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Prime Minister Janez Janša presents the plan and measures for the second wave of the coronavirus

At today’s press conference, Prime Minister Janez Janša made an in-depth presentation of the coronavirus situation in Europe and Slovenia and the Government plant for measures in the second wave of the coronavirus.

“We are in the middle of the second wave of the coronavirus and the measures we are taking aim to prevent more severe consequences during the potential third wave during the colder period,” said the Prime Minister initially, pointing out that both Europe and Slovenia have learned a lot from the spring epidemic. “COVID-19 is no longer unknown like it was in the spring, which, together with the fact that our supply of protective equipment is sufficient and that people function differently and better than in the spring, enables us to plan and take more precise measures,” emphasised Prime Minister. He added that the crucial starting point when planning the measures to pursue the objective is to employ the mildest measures to produce the strongest effect. Therefore, the Government first takes measures that bring public life to a halt and cause economic damage to the least extent possible. “We hope that milder measures can produce the same effects as the stricter measures employed in the spring,” said Prime Minister. “To make the picture of what is to come clearer for key decision-makers and the Slovenian public on which most things depend, the Government, following intensive discussions with experts and at their proposal, adopted a plan of measures to manage the second wave, attempting to summarise the crucial measures from the many files of the amended national plan of state actions if at risk of severe infectious diseases,” said Prime Minister.

He further stated that the plan of measures consists of three phases. “The green phase is not particularly detailed and is a phase we fear will be felt or lived with for a long time, even with an effective vaccine at our disposal. We cannot expect that this will completely eradicate the virus, although we can expect that the virus is bound to circulate among the population for a while,” said the Prime Minister, adding that general hygiene measures are in place in the green phase – disinfection, mask-wearing and social distancing. “In this phase, the epidemiological service functions as normal, detects infections, orders quarantines in accordance with the Communicable Diseases Act and attempts to stop the virus from spreading,” noted the Prime Minister. He also said that we went through the green phase in the summer months between May, when we had the epidemic under control, and the beginning of the autumn, when the situation worsened particularly with the virus coming from abroad, much like in the rest of Europe, and when we had to take measures that are part of the orange phase.

“The parameters that define our adopted or planned actions that are crucial for the adoption of packages from any phase vary. The first parameter used worldwide, including in Europe, is the number of people positive for COVID-19 per 100,000 people in the past 14 days. This data is internationally used and comparable if a sufficient number of tests are carried out. However, this is not the only data that describes the situation in an individual state and cannot be the only data on which measures are based. A significantly more important parameter that prompts measures worldwide including in Slovenia is the capacity of the health care system. In this context, the key indicator is the number of beds available for COVID-19 patients, which does not only include the number of actual beds, but also the number of teams, physicians, nurses, protective equipment, the organisation of hospitals, space and similar,” added the Prime Minister. “The number of beds is the definition of the capacities of a certain system,” noted the Prime Minister, adding that this parameter varies between countries, which makes measures in this regard incomparable. Another parameter is the capacities of the health care systems for patients on ventilators,” said Prime Minister, adding that the number of beds is a test of the system. Prime Minister Janez Janša expressed his satisfaction with the fact that Slovenia has doubled the capacity for COVID-19 patients since the spring, and that the capacity increased with the health care reorganisation, a more organised approach and everything that was done by the health care system to make us better prepared for the second wave of the epidemic.

“The fact is that doubled capacity can be available for a limited period, which cannot be longer than the period of the epidemic in the spring. If we prolong this period, it is impossible to increase the capacity without significant interference with other parts of the health care system, which are equally risky since people die because they do not receive sufficient or prompt care for other diseases,” said the Prime Minister, stating that, as we speak of the consequences of COVID-19, we must bear in mind both direct and indirect victims. According to the Prime Minister, the main problem in the fight against coronavirus is also the fact that other health care sections may face reduced capacities on account of treatments of COVID-19 patients.

The Prime Minister stated that Slovenia is currently in the orange phase, having already exhausted the measures from the first package and currently adopting measures from the second package as part of the orange phase. According to Janez Janša, measures including the mandatory use of disinfectants in common areas have been adopted and will be followed by measures regarding gatherings, serving at tables in bars, events without food service and the restrictions of the number of people in closed public places, depending on the size of the establishment.

“Retirement home and hospital visits have been selectively restricted due to individual outbreaks in health care institutions and retirement homes. Currently, the largest outbreak is in Črna na Koroškem, for which the Minister of Health will shortly declare an emergency situation to enable the municipality to receive suitable means.

“The orange phase includes the third package with seven available measures, and I sincerely hope that we do not find ourselves in this situation. However, we are seeing upward trends, the reproduction number stands at 1.3, meaning that each new infection brings one more infection, that infections are spreading and that most measures adopted on 19 September have not been successful. If they had been, we wouldn’t be seeing these trends,” pointed out the Prime Minister. He also stated that the third package of measures included in the orange phase is the last measures available before the red phase is instigated which brings the declaration of an epidemic. “When the number of infected people exceeds 140 per 100,000 people, over 250 beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients and when over 50 patients are in intensive care, we will be forced to declare an epidemic and adopt the measures that we adopted in the spring extending from the mildest to the strictest,” said the Prime Minister, adding that virtually all measures were tested in the spring. “The measures included in the red phase are also based on the Communicable Diseases Act. The measure that restricts night-time movements is a measure included in the Communicable Diseases Act and not a curfew,” emphasised the Prime Minister. “The measure from the second package on additional slots for the elderly does not anticipate that the elderly and members of vulnerable groups use public transport for only a few hours per day. This is a measure that would reserve this time slot on public transport or certain services just for them,” said the Prime Minister, emphasising that these services could also be used later. “The first parameter is included In the third package under number xxx. If over 360 beds in the health care system are occupied by COVID-19 patients, the daily number of infected people will not be relevant, as the phase of an emergency health care situation will be instigated,” noted the Prime Minister.

“The application of measures from the first package of the red phase will activate the national plan and additional individual measures for all sectors,” stated Prime Minister Janez Janša. “Each of us and all who shape public opinion decide whether measures from the orange phase are successful or contain the spread of the virus,” stressed the Prime Minister, adding that we all want to avoid the situation experienced in the spring.

Last but not least, the Prime Minister discussed the situation in other European countries, stating that the epidemiological situation in certain countries is better and worse in others. “Not only Slovenia, the whole of Europe is tackling the second wave of the coronavirus. According to parameters, Slovenia ranks approximately 15th among 30 European countries. We are not the least affected, but also not the most,” pointed out the Prime Minister, noting that the neighbouring countries, whose current epidemiological situation is better, faced an extremely grave situation in the spring.

The Prime Minister also highlighted that most people in certain European countries downloaded the voluntary contact tracing application which facilitates better prevention and more rapid discovery of infections. “I appeal to everyone to download the application on your smartphones and to anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 to mark their status in the application. If they don’t, the application is pointless,” emphasised Prime Minister Janez Janša.

He pointed out that it is in our common interests to limit the virus now before the onset of the colder period. “If there are more than one hundred infected people in the colder period, the price will be significantly higher than during the spring wave and in other countries whose situation we observed with horror,” said the Prime Minister.

“The presentation of the plan of measures is an appeal for seriousness and a wake-up call. There was an irresponsible minority that joked about COVID-19, but now the fun is over. We are facing a time when, as a society, we must take a close look and see whether we can stop the virus using soft methods or whether we will have to adopt measures that will take their economic and social toll,” concluded Prime Minister Janez Janša.