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Changed diagnostics for more realistic planning of measures to manage the epidemic

The expert team providing assistance to the crisis unit to contain and manage the COVID-19 epidemic proposed to change the diagnostics method that is based on the number of severely ill people. Prime Minister Janez Janša emphasised that this method would enable a more realistic adoption of measures and plans for the allocation of essential resources.

In today’s statement, Prime Minister Janez Janša said that the Government established the crisis unit to contain and manage the COVID-19 epidemic at its first session, and it will operate in both broader and more narrowly focussed configurations. The crisis unit will include support groups, the most important of which will consist of medical experts and will be led by Dr Bojana Beović.

At its session yesterday, the Government reassessed the situation regarding the spread of coronavirus and adopted numerous measures. As the most important measure, the Prime Minister highlighted the limitation of social contact, avoidance of contact, maintenance of distance and the use of protective masks when necessary. The Government also discussed the possibility of increasing the stockpile of protective equipment. The good news is that the purchase of such equipment is already underway.

Prime Minister Janša emphasised that the key input data has been determined, which will allow a realistic assessment of the situation regarding the spread of the virus. It is not the number of people who tested positive, but the number of severely ill persons requiring hospital care. These data will be used to calculate the number of infected persons since they can be used in comparisons with other countries. Such data enable a more realistic adoption of measures and plans for the allocation of essential resources.

The Prime Minister further explained that the Government also discussed proposals for measures drafted by ministers. Some of them have already been adopted, while others will be adopted today at the session of the crisis unit in its broader configuration, which will also serve as the session of the Government.

As of 8:00 this morning, the prices of protective equipment were frozen in order to achieve a reasonable cost for individual items. The priority of supplying critical items was also determined, which will be further supplemented today. The Government adopted the decision on increasing commodity reserves, including a decision to freeze implementation of the budget and thus increase budgetary reserves to about EUR 400 million.

According to the Prime Minister, it will be arranged with neighbouring countries that the goods transport will take place in a smooth but supervised manner. The measure of shutting down international airports and ports for passenger transport is already being partially implemented.

Prime Minister Janez Janša further called on the mayors of Slovenian municipalities to show initiative in the coming days and become involved as much as possible in the organisation required, particularly regarding home child care, especially of the children whose parents are needed the most in the management of the spread of the disease. He also asked young people who will have more free time due to the closure of schools to become involved and offer help.

The Prime Minister thanked the media for intensive reporting, informing of the public and the publication of instructions for conduct. He promised that all key information will continue to be promptly published and collected on one website. The crisis unit will also appoint a speaker, who will be available to the media for clarifications and appearances in broadcasts.

At the end, the Prime Minister thanked citizens who behave responsibly and observe the instructions on suitable conduct. He also thanked companies that offered assistance (Mercator, Gorenje, Telekom and others), health professionals, laboratories, the Police, Red Cross volunteers and many others who have been working hard in recent weeks to contain the spread of the virus.

Dr Bojana Beović, head of the expert group providing support to the crisis unit to contain and manage the COVID-19 epidemic, explained the future changes in diagnostics in more detail. She highlighted that we are in the epidemic phase when the disease is spreading among the general population, making it impossible to track down all contacts. It is time to take care of people who are ill and diagnose them, she stressed. In practice, this means that those with a respiratory infection will stay at home for 14 days. We will not be determining whether they have coronavirus since this is irrelevant because we do not have a cure for it. If the patient at some point requires hospitalisation, we will check whether their condition is a result of coronavirus.

Dr Beović added that a special isolation regime and testing for health professionals will be proposed since it is critical that they remain in the work process.

The number of ill people may now change due to changed diagnostics. Initially, it may even be lower, but it will nevertheless be possible to assess the presence of infection in the population, she explained. It is easier to assess the number of infected persons on the basis of data relating to the number of those admitted to a hospital. This will allow the necessary planning for the capacities required. The current situation reveals that the epidemic is still in its early stages.

Dr Beović further stated that experts are striving for the adoption of measures that would reduce the transmission of the virus in the population. The measures may seem radical, but we must be aware that they will not last long. The measures are ending in China, probably due to the natural course of the disease. We hope that we will have good results in the end as well, she concluded.

Tomaž Gantar, Minister of Health, explained that the purpose of the measures to be adopted is to deal with a gradually increasing number of patients.

The current situation relating to protective equipment is not satisfactory, but he assesses that such equipment can be provided in reasonable time. The Ministry of Health will also draft suitable guidelines so that everyone in need of equipment will receive it in sufficient quantities.