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Some 97 per cent of residents in retirement homes have already been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19

Today’s press conference on the current situation regarding COVID-19 was attended by Janez Cigler Kralj, Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Tomaž Pečjak, Deputy Director General of the Police, and Government spokesperson Jelko Kacin.

Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Janez Cigler Kralj.

Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Janez Cigler Kralj. | Author Nebojša Tejić, STA

The proportion of positive PCR tests was 28.1 per cent yesterday. Of a total of 5,966 tests, 1,680 were positive. Some 17,531 rapid antigen tests were also performed, of which 821 were positive, i.e. 4.7 per cent. A total of 23,497 tests were thus conducted and 2,501 were positive.

Some 1,193 patients were hospitalised yesterday and 188 were treated in intensive care units. Some 30 people died, 20 in hospitals and ten in retirement homes.

Regarding the number of positive cases yesterday, the following municipalities are a particular cause for concern: Brežice (85), Krško (75) and Sevnica (35), proving that the situation in the Posavje region remains alarming. The following municipalities also stand out: Nova Gorica (46), Sežana (37), Ajdovščina (29), Celje (71), Laško (40), Velenje (37), Slovenska Bistrica and Žalec (34), Šentjur (30), Kranj (59), Tržič (31), Domžale (53), Litija (32), Novo mesto (71), Ribnica (38), Črnomelj (31), Metlika (27), Ljubljana (251), and Maribor (97).

Some 51 residents and 30 employees in retirement homes tested positive yesterday, including 14 residents and one employee in the five special social care institutions. With this, Kacin completed his presentation of epidemiological data.

Cigler Kralj presented the data of the Ministry of Health regarding the number of vaccinations in social care institutions, where 1,848 employees and 8,116 residents have been vaccinated. Today and tomorrow, retirement homes will receive 2,199 doses of vaccine and 701 doses are earmarked for care and occupational activity centres.

For an overall view of the situation in retirement homes, the Minister also provided the numbers of residents and employees who are currently testing positive and those who have recovered from COVID-19. There are 10,036 such residents from the total of 18,700 occupants in retirement homes and 3,789 employees from the total of 9,108 employees.

On Thursday, 31 December, the Government adopted a decree expanding the circle of social care service providers so that rapid testing can also be implemented for the employees providing home help, the employees of social work centres and other providers of social care programmes.

In this period, retirement homes can also accept new residents in accordance with the instructions of the Ministry of Health. A new resident is first accommodated in a grey zone for seven days. On the eighth day, they are tested and if the test is negative, they can be transferred to the white zone.

The seventh anti-coronavirus package (PKP7) ensures a solidarity allowance to improve the social security of those with low pensions. This will be paid by the Pension and Disability Insurance Institute of Slovenia (ZPIZ) on Monday, i.e. 11 January, as follows:

  • pensioners with a pension lower than EUR 510.00 will receive EUR 300.00;
  • pensioners with a pension ranging from EUR 510.01 to EUR 612.00 will receive EUR 230.00;
  • pensioners with a pension ranging from EUR 612.01 to EUR 714.00 will receive EUR 130.00.

An important measure for the employees in social care institutions is the allowance for work in grey and red zones in the amount of 30 per cent of the hourly rate of the employee’s basic salary. In this way, the employees are awarded for their selfless work independently of the provisions of the collective agreement which ensures a bonus of up to 65 per cent during the epidemic.

The PKP7 also expands the circle of beneficiaries for the allowance for work in grey and red zones, i.e. the employees of external providers working in grey and red zones in retirement homes and hospitals (external cleaners).

During the epidemic, three new allowances for work in hazardous conditions are being introduced, as follows:

  • allowance in the amount of 65 per cent of the hourly rate of the employee’s basic salary following the example of the bonus governed by the Collective Agreement for Public Sector for the employees of external providers working in grey and red zones in retirement homes and hospitals (external cleaners), and persons involved in community work;
  • allowance in the amount of 30 per cent of the hourly rate of the employee’s basic salary for the public employees in the workplaces of salary group J who work in white zones and whose exposure to health risks is above average and whose workload is excessive;
  • allowance in the amount of 30 per cent of the hourly rate of their basic payment for secondary school and university students working directly with COVID-19 residents.

The PKP7 further ensures that all bonuses paid as per the anti-coronavirus legislation will not be taken into account in the calculation of rights to public funds, which usually considers income from the personal income tax decision of the previous calendar year (child benefit, state scholarship, reduced payment of kindergarten fees, snack subsidy for primary school pupils and secondary school students, and lunch subsidy for primary school pupils).

The PKP7 also enables employers and employees to terminate an employment relationship on business grounds if the employee meets the conditions for old-age retirement, whereby the latter is also entitled to severance pay. The measure is particularly intended for young people, whose proportion among the unemployed increased by 20 per cent in 2020.

Pečjak spoke about the regime for entering the country. Entry into Slovenia without quarantine is permitted in the following cases:

  • to persons with a negative PCR test that is not older than 48 hours and was conducted in an EU Member State or in a country of the Schengen Area;
  • to persons meeting one of the twelve exceptions under Article 10 of the Ordinance imposing and implementing measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic at the border crossing points at the external border and inspection posts within the national borders of the Republic of Slovenia, and
  • to persons who undergo a rapid antigen test at one of the five border crossings at the external Schengen border and whose test is negative.

If a person travelling from a red-listed country and entering at the external Schengen border fails to produce a negative PCR test upon their entry or does not fall into any of the twelve exceptions, they may only enter the country at a border crossing where the conditions for testing with a rapid antigen test are ensured. These border crossings include Obrežje, Metlika, Gruškovje, Središče ob Dravi, Jelšane and Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport.

Persons tested with the rapid antigen test whose result is negative are permitted to enter the country without being referred to quarantine at home (a police officer at the border crossing cancels the certificate).

From Saturday, 2 January 2021, to Monday, 4 January 2021, the police issued 1,901 referrals to quarantine at home at all border crossings and inspection posts, of which 1,501 were issued to adults and 400 to minors.

At the relevant six border crossings where rapid antigen testing is implemented, a total of 505 referrals to quarantine at home were issued in the same period and 8,894 referral forms to quarantine at home were cancelled because the persons meeting the conditions to be referred to quarantine at home took the rapid antigen test and received a negative result.

The fatality of a female resident in a retirement home that coincided with her being vaccinated would be examined by an independent group of experts appointed by the Ministry of Health, Kacin confirmed. This was an elderly resident who suffered a heart attack. She had survived such an attack once before, but unfortunately not this time.

The rapid tests selected in the public tender for mass testing were equipped with the appropriate certificates and were manufactured in China, where the tests are also manufactured by all other world-renowned pharmaceutical companies. The reliability of these tests will be determined by further laboratory analysis.