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Tomažič: The level of observance of preventive measures must be increased

Today’s press conference on the current situation regarding the COVID-19 disease was attended by Janez Tomažič from the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Ljubljana University Medical Centre (UKC), Polonca Mali from the Blood Transfusion Centre of Slovenia, and the government spokesman Jelko Kacin.
Polonca Mali, MD, from the Blood Transfusion Centre

Polonca Mali, MD, from the Blood Transfusion Centre | Author Nebojša Tejić, STA

Yesterday, 1,292 new infections were confirmed from 5,868 tests, which means that the share of positive tests was 22 percent. Comparing these data with those from Monday last week shows that a week ago there were 5,596 tests conducted and 1,302 positive cases confirmed, which, according to Mr Kacin, shows that the epidemic is unfortunately not calming down yet.

1,299 patients required hospital care on Monday, which is one more that the day before, with 210 patients requiring intensive care, i.e. 5 more than the day before. 44 people died in hospitals and 11 in care homes, bringing the total number of deaths to 55.

227 residents of care homes have recovered as well as 108 employees, of those 64 health professionals. A total of 2,587 residents and 1,226 employees have recovered since the end of July. There were 201 new infections recorded among residents yesterday as well as 42 among employees, of those 26 health professionals.

A major increase in the number of new infections has been reported in the following care homes: DEOS, Center starejših Trnovo 19, DSO Krško 16, Dom upokojencev Center, Tabor Poljane 14, Dom upokojencev Podbrdo, Podbrdo Unit 11, DSO Vič Rudnik, Bokalci Unit 11, Dom starejših Rakičan 11, DSO Metlika 10, Dom Jožeta Potrča Poljčane 10, and DSO Izlake 10 positive residents.

A total of 38 million people are infected with the HIV virus across the globe and 25 million are being treated, spoke Mr Tomažič of the numbers. The COVID-19 epidemic has a negative impact on controlling the HIV virus, as preventive actions have been significantly cut down. The pace of testing has been slowed down – before the coronavirus, there were 50 tests conducted every week, now only 10. Testing is the most important strategy for tackling this virus. HIV self-testing will soon be possible in Slovenia, with test kits available from pharmacies. At the moment, the Department of Infectious Diseases is not implementing HIV testing and tests can be conducted with general practitioners. Testing is also organised by the non-governmental organisation Legebitra.

In the first wave, HIV clinics at the Department of Infectious Diseases were closed and prior to the second wave, they had been moved to a separate location, which means that the clinics are operating. There are 704 people living with the HIV virus in Slovenia and they receive outpatient medical care. Of those, ten contracted COVID-19 and a few had to be hospitalised.

HIV treatment in Slovenia is 95 percent successful, i.e. removing the virus from a patient's blood. Slovenia is very successful in its fight against the HIV virus, as we have only 2 newly diagnosed cases a year per 100,000 inhabitants. As a comparison, Russia has 70 such cases annually per 100,000 inhabitants. Unfortunately, this year we again have a child born with the HIV virus.

Treating COVID-19 patients with blood plasma is especially appropriate for people who receive cancer treatment, as due to receiving oncological treatment, they lose their antibodies and blood plasma is the only solution for such a patient to receive antibodies via transfusion and to overcome COVID-19.

Activities in blood transfusion are faced with problems due to the coronavirus. However, blood supply runs without any interruptions thanks to sufficient numbers of responsible and safe blood donors, with at least 300 being needed every day, Ms Mali spoke of the current situation.

People who have recovered from COVID-19 have perhaps generated a treatment for the disease, i.e. the correct antibodies. By donating blood or plasma, such reconvalescents can help other COVID-19 patients who do not have these antibodies or whose body is not creating them. For this reason, the Blood Transfusion Centre is asking reconvalescents to donate blood plasma. However, 4 to 6 weeks must pass from recovery from COVID-19.

Since the beginning of July until today, some 300 of such donations have been made, mostly by people who have never donated blood before. At the moment, some 80 units of blood plasma are ready and there are also units waiting for additional tests and will be ready for patients in the next few days. So far, five patients have received such units and each COVID-19 patient needs 2 to 3 units, depending on the circumstances. All the collected plasma, which will not be directly used to treat COVID-19 patients, will be available for the manufacturing of potential future drugs.