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The decision on the measures during Easter holidays to be made by Sunday

Today’s press on the current situation with the COVID-19 disease was attended by Janez Poklukar, the Minister of Health, Tjaša Žohar Čretnik, Director of the National Laboratory of Health, Environment and Food, Deana Potza from the Health Inspectorate, and Tomaž Pečjak, Deputy Director General of the Police.

6,432 PCR and 27,645 rapid antigen tests were conducted on Wednesday. 1,164 tests were confirmed positive, i.e. 18.1 per cent (last Wednesday, 972 tests were positive).

501 people require hospital treatment. There are 106 people in intensive case, which is 7 more than yesterday. 4 people have died. The National Institute of Public Health (NIPH) estimates that there are 11,517 current active cases in Slovenia (yesterday, this number stood at 11,191). According to the data published by the NIPH today, the seven-day rolling average increased to 882 (855 yesterday).

With regard to yesterday’s confirmed positive cases, the following municipalities stand out: Nova Gorica (61), Ajdovščina (15), Šempeter-Vrtojba (13), Sežana (17), Koper (26), Piran (10), Celje (37), Velenje (17), Žalec (18), Domžale (22), Litija (12), Grosuplje (18), Ivančna Gorica (16), Jesenice (19), Kranj (23), Kranjska Gora (12), Radovljica (13), Novo mesto (20), Ljubljana (169), and Maribor (69).

Updated vaccination strategy

185,852 people have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 103,757 people have received two doses, said Minister Poklukar. Slovenia ranks in the upper part of the EU Member States in terms of vaccination rate. A review according to vaccinated age groups shows that in the 90+ age group, 45 per cent of the population have received one dose, in the 85+ group 52 per cent, and in the 80+ group 56 per cent. Very low vaccination coverage is evident in the 70+ and the 65+ age groups. The share of the total population that has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is 14 per cent and varies across the regions, i.e. from 13 to 17 per cent.

As of 1 April, an updated vaccination strategy will be put in place. The change refers to all vaccination implementers having to indicate the category of people for who they are ordering the vaccine at the time of registering the request for the number of vaccine doses. The age limit of no more than 65 years for receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine will be lifted. The first to be added to the groups to receive vaccine, in addition to the 70+ population, will be police officers on international missions and participants of Olympic and Paralympic Games. They will be followed by the 60+ age group and patients aged 18 to 59 with a chronic illness.

The measure of a partial lockdown from 1 to 12 April includes the closing of schools, restriction of movement between municipalities, and the closing of shops. The advisory group is assessing individual measures and will prepare its proposals to be considered by the Government. Even though three Slovenian regions have officially returned to the red list, the shops in these regions are not closing. In the Obalno-Kraška region, shops opened only a week ago and it is sensible for the measure to last at least 14 days before its impact can be measured. Furthermore, at the end of the week, the Government will decide on more extensive measures to contain the epidemic, which means that individual minor measures can wait until then.

Presence of the UK coronavirus variant increased to 33 per cent

The number of cases of the UK coronavirus variant (B. 1.1.7) increased from 551 cases in the previous week to 831 cases this week, the number of cases of the South African variant (B. 351) increased from 21 to 25, and of the Nigerian variant (B1. 525) from 20 to 27, while the Brazilian variant (P. 1) remains at 1 discovered case.

Among the 323 sequenced samples in the last week, the UK variant holds a 33.6 per cent share, Ms Žohar Čretnik pointed out. The share is growing in all regions, especially in the Jugovzhodna Slovenija region, and is overshadowing the “general” variant (B. 1.258.17), which represents 60 per cent of all sequences. The number of cases of the UK coronavirus variant doubled in the Jugovzhodna Slovenija region and the Savinjska region and almost tripled in the Koroška region. This represents an exponential growth in the share of infections.

Report by the Health Inspectorate

The report was presented by Ms Potza and refers to the period from 15 to 21 March inclusive. A total of 3,397 inspections were carried out.  35 minor offence sanctions, 371 warnings under the Minor Offences Act, and 123 administrative measures were issued. Of those, the Health Inspectorate conducted 1,034 inspections and issued 15 minor offence sanctions under the Minor Offences Act, a total of 88 warnings, and 1 decision on the prohibition of engaging in activity.

121 inspections of takeaway spots at food service facilities were conducted and 2 minor offence sanctions, 19 warnings, and 1 decision on the prohibition of offering goods and services to users in indoor spaces were issued. Inspections were also carried out in the statistical regions of Posavje and Jugovzhodna Slovenija, where terraces and gardens of catering facilities can be open in accordance with the Government ordinance. There were 75 inspections carried out and 6 warnings issued.

In the service sector, 418 inspections were carried out and a total of 27 warnings issued. 264 inspections were conducted in outdoor public areas and 13 minor offence sanctions were issued under the Minor Offences Act as well as 36 warnings. 43 inspections at schools and kindergartens again did not show any non-compliance.

Service providers mainly ensure that services and goods are offered to consumers only by employees who have previously submitted a negative test. 418 inspections were conducted and no workers without a negative test were found.

As regards COVID-19 vaccination, 5 new reports were received last week. All reports refer to alleged vaccination which is not in line with the strategy. There are currently 13 procedures running, i.e. in: (i) Maribor University Medical Centre, (ii) Murska Sobota General Hospital, and (iii) Hrastnik, Velenje, Kočevje, Ptuj, Gornja Radgona, Domžale, Slovenska Bistrica, Lenart, Bled, Maribor, and Ljubljana – Šentvid Unit Health Centres.

The Inspectorate also examined an incident of a large group of several tens of young people from different parts of Slovenia socialising on the main beach in Portorož, who did not observe the basic measures to prevent the infection with COVID-19. They were very loud, did not maintain distance between each other, did not use protective masks, and were under the influence of alcohol. In this case, inspectors were assisted by the police. They managed to identify the majority of the individuals and minor offence proceedings will be instigated against them.

The Easter holidays are approaching and the Inspectorate will intensify its inspections concerning the compliance of measures in the vicinity of religious buildings. There was a new case of physical assault against an inspector in Celje. Criminal prosecution against the offender has been started due to obstructing the performance of official acts or revenge upon an official

Police report

The report of the activities of the police from Thursday, 18 March to yesterday, 24 March inclusive was presented by Mr Pečjak. During this period, the police carried out 14,568 inspections. 691 warnings were issued as well as 221 penalty notices and expedited procedures. Most cases involved the violation of the ordinance on the restriction of movement – restriction of assembly, curfew or mask wearing.         

The police issued a total of 3,860 home quarantine orders at all border crossings and checkpoints. They later rescinded 29 of those orders as subsequent procedures have shown that the persons had the relevant certificates to enter the country without having to be ordered to home quarantine.

Police officers issued the largest number of home quarantine orders at the borders with Croatia (3,403), Austria (304), Italy (67), and Hungary (34). A further 23 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 (2,160), Croatia (439), Kosovo (400), Serbia (200), Germany (190), and North Macedonia (181). Home quarantine orders were issued to individuals travelling to Slovenia from a total of 37 different countries.

A total of 139 people were refused entry at border crossings and checkpoints because they did not meet conditions for entry to or transit through Slovenia.