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Restrictions aim to prevent the virus from spreading rapidly and to keep the health system operational

Given the epidemiological situation, we have now entered the second phase. We must limit social contact to the greatest possible extent to stem the spread of coronavirus infections in the most effective way and to keep the health system operational. There is no ban on freight traffic from Italy to Slovenia for the transport of postal items, protective equipment and medical supplies, medicines and philanthropic assistance. The border with Italy can also be crossed by freight shipments whose ultimate destination is Slovenia.

Civil Protection Commander Srečko Šestan has said that working groups have been formed today to work more effectively in combating the spread of the coronavirus. Letters of instruction have been sent to all key stakeholders, public services, municipalities and local civil protection commanders.

The Director of Slovenia's National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), Nina Pirnat, further explained that we were in the second phase, given the epidemiological situation. We must limit social contact to the greatest possible extent to stem the spread of coronavirus infections in the most effective way. By 2 p.m. today there were 141 confirmed cases of the coronavirus infection in Slovenia; the number of tests performed stands at 4346. The Ljubljana region has seen the biggest increase in cases.

Tighter restrictions have been imposed with a view to rapidly curbing the spread of the virus and thus allowing the healthcare system to provide care to those who will need help.

Restrictions, of course, change our lives, but they are the most effective measure to protect people.

Ms Pirnat urged all children and parents to strictly follow measures, not to socialise as a result of school closures, and to keep an eye on vulnerable groups such as the elderly, in order to prevent the virus from spreading to these groups. It is important to maintain the recommended physical distance even when outdoors. Parents should talk to their children about the new disease, the possible ways of transmission, the importance of protective measures, and about the groups at risk.

She went on to stress that the restrictions are also causing a lot of feelings of uncertainty and distress among people due to the current situation. She said psychosocial assistance was available and the relevant information is published on the NIJZ website. The situation will ease but it is essential that we stand united in taking action, Ms Pirnat said by way of assurance.

The State Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Simona Repar Bornšek, briefed the public on the new health orders. As of 16 March 2020, specialist examinations, surgical operations, rehabs and treatments will be cancelled with the exception of cases rated as "emergency" or "express" and oncology and pregnancy treatments. Instructions for oncology treatment and the treatment of children with rare diseases will also be prepared today.

The Government has also determined seven emergency points of entry for patients with dental problems, while all other dental services will be put on hold as of Monday, 16 March.

Only those who need hospitalisation will be admitted to hospitals, while other patients with mild symptoms will be treated at home. There are some persons already being treated at home who are most likely to have been infected through close contact with a coronavirus patient, but testing them would not make sense. In future, people experiencing more severe signs of the disease will be tested.

If a person shows even mild symptoms of illness, they are subject to the same measures as they would be in the case of flu or a cold. Therefore, the testing method will also change and instructions will be published.

State Secretary at the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport Martina Vuk explained that the order to close educational institutions today is being accompanied by the provision of emergency care for children of parents who work in critical infrastructure or national security sectors. These children will be provided with care up to and including the fifth grade of elementary school, in groups up to a maximum of six children, in accordance with NIJZ guidelines.

Schools were given the necessary instructions on how to conduct distance education. National broadcaster RTV Slovenia will also contribute to this through its programming.

Acting Director of the Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior Lado Bradač emphasized that the Police are helping healthcare professionals implement measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Freight transport is not prohibited for postal items, protective equipment and medical supplies, medicines and humanitarian aid. The border with Italy can be crossed by citizens of the Republic of Slovenia, persons with permanent or temporary residence in the Republic of Slovenia, and freight transport with final destination in Slovenia. There is a problem with freight transport to Hungary, as Hungary has banned the passage of citizens from infected areas, notably from Italy. This largely applies to Romanian citizens who want to return home. This is a humanitarian problem that will need to be solved jointly with Croatia or Hungary.

Help is also being provided to goods vehicle drivers who are stuck at the Obrežje border crossing with Croatia. They are receiving food and ensured decent waiting conditions until the situation is resolved. Slovenia will do its best to help them.

Mr Bradač advised against all travel.

Prof. Dr Mojca Matičič from the Ljubljana Infectious Diseases Clinic presented the government's coronavirus call centre, which has been operating since March 9, to help citizens obtain correct and reliable information regarding the disease. It is not intended to provide medical or legal advice. Callers' questions on telephone number 080 1404 are being answered by senior medical students under the mentorship of infectologists, epidemiologists and representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport and the Civil Protection Service of the Republic of Slovenia.

Yesterday, the call cetnre received almost 1000 calls. The questions are diverse and their content varies as new measures are adopted.

Dr Matičič concluded by calling for solidarity. Each individual can contribute to coping with the epidemic by acting responsibly towards themselves and others.

A big thanks goes to all medical students who are helping in the work of the call centre. We value not only their professionalism but also their humanity.