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More positive children in primary schools than in autumn, but government insists on classroom instruction

A press conference on the current situation regarding the COVID-19 virus was held today by Director of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), Milan Krek, Acting Director-General of the Public Health Directorate at the Ministry of Health, Vesna Kerstin Petrič, Director of the National Laboratory for Health, Environment and Food, Tjaša Žohar Čretnik, 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.

On Wednesday, a total of 5,786 PCR tests were performed, of which 860 or 14.9% were positive. In addition, 25,741 rapid antigen tests were performed. There are 453 patients in hospitals (compared to 485 reported yesterday), of whom 90 are in intensive care. Ten people died, all in hospitals. The number of active cases in the country stands at 10,468 (compared to 10.446 reported yesterday). According to NIJZ data released today, the seven-day average number of positive cases is 705 (compared to 728 yesterday). The 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population as of today is 496, the same as yesterday.

Quarantine inspections to be introduced

Kerstin Petrič reported that the government approved the draft act amending the Communicable Diseases Act, which reintroduces inspection of quarantine at home, to which individuals were sent either by the NIJZ as high-risk contacts or by the police while crossing the border. The draft act will be discussed by parliament following a fast-track procedure. This means that people quarantining at home may be visited by a health inspector to check whether they are in fact at home and follows the instructions. Fines between €400 and €4,000 are envisaged for violating the measure. However, employees will still receive salary compensation based on the relevant certificate. The aim of the inspection is to determine whether the measure is being strictly complied with, especially among individuals coming from countries where the new coronavirus strains have already spread widely.

Epidemiological situation

At the global scale, the number of positive cases is growing and so is the reproduction rate (R0). This indicates that a slight new epidemic wave is developing, Krek warned. The same is happening elsewhere around Europe, with the numbers rising and twelve member states currently reporting an R0 above 1. In Slovenia, the epidemic curve stopped falling and is currently stagnating, just like in November, when it began to rise again. The situation is the worst in the Coastal-Karst region, which remains officially red, even though it has already slightly moved into the orange phase. In neighbouring Friuli Venezia-Giulia the situation is serious, with closed schools, which influenced the government’s decision to keep the region in the red phase. If the situation improves, the government will move it to the orange phase next week.

The number of positive cases is increasing among school students between five and fourteen. There are currently already more than in autumn, but the government insists on keeping schools open. Therefore, it seeks to reduce the other risks, relaxing other activities very cautiously. Regarding the issue of wearing masks in PE, the rule is that children older than eleven have to wear them at all times and locations at school.

The strategic goal is for children to end the school year in classrooms. To this end, (i) individual activities in society must be relaxed cautiously, (ii) instructions must be followed strictly in schools (bubbles, wearing masks, paying attention during transport, avoiding group activities, airing rooms every hour, washing hands, observing the rules for coughing and sneezing etc.), (iii) caution must be exercised when spending time with others outside school, with extracurricular activities also adhering to the NIJZ recommendations, and (iv) both parents and teachers play an important role in directing the behaviour of adolescents.

English strain spreading exponentially in Central Slovenia

To date, the NLZOH, headed by Žohar Čretnik, has analysed a total of 2,061 virus samples together with other laboratories. Several new coronavirus strains have been detected, but the original strain continues to predominate (in 81.30% of the cases). In the week before last, 83 infections with the British strain were recorded, compared to 238 in the past week, which means that as many as 155 new infections with the British strain have been confirmed.

In the past week, eight new infections with the South African strain have been confirmed, and a total of ten to date. One infection with the Brazilian strain has been detected. Last week, seven people tested positive for the Nigerian strain, compared to sixteen recorded this week. This means that the number of these infections has tripled, the number of infections with the British strain has doubled, and the number of infections with the South African strain has gone up five times compared to last week. A total of 30 different strains of the novel coronavirus have been detected.

Infections with the British strain are growing exponentially, especially in Central Slovenia. Among the positive PCR test samples, 20 to 30% continue to be sequenced regularly.

The epidemiological investigations show that most of these more infectious strains are not introduced from abroad, but are already a result of spreading within the country.

No major irregularities in vaccination so far

A total of 3,754 inspections were conducted by the relevant authorities from 1 to 7 March. Twelve  minor offence sanctions, 404 warnings under the Minor Offence Act and 164 administrative measures were issued, reported Deana Potza of the Health Inspectorate.

Ten proceedings are currently underway based on reports received in relation to the implementation of COVID-19 vaccination.

The latest version of the vaccination strategy specifies several exceptions in this regard. Thus, the inspectors report that certain individuals have not responded to any of the several calls made. Every vaccine must be used within the specified number of days. If the vaccination provider follows the vaccination strategy and has, for example, already vaccinated all the elderly, it can also start vaccinating the general population if it still has enough vaccines available.

Police report on the implementation of measures

According to Sladič, over the past week the police has carried out inspections in 15,704 locations regarding the implementation of the provisions of the government ordinances. The measures imposed included 857 warnings and 283 fines or fast-track proceedings.

Police officers have issued home quarantine orders to 7,892 people in the last seven days. Supervision was intensified at sixteen ski resorts, involving the participation of 55 police officers. The officers issued 115 warnings for not wearing masks. They also tested 12 skiers for alcohol, but all the tests were negative.