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Applications from teachers for vaccination satisfactory, concerns about the low level of applications from kindergarten teachers

Today’s press conference on the current situation with regard to COVID-19 was given by Nataša Kranjc, acting Director General of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education and Adult education, Fani Al Mansour, president of the Association of Secondary Schools and Student Dormitories of Slovenia and director of SIC Ljubljana, and Jelko Kacin, State Secretary, national logistics coordinator for the mass vaccination campaign against Covid-19.

A total of 4,700 PCR tests were conducted on Monday, with 740 new cases confirmed, a positivity rate of 15.7 per cent. A total of 47,918 rapid antigen tests were also performed. Yesterday, there were 506 COVID patients in hospital, 21 fewer than the day before; there were 90 patients in intensive care, and seven people died, all of them in hospital.

The seven-day rolling average of confirmed cases increased from 762 to 764. The 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 inhabitants today stands at 503 (yesterday 510). In the Obalno-kraška region, the 14-day incidence is 815 and lowest in the Posavska region (214), followed by Jugovzhodna Slovenija region with 390 cases. However, the situation is deteriorating in the Koroška region.

The following municipalities stand out in regard to new cases confirmed yesterday: Celje (35), Žalec (18), Slovenska Bistrica (15), Kamnik (16), Kranj (24), Škofja Loka (17), Izola (10), Koper (38), Ljubljana (91) and Maribor (26).

Secondary school education taking place according to Model C

Schools have been providing lessons to final year students for several weeks now, pointed out Nataša Kranjc and yesterday, the remaining students returned to school according to Model C, which means that half the students are physically present in the classroom and the other half learn remotely, and students alternate each week. 

However, in accordance with the National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy, priority vaccination of employees of educational institutions got under way this week, first for employees over the age of 50 and then for everyone else. Applications for vaccination vary among the regions: in Maribor the figure stands at 70 per cent, while in the Gorenjska region it is 20 per cent. The ministry expects some of the lower percentages of applications from teachers to increase.

There are still 70 school days until the end of the school year, which will be sufficient to make up for the loss of learning of some students, where necessary, and to carry out the necessary assessments for the validity of the school year.

On the subject of masks for physical education, the ministry is consulting with the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) to see whether the obligation to wear masks could be amended.

Fani Al Mansour ensured that school principals were well prepared to resume live classes. They have prepared plans where they defined the main classrooms for each class, ensuring bubbles so that students from different departments do not mix with each other in the teaching of individual subjects or modules. Most of the problems were caused in the change from the previously normative association of students in elective professional subjects and physical education, which is not currently permitted in accordance with the National Institute of Public Health guidelines. Therefore, classes for these students are being provided in the home departments, even when the class numbers are small.

The biggest challenge for school principals is the teaching of physical education as prescribed standards have had to be “neglected” and teaching will be carried out for all students in each department at the same time. All students wear protective masks at all times (these have not been mandatory in the classroom up to now), which can be a problem in physical education due to more intensive breathing and reduced visibility.

For the first 14 days, the students will merely be recapping the material in class to check how much knowledge they have acquired during remote learning. If schools find a deficit in a particular area, they will attempt to make up for it, even with additional hours if necessary.

Student dormitories have also reopened. Students are accommodated two to a room and dormitory groups are reasonably defined taking into account the recommendations and guidelines of the National Institute for Public Health. Masks are worn in corridors, classrooms, club rooms and common areas. The emphasis is on raising awareness of risk management measures (cough hygiene, disinfection, ventilation) as well as prevention and support activities to improve the immune system (healthy eating, exercising in fresh air, restorative sleep).

Although 60 per cent of staff at the Professional Education Centre in Ljubljana have applied for vaccination, 20 per cent are undecided and 20 per cent have recovered from COVID or are currently on sick leave and cannot be vaccinated. In regard to the current opening of schools, the Centre has placed a greater emphasis on raising awareness among employees of the importance of implementing preventive measures. The absence of teachers is a concern because schools do not have sufficient reserves to compensate for staff shortages.

Vaccination is intensive

Jelko Kacin presented the agreement between the National Institute of Public Health and Salus on cooperation in vaccine management. The value of the annual contract is just under EUR 1 million (including VAT). Different services are specifically agreed in the contract, namely (i) receiving consignments from the customer or supplier, (ii) storing the vaccine at the required temperature, (III) preparing and dispensing the vaccine, and (iv) transporting the vaccine and the accompanying logistics.

Estimated total deliveries of vaccines in March is projected to be 282,819 doses. Thus on 1 and 8 March, the National Institute of Public Health took delivery of 19,890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The same quantity will be delivered every Monday until the end of March; therefore, a total of 99,450 doses will be delivered. A total of 30,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine will also be delivered in March. The number of AstraZeneca deliveries will increase during the month. Thus, 21,600 doses were delivered on 4 March, which is less than anticipated. More than 150,000 doses are expected from this manufacturer by the end of March.

The roll out of vaccines in the week from 8 to 12 March will be carried out in such a way that 20,100 second doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 2,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine will be distributed. This week, 30,200 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 30,200 first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be administered. Altogether, this comes to 54,300 doses. Currently, no less than 3 per cent of the received doses have been distributed; that is, 5,600 doses of the Pfizer/Moderna vaccines for the second dose, and 1,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

So far, 43 per cent of those over the age of 90 have received a first dose. Some 49.8% of people aged between 85 and 89, 53.3% aged between 80 and 84 and 30.4% aged between 75 and 79 have been vaccinated. Vaccination is happening intensively among the elderly 

Regarding its own production of vaccines in Slovenia, Novartis, which includes Lek, is preparing for production of vaccines in Switzerland, but there are not currently plans for production in Slovenia. Krka also has no intentions of manufacturing vaccines in Slovenia.