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The government expects harmonisation of steps towards lifting of lockdown restrictions

Today’s press conference on the current situation regarding the COVID-19 disease was attended by the head of the UKC Maribor emergency centre Dr Gregor Prosen, State Secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Mateja Ribič, deputy head of the Communicable Disease Centre of the National Institute of Public Health Nuška Čakš Jager, and the government spokesman Jelko Kacin.

Mateja Ribič

Mateja Ribič | Author Danijel Novakovič/STA

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At today’s press conference, the government spokesman Jelko Kacin initially explained that at yesterday’s evening session, the government had reviewed the epidemiological situation and decided that an exit strategy be prepared, which would be based on a plan of easing of measures, enabling actions to be taken in the opposite direction than at the beginning of the second wave.

According to Mr Kacin, the government expects the expert advisory group and relevant government services to harmonise, in detail and as soon as possible, the steps that need to be taken towards lifting of lockdown restrictions as soon as the epidemiological situation allows. In this respect, the government would like to see differences in the epidemiological situation in individual regions to be taken into account.

The government spokesman also presented the data on COVID-19 infections for yesterday. On Tuesday, an exceptionally high number of tests were conducted, i.e. 8,063, with 2,226 new infections confirmed. The share of positive tests amounted to 27.6 percent. There were a total of 1,297 people hospitalised due to the COVID-19 disease and 113 patients were discharged. There were 202 patients in intensive care. 43 people have died from COVID-19. The government spokesman Jelko Kacin offered his condolences to the bereaved families.

The first guest at the press conference was the head of the UKC Maribor emergency centre Dr Gregor Prosen, who said that last week, UKC Maribor had a record number of admissions, both in the regular ward and in the intensive care unit. From Sunday to Monday, 218 new patients required hospital treatment, a record 47 of them in intensive care, a unit which can accommodate up to 48 intensive care patients. The total number of hospitalised patients even exceeded official capacities by 20 patients.

Dr Prosen further spoke of the major inflow of patients to the emergency centre. The grey zone alone, i.e. the part of the emergency centre that treats patients with a confirmed infection or high likelihood of infection, treated 50 patients on Monday, which is an exceptionally high number. Dr Prosen emphasised that the situation in UKC Maribor had been very grim this weekend and required enormous additional efforts from the staff. He called upon all people of Slovenia to engage in self-protecting behaviour during the merry month of December.

Deputy head of the Communicable Disease Centre of the National Institute of Public Health Nuška Čakš Jager presented the statistical data on COVID-19 infections in Slovenia. She said that we were currently facing more than 20,000 active infections with the novel coronavirus, which is a 26% share. With the exception of Central Slovenia and Gorenjska, all other regions are recording growth in the number of infections. The largest share of infected persons can be found among the working age population, i.e. 45 to 54-year-olds, and among the elderly in nursing homes. Sources of infection are the workplace, family and shared households, and private gatherings, which are currently prohibited.

Ms Čakš Jager further emphasised the importance of the correct placement of face masks and the observance of all hygiene measures and social distancing, including during breaks at the workplace, the ventilation of rooms, removal of infected persons from the work process, and referral to work from home where this is supported by the work process.

In the next part of the press conference, official spokesman Jelko Kacin presented the situation in nursing homes. 176 residents in nursing homes tested positive yesterday, bringing the number of actively infected to 2,660. 114 new infections were confirmed among nursing home staff, bringing the number to 992 actively infected.

More data were presented by the State Secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Mateja Ribič, who said that 121 residents and 48 employees recovered from the infection yesterday and 176 residents and 114 employees tested positive yesterday. 24 nursing home residents, who previously tested positive to the COVID-19 disease, died yesterday, 12 in hospitals and 12 in nursing homes. A total of 580 residents of nursing homes have died in the second COVID-19 wave. Ms Ribič offered her condolences to the bereaved families.

She said that it had been arranged at the government session yesterday that testing of individuals working in institutions, including volunteers and students, would be added to the decree on testing.

She emphasised that response protocols had been established for cases of COVID-19 infections in nursing homes and other social institutions. The Ministry of Health has appointed coordinators for individual institutions and their role is to provide advice and assistance to the institutions in the prevention of infections with the novel coronavirus. Numerous training courses have been organised in these institutions on the subject of preventing infections with the novel coronavirus. She emphasised that there was enough protective equipment available in the market and that the costs of this equipment would be reimbursed from the state budget. The state will also provide additional EUR 26 million for additional employment regardless of the staffing standards.

She added that next year, the Ministry plans to loosen public works programmes, allowing those included in public works programmes to perform work that they had been unable to so far. So far, an additional 330 people have been employed in these institutions through public works programmes and more than 39,000 hours of student work have been recorded.

State Secretary Ribič further emphasised the importance of cooperation between social institutions and the local community and civil protection.

Finally, she emphasised that in these difficult times, we must focus on positive information, on the number of recovered patients, and asked that we observe the measures to prevent the spreading of the novel coronavirus, calling upon solidarity and responsibility, as this is the only way to protect ourselves and all around us.