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The problem is no longer only imported cases, but also secondary infections and cases of unknown origin

The number of infected people in Slovenia has been increasing again in recent weeks, and the source of infections is no longer only imported cases, but also secondary infections and cases of unknown origin, said Bojana Beović, the head of the Government Advisory Group. The number has been increasing exponentially since end of May.

Many other Central and Eastern European countries are facing a similar situation, even though they seemed to have effectively overcome the first wave. After a period of no new cases, the number of new infections has again begun to rise, according to Ms Beović, who believes that Slovenia managed to curb the first wave with joint efforts as it lagged behind Western Europe. Thus Slovenia had time to prepare well and react comprehensively. Ms Beović assesses that now the time has come to once again strengthen our efforts.

It is reasonable to exploit the advantages of modern technology and use a contact-tracing application

Data suggesting that the new coronavirus is weakening are shaky and we cannot rely on that, said Ms Beović, adding that the virus is still present; so on the one hand, we need to find a way of life that will allow us to live as normally as possible and that will not cause too much economic damage leading to poverty, and on the other, we need to prevent the spread of the virus.

The identified risk factors in Slovenia include borders, socialising (including private gatherings), and transmission in families, workplaces, residence halls for single persons and residence halls for upper secondary students. According to Ms Beović, most problematic are restaurants and bars not complying with the recommendations.

She reminded us of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent the transmission of the virus: distancing, wearing a mask, hand washing and if possible avoiding crowds. What is important is the healthcare service, which identifies a new case of infection, and an effective epidemiological service, which curbs each infection. Ms Beović is concerned that the healthcare sector is understaffed.

In addition, modern technology is at our disposal, and, according to Ms Beović, we should use it also to protect our health, not just for entertainment. The solution here might lie in introducing a contact tracing application, which on the one hand is important to allow each individual to know that they have been in contact with an infected person, to observe themselves, and to distance themselves from people who could be at risk if this disease were transmitted to them. On the other hand, the use of such an application is important for preventing the spread of the disease and consequently for healthcare facilities.

The scale of a possible second wave is in our hands

According to Ms Beović, the origin and scale of a possible second wave are in our hands. She appealed to the media to inform and raise awareness about the disease as much as possible. If we internalise this appropriate behaviour, we will be able to spend a very pleasant summer, Ms Beović believes.

The Balkans now represents a similar situation for Slovenia as did Italy in the early days of the epidemic. The Government Advisory Group’s proposal to include Croatia on the yellow list will depend on the number of infections imported from that country. Until recently, Slovenia has recorded three such cases. As Ms Beović points out, the inclusion of Croatia on the list would mean that Croatian tourists would not be able to visit Slovenia, which, in her opinion, would not improve the epidemiological situation in Slovenia. If the situation worsens, the Advisory Group will propose quarantine upon return to Slovenia for Slovenians as well, she added.

The organisation of events to require the National Institute of Public Health’s consent as of next week

The deterioration of the epidemiological situation in Slovenia resulted in amendments to the Ordinance on the Temporary General Prohibition of Movement and Public Gathering in Public Places and Areas in the Republic of Slovenia, which has been in effect since 30 June. Bonia Miljavac, Head of the National Institute of Public Health’s Novo mesto Regional Unit, presented the National Institute of Public Health’s recommendations regarding the organisation of events and the protocol for obtaining the National Institute of Public Health’s consent to go ahead with them.

The basic principle that must be adhered to when organising events is to maintain a minimum safety distance both in seating rows and at entrances and exits, while disinfectants must also be available. If events are held indoors, the use of masks is mandatory. It is also important that people showing signs of infection do not attend any events, stressed Ms Miljavac.

For events scheduled for this week, the National Institute of Public Health will not yet issue consent due to logistical and/or technical preparations. The protocol for application for and issuing of consent is currently being harmonised; an online form will be made available in addition to the option of applying for consent by mail.