 were discharged, down from 1,254 the day before, of which 197 in intensive care, four fewer.

Positivity rate dropped continues to drop yesterday, reaching 25.68%. Government speaker Jelko Kacin tweeted that "daily fluctuations can be seen, but this week the trend was notably negative nevertheless."

A total of 64,270 people tested positive in Slovenia so far and 1,026 died. There are currently 19,972 active cases of infection in the country and the 14-day incidence per 100,000 is at 953, according to tracker covid-19.sledilnik.

Data from the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities show that 12 nursing home residents were among the fatalities recorded on Friday. This brings the total number of deaths among nursing home residents in the second wave to 471.

The number of new infections among nursing home residents reached 120, bringing the number of total infections to 2,650 out of a total of some 19,000 residents. Among staff, the number of infections climbed by 44 to 927 active infections out of a total of 12,300.

Border crossing restrictions relaxed, Canada red-listed

STA, 21 November - The government decided on Saturday to relax somewhat border crossing restrictions for people living near the border and expanded the red-list of high-risk countries with Canada.

As of Monday, Slovenians will be able to cross into a neighbouring country without having to quarantine upon return to go to a store or to use another service if it is closer to their home than the nearest in Slovenia.

Such trips abroad to red-listed countries will be limited to two hours, the Interior Ministry said after the government's correspondence session. It will apply to citizens and residents of Slovenia.

At the same time, Slovenia will allow the same exception to citizens and residents of neighbouring countries seeking services in Slovenia.

The government also expanded the list of red countries with Canada, meaning that persons arriving in Slovenia from Canada will have to quarantine unless they present a negative coronavirus test.

The red list was also expanded with three Estonian administrative units (Harju, Hiiu and Rapla), French Polynesia, Greek administrative units North Aegean Islands and Peloponnesus, Latvian administrative unit Zemgala and Norwegian administrative units Vestland and Viken. Moreover, Switzerland in its entirety will also be red as of Monday.

The Finnish administrative unit Österbotten was meanwhile removed from the red list, making the entire Finland orange. There are no restrictions in place for orange countries.

21 Nov 2020, 12:00 PM

STA, 20 November 2020 - The suspension of the real estate services in the spring lockdown has had no impact on property prices since the housing market was swiftly revived after the restrictions were lifted. The prices even went up a bit. The commercial property market has been slower to pick up though, a report by the Surveying and Mapping Authority (GURS) says.

The semi-annual report notes that Slovenia's property market was deeply impacted by the epidemic in the first half of 2020.

Property trade was virtually brought to a halt for two months in spring. There were significantly fewer transactions, however it transpired that the developments have not affected property price trends.

Following May, when most anti-corona restrictions were lifted, the situation soon went back to the pre-epidemic levels.

The prices mostly rose to a certain extent in the first six months of 2020 despite a decline in transactions.

GURS recorded some 13,300 property transactions totalling some EUR 900 million in this period, a more than 25% drop in the number of transactions and down by a third regarding their total value compared to the second half of 2019.

Taking into account the same period last year, that is the first half of 2019, a drop in the number of sales/purchases is also more than a quarter, whereas a decrease recorded in the total value is bigger, by 37%.

The downward trends are not as strong as expected given the epidemic and record figures in 2019, GURS said.

The number of flat transactions totalled some 6,300 in the first half of 2020, down by 28% on the second half of 2019 and 26% on the first half of 2019. The total value of the deals made in the first half of 2020 was EUR 614 million.

The average price of a second-hand flat exceeded the threshold of EUR 1,900 per m2 for the first time at the national level in the first half of 2020, up by 3% on the second half of 2019 and a 6% increase compared to the same period in 2019.

Ljubljana remains a hotbed of record-high flat prices, with the average price of a second-hand flat topping EUR 2,900 per m2 for the first time, a 3% rise compared to the second half of 2019 and up by 5% on the first half of 2019.

The prices went up the most in Kranj in the north where the average price of a resale flat rose by 7% on the second half of 2019 and 6% on the first half of 2019.

The only area where the prices went down a bit on average is the seaside, a trend which is a result of fewer holiday flats transactions, according to GURS.

The average price of a house with land attached stood at EUR 130,000 in the first half of 2020, down by 2% on the second half of 2019 and up by 4% on the first half of 2019.

The most expensive houses on the market are still seen in Ljubljana, where the average price was more than EUR 300,000, followed by the coast, Koper excluded.

The commercial property market has been hit worst by the epidemic, GURS said. Price growth continued to stagnate in this sector, with over 700 transactions recorded in the first half of 2020, down by 42% on the second half of 2019 and down by 36% on the first half of 2019. Their total value was estimated at EUR 93 million.

The impact of the second epidemic wave will depend on the duration of lockdown restrictions and further epidemiological developments as well as on stimulus measures, GURS said, adding that even if the market went through a major crisis, the prices would not plummet anytime soon.

21 Nov 2020, 10:05 AM

STA, 20 November 2020 - The financial situation of many Slovenian households has deteriorated since the outbreak of the new coronavirus, shows the latest Valicon survey. While in March 13% of respondents said things were tougher, in November this share is over 20%. Almost three-quarters said they had or would reduce spending.

Some 21% of the respondents in Valicon's survey conducted among 527 respondents between 13 and 15 November said their financial situation had deteriorated and that they had reduced spending.

Another 23% expect their financial situation to deteriorate and just 28% said they had not and did not intend to cut their spending.

The survey has also shown that the share of workers on furlough has risen significantly, to 14%, which is similar as at the end of May, just before the first wave of the epidemic was declared over and the share started dropping again.

During the spring epidemic, the share of workers on furlough stood at 20-30%. At the moment, one in four employed Slovenians is not working. The share of people on sick leave has also gone up, to 5%.

Exactly three-quarters of staff is working, whereas 44% of them have the same workload as before the virus, a quarter has bigger workload and 6% work shorter hours.

The authors of the survey say that optimism which was detected two weeks ago is picking up. The share of those who believe things are looking up is now the same as the share of those who think the situation is deteriorating. Two weeks ago, almost two-thirds saw no silver lining.

Currently, 63% of respondents assessed the situation the country is in now as negative and only 37% as positive. Three-quarters are concerned about the virus, which is a little less than two weeks ago.

20 Nov 2020, 15:22 PM

STA, 20 November 2020 - Slovenia's daily coronavirus case count dropped to 1,546 on Thursday from over 2,000 recorded on the previous two days, as the test positivity rate dropped slightly, fresh data from the government show. With another 31 fatalities, the Covid-19 death toll rose to 995.

A total of 5,673 tests for Sars-CoV-2 were performed yesterday, which means 27.25% of the tests came back positive, three percentage points down from the day before.

The number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 rose by 16 to 1,254 but the number of those requiring intensive care dropped by four to 201, as 68 patients were discharged home yesterday.

Offering some more detailed statistics at the daily press briefing in the morning, government spokesman Jelko Kacin expressed concern about an increase in infections in care homes.

The number of infected residents increased by 250 to what are currently 2,510 actively infected residents out of a total of 4,424 infections among the residents in aged care facilities in the second wave.

The number of infected care home staff rose by 81 in the past day to 905 actively infected, out of a total of 1,656 confirmed infections among care home staff in the second wave.

Data from tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org show Slovenia has so far confirmed 62,580 coronavirus infections with the number of active infections dropping by 0.1% in the past day to 19,894. The rolling 14-day average per 100,000 residents dropped to 949.

Robert Carotta, the coordinator for Covid-19 hospital beds at the Health Ministry who also addressed the briefing, assessed that the coronavirus situation was stabilising although it remained tense.

"Luckily, the number of hospitalisations isn't increasing any more. It appears we've have reached a peak," he said, but warned that the health system was stretched to the limit.

He said though that there was a decreasing number of patient transfers between hospitals, which "indicates the hospitals are able to attend to patients in their area".

He also said that the number of infections among health staff was on the decrease; at Jesenice general hospital where he comes from, 37 staff are absent due to Covid-19, which was down from the peak of 72 or more than 20% of the staff at the hospital.

Slovenia's chief epidemiologist with mixed views about current measures

STA, 20 November 2020 - Mario Fafangel, Slovenia's chief epidemiologist, has mixed feelings about the current measures to curtail the spread of coronavirus. In an interview with Mladina, he singled out mandatory masks outdoor and ban on movement between municipalities as having questionable utility, but warned that overall, the measures must be relaxed gradually.

The chair of the Centre for Communicable Diseases at the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), Fafangel said it was "very difficult to take a position on which measures may be excessive" since there is no room for error at this point.

"When this period is over and the number of new infections is brought back to a manageable level, I would certainly do certain things very differently than so far," he said.

In spring Fafangel was one of the signatories of a letter by NIJZ epidemiologists who protested against their profession being sidelined.

"I don't have a problem saying that under my leadership, epidemiologists will not become a repressive body and will not issue binding quarantine decisions."

Asked which measures were currently least likely to contribute to curtailing the epidemic, he singled out mandatory masks outdoors saying there were no studies at this point showing that countries which instituted mandatory masks outdoor were more successful in fighting the epidemic.

He acknowledged, however, that such a blanket rule rendered it unnecessary to more precisely regulate mask use, and it made supervision of compliance easier.

One recent example that gained a lot of traction in media and on social networks was the fining of a food delivery worker who had lunch in the centre of Ljubljana and was fined for not wearing a mask.

"I think this is unproductive. Such a repressive approach may be effective in a situation that lasts a month or two at most, but what it mostly does is it triggers resistance to compliance."

In a similar vein, Fafangel thinks the ban on movement between municipalities does not make much sense.

"The epidemiological situation does not warrant restrictions on movement around the country since infections are spread fairly evenly and we don't have less affected areas that we would have to protect."

He noted, however, that the goal of this measure was "to reduce the movement and mingling of people in all possible ways".

Another questionable rule is the ban on some non-food products in grocery stores, a measure he said that only made people angry, even if it is designed to reduce contact between people and hence the probability of transmission.

Overall, he said the measures needed to be relaxed "very cautiously" while those that will remain in force longer must be more targeted.

A resident of Trieste, he said that having experienced the total lockdown in Italy, "in the end you only wait how to make up for everything you have missed and create extra reserves for the new lockdown".

He said the situation was particularly difficult for young adults, who feel very much deprived. "It is necessary to emphasise all the time that this is for the good of the community, for protecting the vulnerable, but at the same time we should not expect perfection from youths and be indignant at their irresponsibility every time they transgress."

All our stories on covid & Slovenia

19 Nov 2020, 20:09 PM

STA, 19 November 2020 - The government has extended by seven days the closure of shops selling non-essential goods and the ban on cultural events, its Covid-19 spokesman Jelko Kacin said on Thursday. It will decide whether to extend other measures, such as the night curfew or the movement between municipalities, at a correspondence session on Friday.

The seven-day extension also applies to driving school lessons.

The exceptions to the shop ban are groceries, shops selling personal care and cleaning products or farm produce, pharmacies, petrol stations, banks and insurers, post offices, car repair shops as well as delivery services.

Clothing, shoe and tech stores are not listed among the exceptions and even grocery stores are not allowed to sell technical goods, clothes or shoes.

The government also decided that multi-apartment buildings have to provide hand sanitiser at the entrance for another 14 days.

It suspended the deadlines in court procedures, Kacin explained. The decision is based on the law on courts, which says the deadlines are suspended if courts cannot work due to an emergency. The suspension can last up to three months.

On 16 November, all courts in Slovenia switched to lockdown mode until further notice to help fight the coronavirus.

This means court hearings are held only in some half a dozen urgent matters, whereas all the others have been cancelled, except if held via video call.

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