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Significant decrease in number of active cases in Slovenia

Today’s press conference on the current situation with regard to COVID-19 was held by Nuška Čakš Jager, Deputy Director of the Centre for Communicable Diseases at the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), Marta Grgič Vitek, National Vaccination Programme Coordinator at the NIJZ, and Maja Ravnikar, Director of the National Institute of Biology.

Nuška Čakš Jager

Nuška Čakš Jager | Author Nebojša Tejić/STA

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5,061 PCR tests were performed yesterday, with 880 (17.4%) positives. A record number of 39,443 rapid tests were performed, of which 559 (1.4%) were positive.

A total of 44,504 tests were performed, with 1,439 positive results.

The number of people with active coronavirus infections is decreasing, and currently stands at 13,962. The national 14-day incidence per 100,000 inhabitants is again below the level from the previous day and stands at 663 cases.

864 patients are in hospital, 160 of whom are in intensive care. 13 patients died on Tuesday, 12 in hospitals and one in a nursing home.

According to the data from yesterday, the seven-day average of confirmed cases fell to 827 cases, and therefore both this figure and the number of patients in hospital fell below the 1000 threshold, which according to the roadmap to ease measures represents the starting point for the transition into the orange phase of the plan.

The following municipalities had the most significant numbers of new daily Covid cases: Ajdovščina (25), Brezovica (22), Celje (45), Domžale (25), Koper (28), Kranj (43), Nova Gorica (29), Novo mesto (30), Slovenska Bistrica (24), Ljubljana (182) and Maribor (48).

In comparison with the 14-day incidence per 100,000 inhabitants in Europe, Slovenia, which recorded a 10% drop, is the only country to report a significant decrease in the number of cases in the third and fourth weeks of this year, while at the EU level this figure stands at 2%, noted Čakš Jager. Some countries are dealing with an increased number of positive cases, particularly Finland, Portugal and Spain, all of which were at 28%. France recorded an 11% increase, and Belgium just under 10%.

With regard to the 14-day incidence, Portugal remains the highest with 1,652 cases, followed by Spain with 1,036, the Czech Republic with 896 and Slovenia with 663 cases (the data is for 9 February), which places Slovenia in the middle of the range.

Čakš Jager added that we are in the middle of the winter cold season, so anyone with minor cold symptoms should check whether it could be a symptom of the Covid-19 virus. Epidemiologists have recommended that the expert group at the Ministry of Health end the restrictions on movement during the night and between municipalities. According to the medical doctrine regarding swab collection, nasal swabs will continue to be recommended. The protocol for the mass testing of teachers will be adopted by the end of the week, and will be extended to include the mandatory PCR testing of teachers who test positive in rapid testing. Individuals who have recovered from Covid will not have to undergo testing for 3 or 6 months. There have been no new positive cases at nursing homes in the last few days, which is a result of several factors, including vaccinations, resident immunity due to previous infection and the use of preventive measures.

According to Grgič Vitek, over the entire period up to 5 February, Slovenia had received 96,525 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 8,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine, and had administered 96,439 doses, with 41,883 people receiving a second dose. In February Slovenia will receive 78,390 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 13,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine and 44,514 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, for a total of 136,104 doses in February. Another 99,450 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 30,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine are planned to be delivered in March, while there is no data for AstraZeneca.

There are currently 54,935 people who have received one dose, and 42,763 people who have received two doses over the entire period up to the present.

The number of cases of side effects is 1,046 for the Pfizer vaccine and 5 for Moderna. A total of 7 serious side effects were recorded, resulting in 2 deaths and 5 hospitalisations.

Between 9 and 12 February, the NIJZ will introduce a classification scheme of 3 types of vaccinations, on the basis of the professional decision of the Vaccinations Advisory Group (PSC) as follows:

– mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) will be used to vaccinate the elderly (aged 80 years and above).

– The AstraZeneca vaccine will be used to vaccinate all others (healthcare workers and support staff, institutionalised persons (residents and staff at social care institutions, Cirius facilities, prisons and other similar institutions) who have not yet been vaccinated.

– The AstraZeneca vaccine will also be used to vaccinate persons with zero or limited mobility at home.

mRNA vaccines will be used for the following priority groups in the following order: (i) elderly persons aged 80 years and above, followed by elderly persons aged 75 years and above, followed by elderly persons aged 70 years and above, together with particularly vulnerable patients with chronic diseases, regardless of age.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is recommended for people between 18 and 64, as there is insufficient data available on the efficacy of this vaccine for elderly people. This vaccine is also recommended for vaccinating immobile patients at home, regardless of their age, since it is more stable than mRNA vaccines and allows transport of the vaccine to the vaccination site. An interval of 9 to 12 weeks is recommended between the first and second doses.

Vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine is recommended firstly for the following groups: (i) healthcare workers who have not yet been vaccinated, (ii) institutionalised persons (residents and staff at social care institutions, Cirius facilities, prisons and other similar institutions) who have not yet been vaccinated, and (iii) staff and students at schools for people with special needs who have not yet been vaccinated.

Other priority groups for the AstraZeneca vaccine include: (i) particularly vulnerable patients with chronic diseases aged 18 to 64 (or those over 65 if so directed by a selected personal physician), (ii) other patients with chronic diseases, and (iii) essential services providers (staff at social care institutions). Particularly vulnerable patients with chronic diseases include: transplant recipients, cancer patients, patients with serious lung diseases, rare diseases that increase the risk of infection (e.g. congenital immunodeficiency disorders), persons on immunosuppressive therapy, adults with Down syndrome, and adults on dialysis or with chronic kidney disease. The selected personal physicians will be asked to determine the level of interest among the defined patient groups with respect to the above priorities.

The virus is excreted in stool and enters the sewage system, from which it is led into the treatment plants. The National Institute of Biology, headed by Ravnikar, has been monitoring such samples for some time in order to trace pathogens, including viruses. The method was begun to be developed in March and was finalised in the autumn, which allowed the pilot monitoring of the coronavirus in wastewater at several treatment plants around Slovenia, but did not cover the entire country. It included around 600,000 inhabitants. According to the findings to date, the amount of virus in wastewater corresponds to the number of active positive cases determined through testing. The most recent increase in the virus level was recorded in January; there has been a noticeable decrease in virus levels for some time.

Several other European countries have begun to monitor wastewater, and the European Commission is heading up and coordinating the research. Monitoring is already being carried out in Austria, France, Sweden and Turkey.