Primary school pupils and secondary school students back to schools on 12 April
Today’s press conference on the current situation regarding COVID-19 was attended by Simona Kustec, Minister of Education, Science and Sport, and Borut Štrukelj from the Faculty of Pharmacy in Ljubljana.
Some 5,360 PCR-tests were performed on Wednesday, of which 1,527 were positive, which is 28.5 per cent, and 20,790 rapid antigen tests were also carried out. Some 599 patients were hospitalised (18 more than the previous day) and 129 require intensive care. Five patients have died. The seven-day average of positive cases rose to 917 (compared to 889 a day before). There are currently more than 13,600 active positive cases in the country. According to the new positive cases confirmed yesterday, the following municipalities stand out: Brezovica (24), Domžale (21), Kamnik (31), Celje (62), Slovenska Bistrica (29), Velenje (34), Žalec (24), Črnomelj (18), Novo mesto (31), Ribnica (22), Koper (41), Nova Gorica (23), Ljubljana (234) and Maribor (60).
As of Monday, primary school pupils and secondary school students continue their education in schools
At today’s correspondence session, the Government of the Republic of Slovenia decided that toddlers can return to kindergartens, and pupils and students can return to schools on Monday, 12 April, which was communicated by Minister Kustec. The organisation and implementation of lessons in kindergartens, primary and secondary schools next week will take place in the same manner as before the closure. This means that all pupils will return to primary schools, while secondary school students will return in accordance with model C, which means alternate weeks of school attendance and remote learning at home. School dormitories will open on Sunday, when the ordinance adopted today enters into force. The use of protective masks is mandatory for pupils in grades 6 to 9, the staff and secondary school students, while pupils in grades 1 to 5 must wear masks in common areas and when moving through the school. Pupils and students are not obliged to wear masks during physical education.
In addition to two major measures, i.e. mandatory weekly testing of the staff and vaccination for the protection of school premises from the incursion and spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the ministries of health and education together with the NIJZ propose an additional safeguard to primary and secondary schools, which may contribute significantly to the preservation of a safe school environment, i.e. the possibility of voluntary self-testing of pupils and students. In the fight against the virus, this measure is welcome and well-intentioned at this point. In the forthcoming days, the ministry will forward to schools an informative film so that parents, pupils and students can become acquainted with the voluntary testing procedure. The project will be introduced in further detail to the headteachers of primary and secondary schools tomorrow and in the next week. The launch date of self-testing has yet to be determined and the start will be agreed following a comprehensive briefing of headteachers, parents, students and pupils and after the applications have been collated. So far, the communication relating to the relevant measure has not been optimal. The objective for the future is to disseminate information as comprehensively and transparently as possible.
The ministry’s objective is to carry out lessons in schools until the end of the school year, and the people responsible will do everything in their power to prevent schools from having to open and close on a weekly basis. National examinations and the matura exam are set to take place in schools, but if the epidemiological situation worsens, the dates of examinations will be adjusted, or the exams will be implemented remotely. On Friday, 9 April, the ministers of health, labour and education, the director of the NIJZ and Mateja Logar, the head of the expert group, will hold a Zoom meeting with university student representatives to seek ways to open faculties and begin holding lectures in person. In the field of sport, the ministry also drafted a proposal to continue league competitions in all categories and implement recreational sports activities, including group exercises.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective
According to Štrukelj, the EMA report on severe side effects following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine is not sufficiently detailed. The Agency thus indirectly transferred responsibility for the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine by age groups to national medicines agencies which will likely make various decisions regarding the use of the vaccine. The Agency’s report states that one case of blood clots occurs in 300,000 vaccinations and 1.4 fatalities occur in one million vaccinations.
Before this vaccine was registered, better effectiveness in people under the age of 60 was shown in clinical studies, which is why vaccination was first recommended for them. During vaccinating, it was revealed that the effectiveness was also high in the elderly population and it is now recommended for people above 50, 55 or 65 years of age; this varies from country to country.
Based on individual patient diagnoses, doctors can advise against vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine. It has been established in the United Kingdom that the reaction after the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is milder and there is thus no reason why those already vaccinated with the first dose should not receive the second one as well. The vaccine effectiveness is already 50 per cent after the first dose, so a person may also decide to only have one dose. There is no connection between the occurrence of blood clots in women and the subsequent higher risk of blood clots in women due to vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The Janssen vaccine is coming, which is intended for everyone above the age of 18. Its overall efficiency is 67 per cent, and its efficiency in the elderly is 85 per cent. The efficiency in resisting the UK strain is 74 per cent and for the Brazilian and South African variants 66 and 53 per cent, respectively.