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Slovenia declares coronavirus epidemic

In view of the growing number of coronavirus infections, Slovenia declared today an epidemic in accordance with Article 7 of the Contageous Diseases Act. The Order Declaring an Epidemic entered into force at 6 p.m. At the same time, the national emergency response plan was activated. There are currently 96 coronavirus cases in Slovenia.

Due to the increased risk of spread of the novel coronavirus, the Minister of Health, Aleš Šabeder, issued an order declaring an epidemic in accordance with Article 7 of the Contageous Diseases Act.

The epidemic has been declared on the basis of the opinion of the National Institute of Public Health. The declaration of the epidemic follows the declaration of a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

The Order entered into force today at 6 p.m.

Minister Šabeder stressed that this scenario had been expected and anticipated. From now on, the Civil Protection Service of the Republic of Slovenia will be put in charge of coordinating the measures to combat the spread of the virus, in cooperation with the relevant departments.

The Health Minister also mentioned today's call launched by infectologists for strict measures to be taken in the coming days and weeks, which will be crucial in curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

EU health ministers held a video conference today with the EU Commissioner for Health and the EU Commissioner for Crisis Management. The European Centre for Disease Control presented the latest risk assessment and recommendations for containing the coronavirus. The virus is spreading with relentless rapidity, and all measures are in place in an attempt to contain it.

Slovenia has already taken the following measures:

  • closure of educational institutions,
  • restrictions on border crossings with Italy,
  • restrictions on public life,
  • work from home.

All EU Member States have adopted similar measures to those in Slovenia, and are gearing up for a potential further spread of the virus. Ministers of all Member States have taken a common position in support of solidarity between their respective States, particularly due to the fact that they all lack protective equipment. The European Commission will employ mechanisms to do its utmost to deliver this equipment to the Member States that need it most.

In the afternoon, a meeting was held with hospital managers at which the following decisions were adopted:

  • We have entered Stage Two and also activated other hospitals for admission of coronavirus patients. Only patients with clinical symptoms that require hospital treatment will be admitted. Patients with mild clinical symptoms will have to stay at home. The dispatch service that admits a patient will have to announce the patient's arrival and check the availability of hospital capacities.
  • As of 16 March 2020, specialist examinations and surgical operations except cases rated as “emergency” or “urgent” or “express” will be cancelled. This will exclude oncology and pregnancy treatments. Wherever there is a possibility of e-consulting services, it should be used to the maximum extent.
  • Therapeutic and urgent operations in the framework of the ZORA, DORA and SVIT programmes will be carried to completion.
  • Sanctions for anyone violating the quarantine order or endangering public health by spreading the infection will be publicly announced in the media. Attention has been called to violence against healthcare professionals and patients, in particular in emergency aid centres.
  • The Ministry of Health will check the available human resources by suspending preventive activities, and will check the possibility of their reallocation within healthcare institutions.
  • In agreement with the heads of departments hosting specialisation trainees, public healthcare institutions will invite their specialisation trainees to temporarily return to their parent institutions.

The Order restricting certain rights of healthcare professionals and associates took effect at 6pm today. The Order

  • prohibits health staff from taking annual leave,
  • restricts their right to go on strike,

and the right to participate in training and education provided in infected areas or areas at immediate risk of coronavirus outbreaks.

The Director of Slovenia’s National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), Nina Pirnat, stressed that the epidemiological situation in Slovenia is changing rapidly. Together, we can help curb the spread of coronavirus, she said, and she drew attention to the following hygiene measures:

  • Wash your hands meticulously
  • Cough into your sleeve or handkerchief and then dispose of it in the rubbish bin
  • Avoid close contact
  • If you have fallen ill, call your personal doctor.
  • According to the latest data, there are 96 confirmed coronavirus cases in Slovenia. This is almost double the number reported yesterday.

Data by health regions:

  • Celje: 7
  • Koper: 4
  • Kranj : 1
  • Ljubljana: 48
  • Maribor: 7
  • Murska sobota: 3
  • Novo mesto: 25
  • Nova Gorica: 1

Data by age groups:

  • Between 0 and 15 years: 4 persons
  • Between 16 and 29 years: 23 persons
  • Between 30 and 49 years: 26 persons
  • Between 50 and 59 years: 22 persons
  • Aged 60 years and over: 21 persons

A new cluster of infection has been identified in Maribor, with one person infected from the first case, and another cluster is likely to appear in Novo mesto where two people were infected.

The cluster in Metlika has 16 infected persons associated with the first infection there, while as regards the cluster in Ljubljana, the number of infected cases remains unchanged.

Civil Protection Commander Srečko Šestan said that the national emergency response plan has been set in motion, which will make it easier to implement further activities and coordinate measures. The Inter-Ministerial Working Group will be reorganised to become more operational. It is agreed that municipalities will prepare plans for the care of vulnerable groups. One of the groups will provide assistance to hospitals.

The Head of the Chair of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology, Janez Tomažič, has warned that the virus is highly contagious. Coronavirus is much more contagious than the flu, which is why infectious disease specialists in a letter today expressed concern and appealed to the competent authorities to bring public life in Slovenia to a standstill for a fortnight. Mr Tomažič urged citizens to stay at home and comply with the NIJZ instructions. He also noted that a sense of humanity is of the utmost importance in such moments.