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Red, orange and yellow regions temporarily reintroduced

This afternoon’s press conference on the latest situation regarding COVID-19 was attended by Aleš Hojs, Minister of the Interior and Simon Zajc, State Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology.

According to data released today by the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), the seven-day average number of infections is 784, significantly worse than in recent days.

Yesterday’s new cases were concentrated in the following municipalities: Ajdovščina and Nova Gorica (16), Celje (22), Šentjur (15), Velenje (22), Žalec (23), Domžale (20), Kamnik (13), Kranj (23), Radovljica (20), Škofja Loka (16), Izola (10), Piran (22), Koper (43), Ljubljana (135) and Maribor (62).

The data on new cases published today shows that the seven-day average number of confirmed cases has slightly increased in the Coastal-Karst region, since it stands at 75 compared to the 71 recorded yesterday. The Government decided yesterday that according to the data provided by the NIJZ the current epidemiological situation in two regions, i.e. Southeast Slovenia and Posavje, allowed them to be moved down to the next, yellow zone. The Government will reassess the situation in the regions again next week.

Tighter controls will be in place at border crossings at the external Schengen border and checkpoints at the internal borders

The Government adopted a revised ordinance on the imposition and implementation of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at border crossings at the external Schengen border and checkpoints at the internal borders of the Republic of Slovenia, introduced by Minister Hojs. The amended ordinance will become effective next Monday at 24:00.

Checkpoints of three different types are to be introduced at all Schengen internal borders, i.e. with Italy, Austria and Hungary. Type A includes entry points which will be open or allow crossing the border 24 hours a day. These points are located at the border with Italiy - Vrtojba, Fernetiči and Škofije. The entry points at the border with Austria include Karavanke, Ljubelj, Šentilj, Gornja Radgona and Gederovci, and Dolga vas and Pince at the border with Hungary. The second type of border crossings are the so-called type B border crossings. They will only be open at specific hours. They are mainly intended for local border traffic and include Krvavi Potok, Robič, Predel, Nova Gorica - Erjavčeva, Meblo and Rateče at the border with Italy, Holmec, Vič, Šentilj, Trate, Jurij and Kuzma at the border with Austria and Hodoš and Čepinci at the border with Hungary. Other border crossings, type C checkpoints, will also remain open, where the presence of the police is not permanent, and control of entry is only carried out periodically or at certain periods of time. However, random checks will be carried out at these points. The border is primarily crossed at these points by owners of land on both sides of the border. The ordinance, however, clearly provides that these checkpoints or borders may only be used by the individuals who either live in a border administrative unit of Italy, Austria or Hungary or may cross it from the Slovenian side of the municipality located on the border with Italy, Austria or Hungary.

Another important change as regards entry refers to cases when an individual does not provide a negative PCR or a rapid antigen test, or proof of a vaccination or of having recovered from the disease. In such cases, individuals will have to quarantine for a period of five days and then produce a negative test result, and no longer be able to end quarantine with a negative test result the day after starting it.

The third important change to the ordinance involves mandatory testing of regular cross-border commuters. They will have to get tested once a week from Saturday, 15 March. When crossing the border, these passengers or citizens from either side will have to produce a negative COVID-19 test no older than seven days. These are daily or weekly commuting cross-border workers or individuals crossing the border occasionally to provide personal assistance or care, and individuals crossing the border for education and training purposes. Children aged 12 and under are excluded, but not individuals who drive them to their schooling. The same applies to owners or tenants of land on both sides of the border. All these individuals have to produce a negative test no older than seven days.

The Minister also announced that the measures provided by the residence registration act passed a few days ago will end or reduce fictitious registrations of residence to the maximum possible extent, for example with the reintroduction of the requirement that individuals may register residence only at the administrative unit where the address is located. Administrative control procedures are to be shortened if any unlawfulness is established, thus contributing to the improved regulation of this area. The act on identity cards was passed a few days ago, aiming to reduce red tape related to identity documents. In the coming months, immediately after the completion of a public call for tenders, it will be possible to obtain an ID card that also containing other media, such as electronic identification data. A health card will also be incorporated into the ID card, allowing the use of a single card for personal identification and at healthcare institutions instead of the current health card.

Opening of bar terraces and gardens in the regions of Posavje and SE  Slovenia

The Government approved the amendments to the ordinance on the temporary suspension of the sale of goods and services to consumers. Basically, the validity of the existing ordinance is extended from 6 March to 12 March, meaning that the exceptions in statistical regions with a more favourable epidemiological situation, i.e. orange regions, are maintained.

Moreover, in the two regions where the epidemiological situation is better, catering services for preparing and serving food and drinks to customers on terraces and in the gardens of restaurants will be allowed. These regions are SE Slovenia and Posavje. This is a one-week test period that will be used as an indicator of whether such a relaxation can be safely implemented elsewhere in Slovenia once the epidemiological picture has improved in other regions. If after the one-week test period the epidemiological situation deteriorates in the country or in a particular region, and any violations of the ordinance are identified by inspectors, the Government will be forced to reimpose a ban on the provision of these services.

The following conditions for opening of bar terraces and gardens to provide catering services in the two yellow regions will have to be strictly adhered to:

  • Catering services for the preparation of food and drinks and serving will be able to be carried out from 6:00 to 19:00, from Monday, 8 March.
  • Guests must leave the terraces and gardens of the catering establishments no later than 30 minutes after the end of the permitted catering activity.
  • Service will only be allowed at tables (i.e. seated service), the distance between persons must be at least 1.5 meters, with at least 3 meters between the edges of the tables. A maximum of 4 people can sit at one table.
  • Caterers must ensure the removal or changes to the use of shared items (e.g. sugar, salt, spices, printed menus, toys, etc.) so that they are not touched by multiple guests in succession.
  • The maximum number of people on a terrace or in the garden of a restaurant is calculated according to the distances indicated above. This number must be clearly displayed at the entrance to the terrace or garden.
  • It is necessary to ensure hand disinfection for guests at the entrance and exit to the terrace and garden, and regular disinfection of tables between their use by different guests.
  • Entry into the closed part of the restaurant is allowed only for the use of toilets. A suitable disinfectant must be provided in a clearly visible place in addition to soap. Entry into the closed part of the restaurant is only allowed with a mask.
  • Employees and guests must wear masks at all times. Guests are allowed to remove masks only when sitting at a table.

Moreover, all other provisions from the ordinance are important, i.e. mandatory testing of employees once a week or exceptions for those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from the disease and have a certificate of recovery serving as proof. In addition, any specific hygiene guidelines to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus must be followed.