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Parents should be role models to their children and help them cope with their problems

Today’s press conference on the current situation regarding the COVID-19 disease was attended by Matej Lahovnik, coordinator of the expert advisory group, which is preparing the package of anti-corona relief, director of DSO Vojnik Breda Božnik, and psychologist Eva Kovač.

Matej Lahovnik, coordinator of the expert advisory group, which is preparing the package of anti-corona relief

Matej Lahovnik, coordinator of the expert advisory group, which is preparing the package of anti-corona relief | Author Urad vlade za komuniciranje

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Yesterday, 4,536 PCR tests were conducted. 911 new infections were confirmed, with a positivity rate of 20.1 per cent. Some 32,763 rapid tests were also conducted. Of these, 708 new infections were confirmed, with a positivity rate of 2.2 per cent. A total of 37,299 tests were performed, with 1619 positive results. Yesterday, 18,080 school employees were tested, of which 240 were positive, giving a positivity rate of 1.3 per cent. A total of 1,032 patients were being treated in hospital due to coronavirus, of whom 168 were in intensive care. There were 19 deaths, 15 in hospital and four in nursing homes.

According to the plan regarding the easing of measures, the country is currently in the red phase. According to National institute of Public Health data published today, the e seven-day average number of positive cases stands at 1,218 (yesterday 1,223). The number of people being treated in hospital is 1,032. To move to the next, orange phase, both criteria must fall below 1,000.

According to the Government’s decision taken at last week’s COVID meeting, five regions are currently black (Goriška, Jugovzhodna Slovenija, Obalno-kraška, Posavska and Zasavska) and the other seven regions are red. Today, there is a deteriorating trend in the epidemiological picture in some regions. Gorenjska stands out in particular; yesterday the seven-day average number of positive cases stood at 116, and today it is 134. Even in Koroška, which had the most favourable situation in recent days, today’s data are slightly worse: yesterday, the seven-day average was 31, which would have placed the region in the orange phase, but today the figure stands at 35, which puts it in the red phase. The trend is also worse in the Osrednjeslovenska region where there were 290 positive cases yesterday and 304 today. The data for Goriška is better: the seven-day average stood at 78 and the threshold for the red phase is 77. Even in the Obalno-kraška region, today’s figures show a more encouraging picture: yesterday, the seven-day average was 76 which is the limit for the red phase, while today the figure is 71, so the region fulfils the criterion for the red phase. 

Weekly data on cases in old people’s homes show that there were 130 new infections in old people’s homes between 25–31 January, bringing the total number of cases in the second wave to 11,095. In the same period there were 77 new infections among employees, making a total in the second wave of 4,268. The following homes reported more than ten positive cases in the last week: DU Šmarje pri Jelšah (16), DU Podbrdo, Tolmin Unit (15), Obalni dom upokojencev Koper (30). In five special social welfare institutions, 16 residents and 13 employees returned positive tests in the past week.

The Advisory Group for the Preparation of Measures considers the exit strategy

According to Mr Lahovnik, Institute of Macroeconomic Analysis and Development notes that the number of unemployed people continued to grow moderately in January but various measures, in particular waiting for work and reduced working hours and a moratorium on the repayment of loans, the increase in the number of jobless in December, did not deviate significantly from the same period in previous years when seasonal fixed-term contracts expire.

The solvency of many companies which have had to close due to the measures is low. Therefore, these companies are not operating or to a lesser extent than usual. The advisory group proposed two measures in the eighth anti-corona package. One of them is the extension of the waiting for work measure until the end of April, with the possibility of a further extension (until the end of June).

The second measure is the subsidisation of the higher minimum wage. Subsidies always cause a distortion in the market and support the worse companies that pay the lower wages. The counter-argument is that if there is an increase in unemployment due to the almost complete suspension of service activities, the labour market will not be able to absorb the additional jobseekers. Therefore, the Government has decided to transfer two thirds of the burden of raising the minimum wage for the first six months. The average increase in labour costs is less than 96 euros, so the state will cover approximately two thirds of the cost of the higher minimum wage for each employee in the amount of 50 euros.

In 2020, the number of bankruptcies was the lowest in the last six years, and the number may increase when measures to alleviate the economic crisis come to an end.

The role of nursing home directors is crucial

In the Senecura Vojnik home for the elderly, 89 residents and 40 members of staff fell ill with COVID-19. So far, 47 residents and 65 staff members have been or are waiting to be vaccinated, which will be a total of more than two thirds of employees. Dialogue is the key to achieving such a high rate of vaccination among both groups.

The home was among the first in Slovenia to conduct rapid antigen testing among the residents and staff, which they received from the parent company or owners in Austria.  By performing rapid tests, we significantly contributed to the slower and smaller spread of transmission, as we were able to quick remove infected employees from the work environment and isolate infected care recipients.

Ms Božnik concluded that their experience of COVID has been a story of fear, sacrifice and a constant battle against time and space, as well as one of mutual support and even non-recognition of and disregard of certain measures by some individuals. She thanked the local community, which has been of great help in fighting the virus.

The elderly pay the biggest price in the epidemic, followed by children

How much “psychological” baggage individuals can bear depends on their flexibility or mental resilience. These can be learned as people are not as vulnerable as they might think. People are quite dynamic, and although they don’t want change, they can adapt to it.

In life, people encounter numerous difficult situations, losses, challenges and trials. With of these experiences helps us deal more successfully with problems the next time, especially through tools to deal with stress, and the ability to control our thoughts and emotions and to ask for help. 

Highly mentally resilient individuals are characterised by the ability to adapt well to challenges, tragedies, threats or extreme stress. Although these events are difficult, unpleasant or painful, they are things that need to be endured or survived.

Ms Kovač advises people not to worry about things over which they have no influence. They should focus on those things they have the power to control ‒ assessing the situation, their own behaviours, choosing how to spend their time, or following 

It is the elderly who bear the biggest price of the epidemic, followed by children.  But it is parents who teach children how to respond to stress, including by teaching through example. Parents should ask themselves what kind of example they are setting for their children. They should be role models, helping them to address their problems.  It doesn’t make sense to reinforce negative feelings by dwelling on what harm children have suffered. It sometimes happens that what we think will happen actually does happen because of our own behaviour. 

It doesn’t make sense to act as if irreparable damage will be done. It makes sense to encourage and guide children, friends and acquaintances so that we can successfully overcome the crisis. At the moment, we do not have enough empirical data to predict the long-term psychological consequences for children. Experts are put to the test to be able to recognise and help individuals in vulnerable groups. It will be of great help to individuals if people try to be as supportive and compassionate as possible, helping them out of distress rather than worsening the situation. She encouraged people to be kind, to offer help, to take care of the health of themselves and everyone around them, to be socially responsible and to create moments for which they will be grateful.