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Roadmap to ease measures has five stages

Speakers at the press conference on the current situation regarding COVID-19 included the Minister of Health, Tomaž Gantar, the State Secretary at the Ministry of Infrastructure, Aleš Mihelič, the Secretary from the Healthcare Directorate at the Ministry of Health, Doroteja Novak Gosarič, and the Government Spokesperson, Jelko Kacin.

Mr Kacin presented yesterday’s epidemiological data: 6,704 tests were carried of which 1,772 were positive. The share of positive tests was 26.4%. A total of 1,289 patients were in hospitals, which is four more than on Tuesday. As many as 198 patients needed intensive care, which is one less than on Tuesday. Out of a total of 45 deaths, 30 persons died in hospitals and 15 in the homes for the elderly.

Municipalities with the biggest number of positive cases included Krško (43), Domžale (42), Velenje (36), Koper (34), Postojna (30), Novo mesto (29), Sevnica (27), Trebnje (26), Zagorje ob Savi (25), Idrija (22), and Medvode (20). There were 171 new cases in Ljubljana and 82 in Maribor.

According to the yesterday’s report of the National Institute of Public Health, the 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 inhabitants was 962 for the whole of Slovenia. The highest incidence was again recorded in the Pomurska region (1,436 cases) which was followed by the Koroška region (1,406 cases). The Goriška region with 624 cases has the lowest 14-day incidence rate. Next is the Obalno-kraška region with 630 cases and an increasing trend. It is followed by the Central Slovenia (713 cases) and the Gorenjska region (815); the latter had only a month ago recorded as many as 2,000 new cases a day.

In the homes for the elderly, 51 more residents recovered yesterday compared to Tuesday, totalling 184. Yesterday, 38 employees in the homes for the elderly returned to work. However, 154 new cases were confirmed among the residents and 72 among the staff, of which 48 were health professionals. The biggest number of new cases was confirmed in the Danica Vogrinec home for the elderly in Maribor (28) and in the Vič-Rudnik home for the elderly in Ljubljana (25).

Mr Mihelič confirmed that public transport will be in the first set of measures to be eased. First to start operation under the holiday timetable will be busses and trains will follow.

Ms Novak Gosarič emphasised that vaccination will be free of charge and voluntary. This will not be enough to encourage everyone to vaccinate, so that a campaign promoting vaccination will play an important role. Different experts will participate in the campaign, ranging from immunologists to researchers.

Together with the health professionals in hospitals, the staff and residents of the homes for the elderly will be vaccinated first as they belong to the most vulnerable group. It is planned that 20 vaccination centres will be set up, the majority of them in hospitals. At the end of the first stage, vaccination will be possible in bigger community health centres too. In the third stage, vaccination will be above all carried out at the primary level.

Two vaccines will be available in January, and the state expects to receive roughly 50,000 doses in the beginning of January.

Minister Gantar presented the roadmap to ease measures in five stages. The five stages of the roadmap are coloured black, red, orange, yellow and green. Each stage is defined on the basis of a 7-day average number of new cases and patients in hospitals. When one of the two qualifying criteria is met, measures in that stage will be eased.

The black stage means that the current measures remain in place until there are on average more than 1,350 new cases per day in the last seven days, and if in the same period on average more than 1,200 persons are hospitalised.

The measures in the red stage will be cancelled when the average number of cases is lower than 1,350 and fewer than 1,200 patients are in hospitals in a seven-day period. It means that public transport will resume to a limited extent, museums, libraries, galleries, hair dresser’s, and manicure and pedicure salons will reopen subject to the restriction of the number of persons allowed in a closed space.

When there are less than 1,000 new cases and less than 1,000 hospitalized patients in the country, we will enter the orange stage, which will put an end to the following measures: the closure of all service activities, shops and kindergartens, the suspension of in-person classes for students of the first three grades of primary school and special needs students, the ban on outdoor sports activities, including skiing at ski resorts, the ban on gathering of up to 10 people and the ban on crossing municipal boundaries in the regions that meet one of the two criteria.

The yellow stage will be initiated when the number of new cases drops below 600 or when the number of hospitalized patients drops below 500, which means that primary schools and the final years of secondary schools will resume their normal operation, the ban on crossing municipal boundaries will be lifted in all municipalities, as will the restriction of movement during night-time.

The last, green stage will be reached when the number of new cases drops below 300. It will bring a potential lifting of the ban on the operation of restaurants, clubs and bars, but the final number of cases required to lift the ban will be determined later.

Yesterday Minister Gantar participated in the ministerial conference of the healthcare ministers of EU Member States, which was also attended by the Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the Director of the European Medicines Agency, in the presence of the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety. According to data obtained at the conference, the number of new cases in Europe increased by approximately 20% in the last 14 days despite the fact that the situation in certain countries is improving.

Gantar also spoke about the use of antigen tests for the entire population, which should be available before Christmas. The testing protocol will be introduced gradually. Rapid antigen tests will first be used in homes for the elderly and healthcare institutions. The next group will probably be the majority of education workers. This will be followed by other critical infrastructural groups, the Police, the Military and private sector employees. Finally, testing will be offered to the general population. The tests will be conducted by health professionals and candidates will be acquired from the hospital programmes that are currently suspended.

Today the Ministry published a call for tenders for the acquisition of tests, which is made up of two parts. The first part, with urgent status, is open to tenders submitted within 24 hours for 500,000 tests, of which 115,000 would be supplied by 11 December. The acquisition of the remaining one million tests will be the subject of a regular call for tenders. Slovenia therefore intends to buy a total of 1.5 million tests.

The beginning of mass testing will first require the appropriate digital support, as all results will have to be recorded and all participants will have to receive notification of the results. This support is expected to be set up by 11 December.

The invitation to tender was extended to all 17 manufacturers designated by the expert group for testing on 18 November as appropriate, as their tests meet the necessary criteria, particularly regarding test sensitivity and specificity. Another element of the call for tenders is the price, as the value of the test cannot exceed EUR 5.00 including VAT.

The decision on antigen testing was only adopted at the end of November because the Ministry wanted to wait for the guidelines presented by the European Commission 10 days ago that include the possibility of mass testing with rapid antigen tests. The conclusion that the capacities of PCR testing are insufficient also affected this decision.

The same will apply to vaccination. The most vulnerable groups will have priority, as will be the case in mass testing. An application allowing anyone to apply for vaccination will also be made available. Everyone on this list will be invited to get vaccinated when there are enough doses and when everyone from the most vulnerable groups receive the vaccine.