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NIJZ proposes confirmation of positive rapid tests using PCR for asymptomatic cases

Today’s press conference on the current situation with regard to COVID-19 was attended by representative of the Centre for Communicable Diseases at the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) Mario Fafangel, head of the Consulate Sector at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Andrej Šter, Deana Potza of the Health Inspectorate, and Deputy Director General of the Police Tomaž Pečjak.

According to the data released by the NIJZ yesterday, the seven-day average number of positive cases was 1,179, while the number of persons requiring hospitalisation sits at 989 today, the first time in a long while that this figure has gone below 1,000. Both of these figures have to fall below 1,000 in order to transition into the next, orange phase.

The epidemiological situation by region indicates that all regions are currently red except for Posavje and Southeast Slovenia. This also applies to Goriška and the Coastal-Karst region, which were declared black zones last week. The Zasavska region is the only one which reaches the threshold for transition into the orange phase.

989 Covid patients require hospital care (yesterday this figure was 1012). 165 patients are currently in intensive care. There were 16 deaths.

Mass rapid testing is an important step towards controlling the epidemic

The ECDC and WHO recommend the use of RAT in all circumstances – both in areas with a lot of virus and areas where it is rare. The objective of the public health system is to identify positive cases among the population, which reduces the need to impose harsh restrictive measures in society.

The solution for false positive rapid tests, particularly among asymptomatic people, is to begin confirming positive rapid antigen tests using the PCR method. Therefore, the NIJZ will include in the national statistics only PCR confirmed cases and RAT confirmed cases for which the test provider indicates the presence of symptoms or an epidemiological connection (e.g. a risky contact), as the expectation of a positive test is high in such cases.

For the period until the introduction of the new protocol by the Ministry of Health, the NIJZ suggests that test providers should report cases in which a positive rapid test is or will be found to be false positive through PCR testing. The NIJZ will correct the records of all such false positives in rapid testing in the recent past.

At the end, Fafangel confirmed that epidemiologists have already proposed on several occasions: that schools should be opened up to the fifth year throughout the entire country, that restriction of movement between municipalities and regions should be removed, that restriction of movement during the night should be removed, and that teachers should be tested on a voluntary basis and not mass tested, which would allow them to be tested anytime during the week. If everyone is nevertheless to be tested, then the testing should be done on Fridays, and positives should be rechecked using PCR, the results of which would be known on Saturday, which would allow schools to be able to make arrangements by Monday with respect to the number of positive cases among teachers.

Travel abroad strongly discouraged

Citizens should avoid travel, or postpone it until a healthier time, said Šter. Several countries in the region and around the world have drastically limited travel due to the appearance of new mutated variants of the virus. Since 1 February such countries have included Brazil, which is a transit destination for the majority of destinations in South America. Brazil is no longer accepting passengers and is not providing travel outside the country.

Inspection report

Deana Potza presented the weekly report on inspections related to the control of COVID-19 for the period from 25 to 31 January.

The total number of inspections carried out by the inspection bodies listed in Coronavirus Relief Package 7 was 3,633. The inspection bodies issued 33 minor offence sanctions, 335 warnings under the Minor Offences Act and 101 administrative measures. The Health Inspectorate conducted 1,077 inspections, and issued 25 minor offence sanctions, 103 warnings and 12 administrative measures.

A total of 168 inspections were carried out in the hospitality sector, resulting in 18 minor offence sanctions, 23 warnings and 3 decisions prohibiting trade. It conducted 467 inspections in the other services sector and issued 7 minor offence sanctions and a total of 27 warnings, and 3 decisions prohibiting trade. The Health Inspectorate conducted 258 inspections in outdoor public areas and issued 56 warnings, and a total of 3 warnings were issued following 184 inspections in multi-apartment buildings.

The police and the infrastructure inspectorate have announced stricter controls next weekend at ski areas operating in red statistical regions, with an emphasis on maintaining order at the ski areas and following the recommendations of the National Institute of Public Health.

With regard to the monitoring of the administering of COVID-19 vaccines, the Health Inspectorate conducted inspections at a further 22 vaccination sites. A total of 95 inspections have been conducted to date. On the basis of the data received from vaccination providers, it was established in the most recent round of inspections that 14 of the providers were performing vaccinations in accordance with the national strategy. Irregularities were identified at eight providers, involving the vaccination of individuals who were not in priority groups according to the national strategy. The findings indicate that nearly 99% of vaccinations have been administered in accordance with the strategy.

With regard to all inspections performed to date, the Health Inspectorate has issued regulatory decisions to ten providers, who were ordered to perform vaccinations in accordance with the national strategy. Decisions were issued to the following vaccination providers:

– General hospitals in Novo Mesto, Nova Gorica and Jesenice

– Psychiatric hospitals in Ormož and Begunje

– Health centres in Velenje, Domžale, Grosuplje, Nova Gorica and Ilirska Bistrica

From the re-opening of schools through Wednesday, 3 February, the Inspectorate has conducted inspections at more than 100 locations in front of kindergartens and schools. Only seven cases of incorrect wearing of protective masks were found, for which warnings were issued. There were no gatherings in front of or near the schools and kindergartens.

With regard to the protests that were held around the country due to the re-closing of schools in certain regions, the Health Inspectorate noted that despite any misunderstanding, such means of expressing one’s opinion are considered a gathering, which has been prohibited by Government ordinance.

Report on police activities

Tomaž Pečjak reported that in the last seven days (i.e. from Thursday, 28 January to Wednesday, 3 February 2021), in addition to their regular duties, police officers carried out inspections in a total of 16,045 locations with regard to the implementation of the provisions of Government ordinances. Pečjak stated that some inspections were carried out on the basis of 86 reports received from citizens of alleged violations of the ordinances.

A total of 1,508 measures were issued, including 948 warnings, 551 penalty notices and a small number of expedited procedures. Minor offence procedures were instituted in 7 cases in connection with infringements of Article 22 of the Protection of Public Order Act (failure to obey a lawful order from a police officer).

The police found that private gatherings are still being held by a large number of people, not just in residential buildings, but also in closed restaurants and pubs. Police officers reported a case of a private party in a closed pub involving 15 persons, for which 12 adults were issued penalty notices for violations of the Communicable Diseases Act, and officers filed charges against three minors at the Celje District Court.

Between Thursday, 28 January and Wednesday, 3 February 2021, the police issued a total of 6,253 quarantine orders at border crossings and checkpoints. Of these orders, 43 were cancelled when it emerged that the individuals involved were in possession of suitable evidence that they were entitled to enter the country without going into quarantine. Police officers have thus issued quarantine orders to 6,210 people in the last seven days.

Yesterday, the Slovenian Government adopted the Ordinance amending the Ordinance determining the conditions for entry into the Republic of Slovenia for the purpose of containment and control of the infectious disease COVID-19. The amended ordinance will be published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia today, and will enter into force tomorrow, Friday, 5 February 2021.

The main changes are as follows:

– Once again, instead of 13 exceptions under Article 10, there will be just 10 exceptions for entry without quarantine and a negative test (nine existing exceptions and one new exception).

– Under four of the exceptions, entry without quarantine is possible only on the condition that the person arrives with a negative test (PCR or rapid antigen test) which is not older than seven days.

Starting this weekend and through Monday, 8 February, in addition to their regular duties, the police will be carrying out increased traffic controls on more than 22 routes all over Slovenia. Some inspections will be conducted together with DARS road traffic controllers.

They will also check adherence to the ordinances adopted to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Police officers will be particularly alert to any violations of Government ordinances in Gorenjska, in the area of the tourism centres of Kranjska Gora, Rateče, Bled, Pokljuka and Krvavec, and activities related to the appearance of any protests.

Stricter controls will also be imposed over the coming long weekend at ski areas operating in red statistical regions, with an emphasis on maintaining order at the ski areas and following the recommendations of the NIJZ. The inspections will be conducted in cooperation with various inspectorates.