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#Ostanizdrav (StayHealthy) app and rapid testing very helpful in containment of the epidemic

Today’s press conference on the current situation regarding the COVID-19 virus was held by Minister of Public Administration Boštjan Koritnik, State Secretary at the Ministry of Health Marija Magajne and Chairman of the Slovenian Economic Association in Austrian Carinthia Benjamin Wakounig, who spoke about experiences with preventive measures during the epidemic in Austria.
Marija Magajne

Marija Magajne | Author Nebojša Tejić/STA

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18,498 rapid and 5,151 PCR tests were performed on Thursday, with a total of 1,055 confirmed positives, of which 850 (16.5%) by the PCR method and 205 (1.1%) by rapid testing. 789 patients were in hospital yesterday, 39 fewer than on Wednesday, of whom 154 were in intensive care. There were 15 deaths, all in hospitals.

Municipalities posting significant numbers of new cases: Celje (26), Domžale (21), Kamnik (28), Koper (47), Novo mesto (25), Ljubljana (132) and Maribor (44). According to the data published today by the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), the seven-day average number of positive cases is slightly higher than the previous day, at 841 (yesterday 837, Wednesday 827).

According to Koritnik, the #OstaniZdrav (StayHealthy) app has now been downloaded by 371,246 users. A major update to the app was released in the last week of January, which included the introduction of interoperability, meaning the cross-border exchange of transmission codes with all Google and Apple apps in other countries using the Exposure Notification system. The system is used by the majority of the contact tracing apps of European countries, and therefore mobile devices can exchange random transmission codes. However, the app has to be updated to the latest version so that the keys will not be sent to the main European server. All key exchanges will occur between the European server and the national servers, but the applications will not connect to the central European server or any server in another country.

Twelve countries in addition to Slovenia are currently participating in the cross-border exchange: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain. Malta, Norway and Portugal are in the final phases of testing.

Various other changes were made in the upgrade. The first is that low risk is divided among two statuses:

– if the user has not been exposed to an infected person with a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, the risk level is low, and is shown with a green background colour;

– if the user has been exposed to an infected person with a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, but that contact was at a distance or short-lasting, then the app turns orange.

The background for elevated risk warnings is still red, but the recommendations regarding conduct in the event of elevated risk have been updated. A link to the eUprava (eAdministration) app has been added so that users can obtain quarantine certificates.

In order to determine the risk level more accurately, users can also enter the date they detected their first symptoms. On the basis of the date, the daily encryption keys will provide a more accurate risk level for the transmission of infection. The latest version of the notification system allows more frequent calculation and updating of the risk level, which can now be updated up to six times a day. In order for a contact to be recorded, the following conditions have to be met over a 30-minute period:

– the weakening of the Bluetooth signal must be less than 73 decibels (dB) for at least 10 minutes over a period of 30 minutes;

– the transmission risk level must be at least III (three).

If these two conditions are not satisfied, the contact is considered low-risk, and is not shown in the app, but is recorded in the operating system’s daily contacts log.

The update also includes a link to an online form put out by the National Institute of Public Health, where users can obtain a TAN code in the event of infection with SARS-CoV-2. It will be sent via an SMS message. A link to the website has been added, which opens a video presentation of the app in sign language. The phone number of the call centre for mental health support during the COVID-19 epidemic, 080 5100, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The Ministry of Public Administration put out a call for tenders for modifying the #OstaniZdrav (StayHealthy) app for purposes of cross-border data exchange and app maintenance, as the maintenance contract with RSTeam, which adapted a German app for use on the Slovenian market, expired at the end of 2020. RSTeam was selected again in the new call for tenders, and the price of the new contract, which is valid until 30 June 2021, is EUR 31,842 including VAT.

The epidemiological data are improving, but the number of positive cases among the population is still very high, and therefore Magajne reminded all citizens that the preventive measures have to be followed consistently.

The ministry will publish a new call for tenders for rapid tests on Monday or Tuesday, likely for one million tests. The EU procurement order for rapid tests will be completed within one or two weeks, and Slovenia has confirmed its interest in procuring one million tests. There should be a sufficient number of tests available next week, with the ministry including in its estimates the tests available at the health centres. The ministry did not purchase additional tests from Majbert Pharm. There are no concerns about not having enough tests. Education staff can be tested at any time during the work week, as the protocol has never included the condition that the testing has to be performed on Mondays. All positive tests results based on various rapid tests will from now on be confirmed using the PCR method. Positive results from rapid tests will only be entered into the electronic records after a corresponding result is obtained through PCR testing.   No decision has been made regarding gargle testing, but there is a great deal of debate on the subject.

Based on comparable data on similar tests in Europe, the tests from Majbert Pharm are of equal quality. Rapid testing is very helpful for containing and controlling the epidemic, but special rules apply to such testing, which the countries understand and are trying to manage.

Doctors will be able to issue a form to recovered patients stating that the person recovered from the disease, but there are very few people who were sick but did not get a PCR test. The Government will not cover the cost of the certificate. The reimbursement of costs for one test at a mobile unit has been reduced from EUR 15 to EUR 12. The price for the test provider using its own test kit remains EUR 3. Companies can request reimbursement of the costs of testing directly under Coronavirus Relief Package 7. If the test providers agree to claim such reimbursement, they can apply for reimbursement via the Health Insurance Institute (ZZZS).

According to Wakounig, Austria is currently experiencing the greatest difficulties in the state of Tyrol, whose borders will be closed for 10 to 14 days, as the South African variant of the virus is widespread in the state. Only people with negative tests will be permitted to leave the region. The unemployment rolls have also increased considerably in Austria, and the furlough measure is being used by a very large number of companies. The country has identified a problem with regard to testing, in that there are not enough testing sites. Therefore the government is encouraging companies to set up their own outpatient services in order to carry out all activities related to the containment and control of the epidemic.