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Krek: The fact is that a new wave is approaching

Today's press conference on the current COVID-19 situation was attended by Milan Krek, Director of the National Institute of Public Health, Tjaša Žohar Čretnik, Director of the National Laboratory for Health, the Environment and Food, Deana Potza from the health inspectorate and Tomaž Pečjak, Deputy Director General of the Police.

On Wednesday, 5,442 PCR tests were carried out and 972 of these were positive; the positivity rate is 17.9%. In addition, 27,347 rapid antigen tests were conducted. A total of 462 patients were hospitalised yesterday (18 more than the day before), of whom 85 are in need of intensive care. Three persons died.

The number of active COVID cases in the country in the last 14 days is 10,260. According to data published by the NIPH, the 7-day daily average of confirmed cases is slightly higher than yesterday, i.e. 753.

The following municipalities stand out in terms of new positive COVID cases confirmed yesterday: Celje (35), Velenje (15), Žalec (28), Kamnik (25), Koper (35), Nova Gorica (26), Sežana (26), Ljubljana (119) and Maribor (32).

The Obalno-kraška region reached the orange phase yesterday. Following this decision, restrictions on movement will be eased in the region tomorrow, i.e. on 19 March. Thus, the gathering (socialising) of up to ten people will be allowed, as is already the case in all other regions.

Yesterday the Government also adopted the Ordinance amending the Ordinance on the temporary partial restriction of movement and the restriction or prohibition of the gathering of people to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which stipulates that gatherings of up to ten people are allowed throughout the country (regardless of the statistical region). However, the gathering (socialising) of more than ten people is still prohibited, except for persons who are close family members or share the same household.

The Government also concluded that the epidemiological situation in three regions is better than in the others. The Primorsko-Notranjska region has been added to the list of yellow regions, which hitherto comprised the Posavska and Jugovzhodna Slovenija regions; the easing of measures will, however, only apply to catering services for the preparation of food and drinks and service on the terraces and gardens of bars and restaurants, which will apply in this region as of 22 March.

According to Krek, the world is experiencing an expansion of the pandemic again as the number of positive cases is growing. The EU is one of the most threatened areas and the situation in some countries is quite bad. According to the 14-day incidence list of EU Member States, the current average daily incidence rate is 1572 in the Czech Republic, 1397 in Estonia, 720 in Malta, 646 in Hungary, 568 in Slovakia and 527 in Sweden. Slovenia ranks seventh at 521. In terms of the 14-day COVID-19 death rate, the number of deaths exceeded 100 in four countries: Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria. Slovenia is in the lower part of the list. The number of positive COVID cases is increasing in all neighbouring countries, including Italy, which has already stepped up measures and closed schools.

As pointed out by Žohar Čretnik, the number of confirmed cases of the British variant of the virus doubled in the last week, increasing from 238 in the week before last to 511 last week. The same is true for the South African variant, where the number increased from 10 to 21 in the same period, which means that we are experiencing exponential growth. Since a history of travel has been established regarding only three of the people with this strain, it means that the virus was transmitted within the country in the other cases.

In the last two weeks, the recorded number of doublings of new cases of these two variants of the virus has been low. However, these doubling numbers will be much higher in 14 days, as a simulation shows there will be growth from 1000 to 2000 new cases. The exponential increase in the curve showing the increase in the number of new cases is not yet notable today; this growth will be much more visible in two weeks.

The total number of inspections carried out in the period from 8 to 15 March by the inspection bodies designated for inspections in the ACP7 was 3,850, Potza said.7 minor offence sanctions, 375 warnings under the Minor Offences Act and 226 administrative measures were imposed. 1,046 of these inspections were carried out by the Health Inspectorate, which imposed 7 minor offence sanctions under the Minor Offences Act, and issued a total of 133 warnings and 3 operating bans.

The report on inspections in the hospitality industry shows that 144 inspections were carried out at pick-up points of restaurants and 14 warnings and one operating ban were issued.

Inspections in the hospitality industry were also carried out in the Posavska and Jugovzhodna Slovenija statistical regions, where, in accordance with the Government ordinance, terraces and gardens of bars and restaurants were allowed to open. There were 90 inspections, resulting in a total of 5 warnings and 1 decision prohibiting the sale of goods and services to consumers indoors.

In the service industry, inspectors carried out 489 inspections,  imposed 1 sanction under the Minor Offences Act, and issued a total of 34 warnings and 4 operating bans. During 284 inspections in outdoor public areas, 40 warnings were issued. There were 39 inspections involving testing in schools and kindergartens that did not reveal any non-compliance.

The Health Inspectorate received 4 new reports regarding the implementation of COVID-19 vaccinations. There are currently 8 procedures in progress with the following liable institutions: (i) University Medical Centre Maribor, (ii) the Zdravje Healthcare Institution, (iii) the Hrastnik, Kočevje, Ptuj, Gornja Radgona, Domžale and Velenje Primary Healthcare Centres. The initial findings of the inspections on compliance with the order determined by the National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy have shown some discrepancies, but the inspections to date confirm that the strategy is being adhered to as much as possible. The strategy, which was later revised, also provided for vaccination with the Astra Zeneca vaccination, which is intended for people under 64 years of age. Therefore, vaccination is being carried out with the Pfizer vaccine and (until a few days ago) with the Astra Zeneca vaccine, which are intended for different age and priority groups. Consequently, vaccination centres have two waiting lists. In view of this, one might be under the impression that the vaccination strategy is not being followed, but the results of the inspections by the Health Inspectorate suggest otherwise.

The police report on activities to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic covering the seven-day period from Thursday, 11 March up to and including Wednesday, 17 March shows that police officers inspected a total of 14,621 locations with regard to the implementation of the provisions of Government ordinances. On a daily basis, this amounts to 2,088 inspections, reported Pečjak. The Police issued a total of 942 measures; 738 warnings and 201 penalty notices and expedited procedures. 

In the last seven day, police officers have issued a total of 3,934 home quarantine orders at all border crossings and at checkpoints at the internal borders of the Republic of Slovenia. They later rescinded 23 of these orders as it turned out that throughout the procedure the persons had relevant proof that they could enter the country without having to home quarantine. Police officers thus issued home quarantine orders to 3,911 people in the last seven days, of whom 3,568 were adults and 343 were minors.

Police officers issued the largest number of home quarantine orders at the border with Croatia (3,612), followed by Austria (307), Italy (48) and Hungary (34). A further 29 home quarantine orders were issued to passengers landing at Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport. The largest number of home quarantine orders were issued to individuals travelling from Bosnia and Herzegovina (2,153), Croatia (400), Kosovo (361), Serbia (286) and North Macedonia (232). Home quarantine orders were issued to individuals travelling to Slovenia from a total of 35 different countries. A total of 136 people were refused entry at border crossings and checkpoints because they did not meet conditions for entry to or transit through Slovenia. 

The police warn that masks are mandatory:

– in all closed public spaces,

– in public passenger transport,

– in vehicles with several persons who are not members of the same household,

– when moving or staying in open public spaces wherever a minimum distance of two metres cannot be ensured,

– when taking a walk on green surfaces or practicing a sports or recreational activity wherever a minimum distance of three metres cannot be maintained at all times.