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Minister Kustec: Opening schools and vaccinating teachers top priorities for the Ministry

A press conference on the current situation regarding the COVID-19 virus was held by Minister of Education, Science and Sport Simona Kustec, Tjaša Žohar Čretnik, Director of the National Laboratory for Health, Environment and Food, Deana Potza of the Health Inspectorate, and the head of the Department for General Security and Security Planning at the Uniformed Police Administration of the Slovenian Police, Alojz Sladič.

Minister of Education, Science and Sport Simona Kustec

Minister of Education, Science and Sport Simona Kustec | Author Daniel Novakovič/STA

A press conference on the current situation regarding the COVID-19 virus was held by Minister of Education, Science and Sport Simona Kustec, Tjaša Žohar Čretnik, Director of the National Laboratory for Health, Environment and Food, Deana Potza of the Health Inspectorate, and the head of the Department for General Security and Security Planning at the Uniformed Police Administration of the Slovenian Police, Alojz Sladič.

A total of 5,822 people were given the PCR test on Wednesday, with 1,019 testing positive, a rate of 17.5 percent. 27,194 rapid antigen tests were also performed. Hospitals are caring for 511 patients, with 86 of them requiring intensive care. There were four deaths, all in hospitals.

In its Wednesday session the Government extended the ordinances issued on the basis of the Communicable Diseases Act, and thereby the validity of the measures contained in those ordinances. The validity of the following eight ordinances has thereby been extended until 12 March:

  • Ordinance on the temporary restriction of collective exercising of religious freedom;
  • Ordinance on the temporary prohibition on providing cultural and cinematographic services;
  • Ordinance on the mandatory placement of hand sanitizers in multi-dwelling buildings;
  • Ordinance on the temporary partial restriction of movement and the restriction of public gatherings in order to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infections;
  • Ordinance on temporary restrictions on sports programmes;
  • Ordinance on restrictions and the method of providing public passenger transport;
  • Ordinance on restrictions and the method of sale of goods and services directly to customers in the area of drivers and vehicles in the Republic of Slovenia;
  • Ordinance on restrictions and the method of providing tests of knowledge regarding the professional capacity to operate energy installations.

Stable epidemiological picture in kindergartens and schools

On Monday 8 March, lessons in all grades of all primary schools in the country will continue just as they have this week, under model B. Next week the remainder of secondary school pupils will return under model C, Minister Simona Kusterc affirmed. Under that model lessons will be conducted with half the pupils, or half the individual class, being present at school, while half the pupils or class will have remote lessons. Model C provides autonomy for school principals to determine the number of pupils or the classes that will have lessons in school and then remotely. Teachers will conduct lessons in classes, and remotely for pupils who stay at home. Depending on the latest epidemiological outlook, pupils in school will alternate weekly.

Pupils in lower vocational education who have been going to lessons in school so far, will be able to continue going to school lessons in full. The same applies to those attending adult education classes. Dormitories for pupils will also be opened.

As of today, the epidemiological situation in kindergartens and schools is stable, with all institutions providing updated data on positive COVID cases found in testing. The latest data, as at 2 March, reported daily by school principals in a special application, indicate that 79 percent of pupils are present in kindergartens around the country, along with 83 percent of staff, while 90 percent of both pupils and staff are present in primary schools and 85 percent of final year pupils in secondary schools. Active infections in kindergartens, primary and secondary schools account for 0.16 percent of the school population, while 1 percent of children across the country are in quarantine, involving 56 preschool classes, 85 primary and 14 secondary school classes.

In order to reduce the risk and spread of infection, the Government yesterday also amended the ordinance on wearing protective masks, making the use of protective face masks mandatory for all pupils from the 6th grade of primary school on. Equally, face masks are also required for teachers in primary schools. Under the already established protocol there is still a requirement for weekly testing of staff using the rapid antigen tests, and there are also instructions in place for when staff do not need to get tested.

In the coming week, priority vaccinations will begin for staff in educational institutions, first for those over 50 years old, and then for all the others. Together with the Minister of Health, Minister Kustec has sent to schools, health centres and mayors a joint appeal for full cooperation and assistance in carrying out this extensive, central priority national project at this moment in the fight against the virus.

Regarding the proceedings against seven school pupils who a few weeks ago protested in Maribor, the Minister takes the view that these young people are entering the adult world, whereby they become responsible for their decisions, and they should take responsibility for these decisions. Regarding the national assessments in this school year, tomorrow (Friday) all those in charge will discuss the issue together and come to a decision. Secondary school principals will themselves decide which classes will return to school next week. It is possible that 4th year pupils, who have been in school the whole time, will first be joined by all 1st year classes and half of the 2nd year classes.

Exponential growth in UK variant seen in recent weeks

From the beginning of the year up to the present day, 83 cases of the UK strain of the virus have been recorded, 2 cases of the South Africa strain – albeit unconnected – and 7 cases of the Nigerian strain. But the growth in the UK variant of the virus in recent weeks has been exponential. The proportion of sequencing for all PCR positive tests remains at 30 percent for the Podravje and Coastal-Karst regions, and an attempt will be made to ensure this percentage for the entire territory of Slovenia in one week at the National Health, Environment and Food Laboratory (NLZOH), according to Žohar Čretnik. The first case of the Nigerian strain was identified last week, and today there are seven such infections. Together with the South African strain, this is the most infectious.

Inspectors focusing checks on ski resorts

Health Inspector Deana Potza opened her report with the information that a total of 3,653 inspections were carried out between 22 and 28 February by the inspection bodies listed in Coronavirus Relief Package 7. Inspection authorities issued 8 minor offence sanctions, 587 warnings under the Minor Offences Act and 216 administrative measures.

The Health Inspectorate conducted 1,110 of the total number of inspections. It issued 4 minor offence sanctions under the Minor Offences Act, a total of 146 warnings, and 3 administrative decisions banning activities. A total of 157 inspections were carried out in the hospitality sector, resulting in 2 minor offence sanctions and 10 warnings. In the services sector inspectors carried out 586 inspections, issuing 2 minor offence sanctions under the Minor Offences Act, a total of 60 warnings and 3 administrative decisions banning activities. In outdoor public areas inspectors issued 76 warnings, following 327 checks. No instances of non-compliance were found following 40 checks on testing for teachers and educators in schools and kindergartens.

Regarding vaccinations against COVID-19, inspectors received two new reports and in both cases instigated inspection procedures; currently there are five procedures in progress.

An important new development in the updated version of the National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy is that the provider must itself keep a list of persons due for vaccination and a back-up list of persons in case of cancellations on the primary list. Both lists must align with the designated priority groups for vaccination as set out in the Strategy. Another requirement is the entry of data on vaccinations given in the electronic register of vaccinated persons within 48 hours of the vaccine being administered, and part of the Health Inspectorate’s duties will be to check up on this.

The findings from inspections carried out in educational institutions indicate that schools and kindergartens are providing staff with testing by authorised test providers. In addition, no irregularities were detected in the organisation of the testing itself or the notification of the staff.

Among consumer service providers, inspectors identified a few individuals who were performing work without having taken a test. The inspectors imposed on the employer the requirement that up until test results were received, such employees should not be permitted to provide goods and services directly to consumers.

Supervision of ski resorts was carried out over the entire week, and was intensified in the period from the start of the weekend, i.e. from Friday 26, up to and including Sunday 28 February, when joint inspections were conducted by Health, Infrastructure and Home Affairs inspectors and the Police at all operating ski resorts. The presence of inspectors at ski resorts was organised to ensure that inspections were not duplicated, while police officers were present at all locations. Supervision also involved the participation of inter-municipality wardens, tourist patrol agents and Triglav National Park supervisors in the area of Kranjska Gora. Health inspectors dealt with 22 cases accompanied by police officers, and infrastructure inspectors had police assistance in eight cases.

Supervision of ski resorts involves health inspectors supervising the ski resort parking areas, entry points, rapid testing locations, pick up points for catering facilities, waiting areas for admission purchase and ski equipment service facilities. Among the 22 inspections carried out at ski resorts, irregularities were found at five locations – Kope, Kranjska Gora, Krvavec, Vogel and in the Mariborsko - Ruško Pohorje range. There were 42 warnings issued under the Minor Offences Act.

The supervision of catering operations at ski resorts yielded five instances of non-compliance, with a total of seven warnings and five sanctions handed out under the Minor Offences Act. Inspectors also checked on five ski equipment service facilities at ski resorts, but no irregularities were found.

In connection with the recommendations of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), the Infrastructure Inspectorate checks ski lifts, cash registers, the sale of tickets to persons who have tested negative and implementation of the hygiene recommendations of the NIJZ for skiers. At this time the infrastructure inspectors found non-compliance in all 14 inspections of ski resorts. A total of 220 warnings were issued under the Minor Offences Act.

The Infrastructure Inspectorate singled out the Rogla ski resort as an example of good organisation and COVID awareness, with the security staff providing assistance alongside regular employees. At the cash registers, too, they witnessed very careful checks of negative test certificates for people buying ski tickets, which merits particular praise.

Increasing numbers of forged negative PCR tests

From Thursday 25 February to Wednesday, 3 March inclusive, in addition to their regular duties, police officers carried out inspections in a total of 15,603 locations with regard to the implementation of Government ordinances. Last week they imposed a total of 1,379 measures following inspections. Of these, 1,028 were warnings and 351 were fines or fast-track procedures. Most cases involved infringements of the ordinance restricting movement – restrictions of assembly, curfew or mask-wearing.

Starting on 27 February 2021, i.e. from Saturday, an ordinance has been in place restricting movement into and out of the Coastal-Karst statistical region. For this reason last weekend, 27 and 28 February, in the area of the Koper Police Administration there was an increase in the number of violations, with officers issuing 81 fines and 62 warnings.

Police officers have issued home quarantine orders to 12,453 people in the last seven days. This number included 10,117 adults and 2,336 minors.

As previously announced, last weekend the police, in cooperation with Health and Infrastructure inspectors, conducted inspections at ski resorts. They checked both the adherence to measures aimed at preventing the spread of infection and also to the rules of safe skiing.

Intensified supervision was conducted at 20 ski resorts, involving the participation of 106 police officers. The officers issued 114 warnings due to non-wearing of masks. They also tested 11 skiers for alcohol intoxication, but all the tests were negative. Two motions for the instigation of offence proceedings were sent to the Home Affairs Inspectorate due to skiing off-piste and on closed ski runs.

With regard to forged negative PCR test certificates, Sladič confirmed that one such case had been identified at a border crossing. The Croatian police have also found similar violations. The police are dealing with all identified cases appropriately.