Ljubljana related

07 Oct 2020, 21:12 PM

STA, 7 October 2020 - The government has formally declared Črna na Koroškem, site of a major coronavirus outbreak at a residential facility for people with mental disabilities, Slovenia's first Covid-19 danger zone. The declaration, effective on Wednesday, makes the municipality eligible for aid but does not involve restrictions on movement.

The relevant decree was published in the Official Gazette late on Tuesday and took effect today without the knowledge of the local community, with Health Minister Tomaž Gantar saying the move was urgent due to the deterioration of the situation in the municipality.

"It will make things easier... All it means is the possibility of extra staffing assistance and fewer legal obstacles," the minister said in Slovenj Gradec, one of the stops on the government's day-long tour of the Koroška region.

Črna na Koroškem, a municipality in the north-east along the border with Austria, has had the highest infection rate among all Slovenian municipalities.

According to the latest data, almost 1.5% of the population was classified as active Covid-19 cases yesterday after over 100 the residents, staff and volunteers at the facility for people with mental disabilities became infected.

Gantar visited Črna and the facility for people with mental disabilities today along with Minister of Labour, the Family and Social Affairs Janez Cigler Kralj, with the latter saying that the government was there to help.

He added that the decision to declare the town a Covid-19 danger zone was important as the facility would be able to get assistance from other similar institutions and nursing homes in the vicinity.

A list of ten staff has already been prepared, and an external location has also been secured in a nearby education centre so that this vulnerable group gets the necessary protection, the health minister added.

Gantar was also acquainted with the overall epidemiological situation in Koroška and in particular in Črna, saying he was happy that there were not many hospitalisations despite the relatively high number of infections.

Črna Mayor Romana Lesjak said regarding the declaration that it did not relate so much to the population, but more to the welfare facility, which would be able to get professional and staff assistance, and additional protective equipment.

"If this is so, we welcome the decree, because we think that the centre, whose residents come from the entire Slovenia, deserves state aid and the burden relieved from its overworked staff," she added.

According to her, 79 infections have been confirmed in the facility among the residents and 29 among the staff. When it comes to the overall population in the town, the numbers are comparable to other municipalities of similar size.

07 Oct 2020, 12:43 PM

STA, 7 October 2020 - Slovenia has seen a new record daily increase in coronavirus infections as those nearly doubled to 356 on Tuesday, data from the government show. The total number of cases has now passed 7,000 and hospitalisations hit a record 122.

The latest cases come from a record 3,998 tests for Sars-CoV-2 performed on Tuesday, which means a positive test rate of 8.9%, another record high.

Slovenia Announces New Covid Guidelines, Restrictions Start Wednesday

Government spokesman Jelko Kacin, speaking at today's press briefing, said Slovenia's coronavirus incidence rate, that is the number of cases per 100,000 residents in a fortnight, rose to 116 after 106 the day before.

Hospitalisations rose to a new high of 122 to exceed the number seen in the first wave of coronavirus in spring; 22 patients require intensive care, which is still below the high of 36 seen in early April.

The new daily high comes just days after Slovenia logged a record of 238 on 1 October. It brings the overall case count since the start of the pandemic to 7,120, of which 2,426 remain active cases, data from the tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org show.

The national Covid-19-related death toll remains unchanged at 159.

Aleš Rozman, director of the Golnik University Clinic of Respiratory and Allergic Diseases, told the press briefing that he was "very concerned" about the "sharp rise" in the epidemic and number of hospitalisations.

If harsh restrictions are taken now, and if everyone starts abiding by precautionary measures now, it will only show in ten to 14 days, he said.

He said Slovenian hospitals had already exceeded 70% of the capacities which they can allocate for Covid-19 patients without affecting other health services, but projected that 200 Covid-19 beds would be required in ten days and 300 by the end of the month.

They were trying to mobilise extra beds, but that would also entail halting other programmes in hospitals and consequently prolong waiting times.

A point is about to be reached when it will no longer be possible to move infected care home residents showing mild symptoms to nursing hospitals to isolate them, so Rozman urged care homes to set up so-called red-zones before infections occur.

An even bigger problem is a shortage of staff, Rozman said, referring to infected and quarantined staff, both as a result of infections in non-work environment and those brought to hospitals by patients that only developed symptoms days after being admitted.

Tracker data shows 16 of the latest cases are health staff and six among care home staff, but none among care home residents.

By far the largest number of new cases, 60, was recorded in the capital Ljubljana, which tracker data show has 410 active cases out of the total of 1,305 logged since the start of the pandemic.

The government briefing heard that community transmissions account for the bulk of new cases, with one problem being private parties such as weddings and birthday parties, which continue in contravention of restrictions.

Kacin mentioned a wedding party featuring 150 guests in Koroška, which has the highest infection rate per capita among all Slovenian regions.

Similarly, Rozman said the problem was private parties, as well as working environments where precautionary measures were not being heeded, as well as commute to work in private cars.

Both Rozman and Kacin appealed for solidarity and responsible conduct, with Kacin announcing that the government would take measures already announced and potential new ones on Thursday. They will become effective from Friday.

Mobilisation of new beds and staff in preparation of a surge in Covid-19 patients was discussed yesterday in a meeting between Health Minister Tomaž Gantar.

Rozman said the idea was to coordinate and pool bed and staff capacities of hospitals, in order to allow patients to be treated as near as their home as possible, which is why new hospitals are setting up Covid-19 departments.

In a post on its Twitter profile after the meeting, the Health Ministry said that Gantar on the occasion appealed for a joint effort to turn down the curve of infections. "Let's be serious and responsible. We can do it," the post reads.

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06 Oct 2020, 16:27 PM

STA, 6 October 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša has presented guidelines adopted by the government to determine what anti-coronavirus measures to take, based on three parameters, the main one being the number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients. He has already announced several new measures as of Thursday as Slovenia persists in the orange phase.

The guidelines, titled the Plan of measures for containing the second coronavirus wave, are featured in a table which sets the parameters for so-called orange and red phases, with respective measures being envisaged for each phase.

The parameters are the number of newly confirmed infections per 100,000 residents in the last 14 days, the number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients and the number of patients who require ventilation.

Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Janša said that the number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients was the main parameter, and noting that since the spring, the government had managed to double the capacity for treatment of such patients.

When this number exceeds 60, Slovenia enters in the orange phase, and if it is higher than 140, it enters the red phase. The green phase means that residents are required to follow general rules such as distancing, hand sanitation and masks.

Janša said that Slovenia had been in the green phase all the way until the beginning of autumn, when the situation had worsened due to imported cases, and that some of the measures envisaged for the orange phase had to be taken in September.

These have not produced the desired results and, as of Thursday, additional measures will enter into force, including bars and restaurants needing to set up fewer tables across the same area, and serve only the guests sitting at tables.

Public and private gatherings will be restricted to 10 people, with the exception of religious ceremonies, weddings and supervised public cultural and sporting events, with consideration of all hygienic measures.

Another measure is restricting the number of persons in enclosed public spaces (shops, banks, post offices and other offices) relative to the size of the space, with details not specified.

Events will have to be held without food and drink being served, and visits to certain nursing homes and hospitals will be banned. The new measures are expected to be confirmed by the government on Wednesday.

Janša also noted the latest measure – mandatory installation of hand sanitisers in the shared areas in multi-apartment buildings, which will enter into force on Wednesday.

The government has almost exhausted the set of measures which do not significantly hamper public life, and if the number of infections continues to grow, it will have to declare an epidemic, which means stricter measures, he added.

"If the number of infected exceeds 140 per 100,000 residents in a 14-day period and if there are 250 patients in hospitals, more than 50 of them in intensive care, we will need to declare an epidemic," said Janša, adding that an epidemic would be automatically declared if Slovenia entered the red phase.

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia

06 Oct 2020, 14:01 PM

STA, 6 October 2020 - Out of the 2,509 coronavirus tests conducted in Slovenia on Monday 189 came back positive as the daily case counts remain high and on an upward trajectory. Three people infected with coronavirus died and hospitalisations continued to rise, show fresh government data.

There were 111 Covid-19 patients in hospital yesterday, four more than on Sunday, including 20 in intensive care units, one fewer than the day before. Ten persons were discharged from hospital.

The death toll climbed to 159 as three Covid-19-related fatalities were recorded on Monday.

The latest cases were confirmed in 78 municipalities, with Ljubljana again recording the largest number of infections, 32.

The greatest share of those actively infected remains in Črna na Koroškem in the north (1.55%), where three new cases were confirmed yesterday.

Infections are also spreading inside health institutions. The Jesenice general hospital has seen 26 of its staff test positive for coronavirus. Infections have been confirmed in three patients as well.

The hospital has shut down three of its departments and suspended any non-urgent procedures due to staff shortages. Most of the infected staff are nurses, Anja Jovanovič Kunstelj, the hospital's director, has told RTV Slovenija.

The virus has found its way into two other hospitals as well, the Ljubljana UKC hospital, where there are currently ten infected staff and just as many infected patients, and the Maribor UKC hospital, where infections have been confirmed in eleven staff and one patient.

Slovenia currently has the incidence rate of 101 cases per 100,000 residents reported over the past fortnight, according to fresh data released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

As case numbers are not going down, Prime Minister Janez Janša is expected to present new measures to tackle the second wave of infections and boost Covid-19 units capacities at a press conference in the afternoon, presumably at 3pm.

According to unofficial information, stricter rules for bars and shops are among the measures on the horizon, reported RTV Slovenija.

So far, Slovenia has seen 6,764 coronavirus cases. There are currently 2,206 active cases in the country, according to the tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org.

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05 Oct 2020, 12:29 PM

STA, 5 October 2020 - Slovenia recorded 75 new coronavirus cases from 1,034 tests carried out on Sunday, and another fatality as hospitalisations and intensive care cases climbed further, data from the government show.

The latest figures bring Slovenia's overall tally of cases to 6,573 and the death toll from Covid-19 to 156. There are just over 2,100 active cases, according to tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org.

The number of patients hospitalised with the novel disease rose by six to 107, with 21 requiring intensive treatment, that is five more than the day before. Eight patients were discharged yesterday.

Government spokesman Jelko Kacin noted that the lower daily case count was due to fewer tests taken, warning that the rate of positive tests remained high, at 7.25% on Sunday after 8.6% the day before.

Moreover, compared to the Sunday a week ago, the number of daily cases rose by 50%, from 50 to 75.

He declared that Tuesday will be the "day of truth". If infections increase further and the trend cannot be contained, "it's very likely we'll have to present certain measures".

He referred to possible measures announced by the government's chief Covid-19 advisor, Bojana Beović, who has talked of a new cap on gatherings and number of people allowed inside shops and bars.

"Her projections are realistic. It's not a measure that would take us days to prepare," said Kacin, suggesting gatherings in private and public places would be limited to ten people flat except when a higher number is sanctioned explicitly by the National Institute of Public Health.

Hospital capacities are becoming stretched due to the rising number of Covid-19 patients, coupled with infections emerging at non-Covid units.

UKC Ljubljana, Slovenia's largest hospital, said today that ten patients and ten staff at the vascular disease unit have tested positive, so they will no longer admit patients there this week.

Meanwhile, one infection has been confirmed in the past days at the UKC Ljubljana's pulmonary disease and allergy unit, where the situation will continue to be monitored.

The UKC Department of Infectious Disease, Slovenia's main Covid-19 treatment facility, is moving non-Covid patients to the Peter Držaj hospital in the Šiška borough, thus freeing up 19 beds at the regular unit and ten intensive care beds for Covid-19 patients.

Coronavirus depresses Ljubljana tourism

STA, 5 October 2020 - Ljubljana, which has become Slovenia's top tourist destination in the past decade, has suffered a significant blow this year, as the coronavirus pandemic suspended air travel. This summer, the capital recorded a total of 160,341 overnight stays, 75% less than last summer.

Director of the Turizem Ljubljana agency Petra Stušek has told the STA that the number of overnight stays in the first eight months of the year reached 425,178, while the number reached 335,132 in August last year alone.

Ljubljana usually draws a great number of foreign tourists, while Slovenians are more likely to stay away. However, this July and August the share of overnights by Slovenians went to 14% from 2.1% in the same period last year. Most overnights were still generated by foreigners: Germans, Italians, Dutch, French and Austrians.

Following the coronavirus lockdown in spring, seven of the city's 44 hotels remained closed due to the drop in visitors, said Stušek, adding that vacancy capacities were down 16% this summer.

Of the 22 hotels included in the agency's basic statistics, 16 are open at the moment, providing 3,873 of the total of 5,022 beds, she added.

"The future depends on a number of factors: epidemiological situation in Slovenia and in our close markets, border regimes, quarantine orders, air traffic and aid from the state," she said.

Meanwhile, the hotels have largely managed to avoid cancellation of conferences planned in Ljubljana this year, with most being postponed to next year, said Stušek.

Even though hybrid events are becoming a trend for scientific and expert events, Stušek believes that in-person events still have a future, as direct personal contact is an important factor.

Stušek also expressed the wish that Slovenia increase the cap on the number of people at gatherings. "Organisers know each participant and are very eager to see participants arrive and leave the event healthy, because this will affect all future events and thus their livelihoods."

Turizem Ljubljana is planning a number of events for this autumn and winter, all in line with the recommendations of the National Institute for Public Health (NIJZ). In November, Gourmet Ljubljana will take place as a series of small events, while December will feature winter holiday events.

Stušek said that the city wanted to see as many events as possible take place, as it tries to attract guests from Slovenia, as well as Italy, Austria, Germany, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia.

04 Oct 2020, 16:29 PM

STA, 3 October 2020 - During the Covid-19 epidemic months, only average pay for March was lower compared with that for February, the last pre-epidemic month in Slovenia, while average earnings for April, May and June were higher. Hospitality sector employees saw the biggest drop in average monthly gross pay in that period.

If average pay per employee is calculated on the basis of paid hours, excluding the impact of the furlough scheme compensation, the figure in the April-June period would be higher than February average pay, mostly due to crisis bonuses, show data from the Statistics Office.

On the other hand, employees working in cafes, pubs and restaurants suffered a considerable drop in their wages - their average March gross pay was 977 euro, down some 20% on February. The figure increased somewhat in the following three months, but it did not reach February pay.

In healthcare, social care, financial and insurance sectors, and in electricity, gas and steam supply services average wages increased during the epidemic.

In the public sector, average gross earnings in the March-June period were higher than average gross pay in February.

The average gross earnings of those working in the private sector increased only in April in May compared to February, whereas in March and June, they earned less.

You can explore this data below

03 Oct 2020, 10:25 AM

STA, 3 October 2020 - Face masks will no longer be required for nursery and kindergarten children and primary and secondary school pupils in their class, and for teachers up to the third grade of primary school, under a decision taken by the government last night.

Higher education and university teachers will also not be required to wear masks provided they hold lectures from behind a plexiglass or other type of protective screen. Gym teachers will also not be required to wear masks.

Meanwhile, teachers from the 4th grade of primary school on and secondary school teachers will be required to wear face masks when they cannot keep a distance of at least two meters from pupils during class.

The decision, taken at a cabinet correspondence session, comes after Slovenia registered a record number of daily coronavirus cases for Thursday, at 238, although Education Ministry data show the number of infections at schools has been falling.

Data as of Friday show that one month into the new school year, 0.03% of all pupils and staff at nurseries, kindergartens, and primary and secondary schools are infected, while 0.36% are self-isolating.

Moreover, the Education Ministry noted yesterday that the number of infections had been slightly decreasing in the past week compared with mid-September. Most active infections were recorded on 17 September, at 176, with 136 active infections on 1 October.

The government yesterday also passed a decree under which hand sanitisers will have to be placed at entrances and lift doors of multi-apartment buildings.

The government also relocated EUR 2.5 million for the European Commission Emergency Support Instrument for advance payments to manufacturers of promising vaccines against Covid-19.

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02 Oct 2020, 14:38 PM

STA, 2 October 2020 - Slovenia has passed a new record number of daily coronavirus cases as 238 tests came back positive on Thursday, with the total now exceeding 6,100 as the death toll increased by two to 154.

Data released by the government show that 3,281 tests for Sars-CoV-2 were conducted yesterday, with calculations at the tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org showing 7.25% of the tests were positive.

Hospitalisations remained stable at 86 after eight more Covid-19 patients were discharged home yesterday. Fifteen remain in intensive treatment units.

Of the 6,103 cases recorded in the country so far, 1,908 remain active, data at covid-19.sledilnik.org show.

The Ljubljana-based Jožef Stefan Institute has warned of the exponential spread of the outbreak with its latest projections showing the infections double in about 17 days.

Warnings and appeals to the public to stick to precautionary measures were also voiced at the government coronavirus press briefing.

Slovenia's incidence rate is almost 87 per 100,000 residents in a fortnight, government spokesman Jelko Kacin said as he cited some statistics that are cause for concern.

For comparison, Kacin said the 14-day incidence in the EU and UK has been increasing uninterruptedly for 70 days and is currently 114 per 100,000 residents.

In Slovenia, infections were registered in 80 municipalities across the country yesterday, with the most, 46 in Ljubljana, which has 361 active cases, representing 0.123% of the population.

The highest active infection rates at the moment are in Črna na Koroškem in the north at 1.28%, Log-Dragomer just west of Ljubljana at 0.465% and Mežica in the north at 0.45%.

A new hotspot has recently emerged at the Rakičan care home, where six staff and 13 residents are infected, Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj told the briefing.

He said the situation at care homes was serious but not dramatic.

Even the situation at the centre for people with mental disabilities in Črna na Koroškem is stabilising. A total of 20 staff, two volunteers and 58 users are infected, with most isolated at other locations.

So has the outbreak been contained at the Danica Vogrinec care home in Maribor with all tests returning negative there on Thursday. A total of 44 elderly residents and 23 staff are still infected there.

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02 Oct 2020, 12:01 PM

STA, 1 October 2020 - The interim leader of the Social Democrats (SD), Tanja Fajon, has called on the government to reconsider the appointments of National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) director Milan Krek and of coronavirus spokesperson Jelko Kacin, criticising their style of communication and questioning their expertise.

In today's letter to Prime Minister Janez Janša, she criticised the "confused, inconsistent and unprofessional communication of the measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus".

She believes experts should be again entrusted with preparing relevant measures and the governments should take decisions on the basis of their recommendations.

In Fajon's view, Krek should be replaced by a person who will restore trust in the expertise of the NIJZ as a key institution during the epidemic.

She pointed to the situation at NIJZ as worrying indicating that the experts' voice was not being heard.

Kacin should meanwhile be replaced by an epidemiologist who will assume the key role in communicating with the public in a calm, wise and explanatory manner.

Kacin, a veteran politician who excelled at the government's news conferences during the 1991 war, was appointed practically as soon as the Janša government took over in mid-March. His style of communication has been often criticised as patronising.

Krek's appointment was meanwhile cleared on 30 April after his predecessor and the government had differing views on some of the preventive measures.

The opposition criticised him already in June for undermining the NIJZ's reputation by providing confused and incomprehensible explanations of some of the measures.

Fajon meanwhile welcomed the government's intention to draft a plan to contain the epidemic, but would like it to be produced in collaboration with various experts.

The plan should feature "logical and realistic measures which should be communicated in clearly and frankly", she wrote.

Fajon also supports an initiative by the leader of the fellow-opposition SAB party, Alenka Bratušek, to call a political summit on measures to contain the epidemic.

Fajon's appeal was rebuked by senior government officials and Krek, with two state secretaries at the prime minister's office dismissing her argument.

Vinko Gorenak said on Twitter that the government had always taken measures "exclusively on the basis of recommendations by the epidemiological profession".

Jelka Godec said the coronavirus task force presents proposed measures at least once a week, but it is true that ignores "your 'expert' recommendations about wearing masks," a reference to the SD's proposal that masks should no longer be mandatory in school.

While Kacin declined to comment on the call for the STA, Krek said what the NIJZ needed most right now was help and support rather than criticism.

"I work for the NIJZ as a doctor, I work in line with medical standards and I communicate with people in a way for them to realise this is a serious situation. Fajon's assessment is just her own assessment," he told the STA.

Krek said that 27 epidemiologists were working at the NIJZ keeping things going during the epidemic so that the country did not have to go into lockdown again.

"And instead of thanking us, Fajon is criticising us. I wonder what right she has to do it and why she is doing it."

He said he expected politicians to understand "that we are an expert institution not a political one, and that we are neither for one or the other political block, because we have too serious a job to do right now to be able to engage in anything else."

01 Oct 2020, 16:00 PM

STA, 1 October 2020 - Students are returning to faculties for in-person lectures as the new academic year starts on 1 October against the backdrop of strict anti-coronavirus measures. While professors are happy to see students back in lecture halls, they are utterly unhappy with having to wear face masks while teaching.

Under the national guidelines, drafted by education and health authorities, the winter term will be held at faculties if all safety recommendations can be observed.

The guidelines also recommend a "hybrid model" - a mix of live and distance learning, while distance learning is recommended only for exceptional cases.

However, just a few days after the guidelines were adopted, the government has ordered compulsory face mask wearing in all indoor public places.

The new rule also applies to students and teachers regardless of whether they keep the recommended safety distance of 1.5 metres.

"Professors are outraged, they are convinced they cannot teach for several hours with a face mask," University of Ljubljana Chancellor Igor Papič has told the STA.

He recalled the original guidelines under which students could take the mask off in lecture halls if they kept a safe distance, so he believes this will affect the quality of the teaching process.

Universities have brought the issue to the attention of the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, urging it to allow plexiglas barriers instead of masks.

But Minister Simona Kustec, although noting very different circumstances from previous years, is convinced students will get quality teaching.

"Foremost, we have to bear in mind the care for the health of students and of all staff in higher education," she was quoted in her ministry's release.

Until yesterday, some 60,600 students enrolled, of whom 13,400 freshers, but the exact number of students in this academic year will be known in mid-November.

The three public and three smaller private universities as well as over 40 mostly private higher education establishments with a concession have made over 46,400 posts available for first-year regular students (tuition fee is paid from public funds) and paying students.

The bulk of new posts - over 9,000 - were available at the University of Ljubljana, the country's largest and oldest, which in 2019 had a total of over 37,000 students.

The coronavirus situation will also affect this year's generation of freshers, who will be left without welcome parties traditionally organised by the universities and student organisations at the start of the academic year.

Still, faculties will welcome them at special receptions on the premises, while they will also receive key information at lectures in the first week of studies.

The pandemic has also slashed Erasmus+ student exchange programmes, as many students are cancelling or postponing their studies abroad to the summer term or the next academic year.

Slovenia's Centre for Mobility and European Educational and Training Programmes (CMEPIUS) expects the figure to halve.

The figures for the winter term are even worse - while almost 1,140 students opted for student exchange the previous winter term, the figure plummeted to 396 now.

Some have nevertheless decided on distance student exchange but since they will stay in Slovenia they will not be entitled to CMEPIUS funding.

An aggravating circumstance is definitely the prospect of quarantine: students are not allowed to quarantine at student dormitories.

Some Slovenian institutions as well as their partner institutions abroad have thus decided to cancel student exchanges for the winter semester altogether.

The Ljubljana University told the STA it expects some 600 foreign students at present, considerably below the around 2,100 figure from recent years.

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