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Minister Poklukar: By observing the measures in recent days, we have avoided the black phase

Today’s press conference was attended by Janez Poklukar, the Minister of Health, Mateja Logar, the Head of the Advisory Group of the Ministry of Health, and Milan Krek, the Director of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ). Maja Bratuša first presented the epidemiological situation in the country.

A total of 5,198 PCR tests and 20,564 rapid antigen tests were carried out yesterday. Some 1,279 new cases were confirmed with PCR tests. The 7-day incidence rate of new cases amounts to 932 according to the data published by the NIJZ today. Some 618 COVID-19 patients are hospitalised (599 yesterday) and 139 patients are in intensive care units. Three persons have died.

Krek: The epidemic in Slovenia is still on the rise

A detailed overview of the epidemiological situation was presented by Milan Krek, the Director of the NIJZ, who initially said that more than 300,000 persons had already been vaccinated against COVID-19 according to the latest data from the register of vaccinated people in Slovenia. The success of vaccination was demonstrated by the information that practically no infections have been recorded in the age group above 80 years.

The Director of the NIJZ communicated that the pandemic was still on the rise globally. There is no country in the world where infection is not present, and the highest numbers are recorded in North and South America and Europe. Krek explained that Europe has been undergoing a severe third wave for several weeks, which was also reflected in the 14-day incidence rate. According to this indicator, Slovenia was somewhat above the European average, but still in the upward trend, highlighted Krek, as the number of actively infected persons continues to grow. In comparison with other EU Member States, the mortality rate improved as per last autumn. With regard to this indicator, Slovenia is in a better situation than the countries of the Western Balkans.

The epidemic in Slovenia is still on the rise, emphasised Krek. The data reveal an increase in infection rates in the 5–14 age group, which is why Krek believes that self-testing is urgent if we want to keep children in schools.

Director Krek explained very clearly why decision-makers were still concerned about the course of the epidemic. Based on the data of the National Laboratory of Health, Environment and Food, the UK strain, which is significantly more infectious, became predominant in the country and consequently poses a greater threat of (over)burdening the health system.

In conclusion, Krek called for solidarity and pointed out the urgent preventive measures that everyone should abide by for our own health, and also due to solidarity with the people around us: social distancing, hand and cough/sneeze hygiene, wearing of face masks (mandatory in enclosed spaces), ventilating enclosed spaces (10 minutes every hour), preventive testing (rapid testing is organised in every municipality), and the use of the Ostani zdrav application, "the silent epidemiologist".

Poklukar: Slovenia avoided the black phase by observing the measures in recent days

"The Government met at a working meeting at Brdo yesterday where, together with the advisory group, we discussed the government traffic light system and measures," Janez Poklukar, the Minister of Health, began his presentation at the press conference. The Minister thanked the citizens for observing the measures and stressed that Slovenia has succeeded in avoiding the black phase for the time being. As a country, we currently find ourselves between the orange and red phases. Since the snowball phenomenon must be observed in the epidemic, Poklukar added, it is clear that we are not out of the woods yet and the final ramifications of the third wave cannot currently be predicted.

The epidemic extended by 30 days, no curfew in the red phase

In the continuation, the Minister presented in more detail the newly set government traffic light system which, in his opinion, eases and enables social life despite the difficult epidemiological situation. When adjusting the plan for easing the measures, the opening of schools and finishing the school year in schools were the priorities. Poklukar highlighted that the Government would adopt measures as per the red phase, which no longer anticipated the restriction of night-time movement, but still enforced a restriction on public gatherings. Kindergartens, primary and secondary schools are fully open in the red phase in accordance with model C, while examinations and seminars for up to ten people can be held at faculties. School dormitories are also open. Individual lessons in music schools are permitted, and so are ballet and contemporary dance lessons. Museums, galleries and libraries are open, too. Contactless sports activities in groups of ten people are permitted at the recommended distance, and competitions and training for cadets and young people are also implemented.

The Government will adopt suitable ordinances that will transpose the measures from the plan into practice at its correspondence session this afternoon. The epidemic declaration is to be extended by 30 days at today’s session, while the use of face masks will be mandatory outdoors only when it is not possible to maintain a 1.5-metre distance.

In conclusion, the Minister mentioned that a significantly greater than expected excess of coronavirus concentrations in sewage have been found in the municipalities of Kranj, Domžale and Velenje. In agreement with the relevant mayors, the implementation of rapid testing in these municipalities would be enhanced.

Poklukar finally spoke about the intentional spreading of COVID-19 by people who have recovered from the virus. He emphasised that such behaviour was inappropriate, unethical and it certainly did not demonstrate solidarity. The Minister called on everyone to avoid such behaviour, and he ensured that the Government would strive for the expedient vaccination coverage of all Slovenian citizens. A new vaccine produced by the Johnson&Johnson company is coming to Slovenia next week, which will be included accordingly in the national vaccination strategy.

With regard to self-testing, Minister Poklukar explained that this measure would commence in secondary schools on 16 April, and secondary school students would be tested in schools.

Logar: Only vaccination will enable life in balance with the virus

Mateja Logar, the Head of the Expert Group, also thanked the public on the behalf of all health professionals for cooperation when implementing measures to contain the epidemic. "Without these measures and the cooperation of the public, health professionals, especially those working in intensive care units, would frequently face tough decisions about who to admit and who not to admit to the units," she highlighted. Only by observing the measures can we make the epidemic curve gradually start to flatten.

Logar asked the members of the public to opt for testing when noticing minimum signs of a cold and to stay home in quarantine if the test result is positive. She emphasised the urgency of self-initiated informing of contacts, as this would contribute to the interruption of the virus transmission chain.

"By re-examining the measures and the plan for easing of measures, we particularly wanted to enable children to complete the school year in schools. Once the epidemiological situation is stabilised, we will try to do the same for the university students as well," Logar stressed, and added that the expert group also strove to accommodate the wishes of the business sector.

Vaccination is the fastest way to enable life in balance with the virus. Thus, Logar asked everyone who has the opportunity to be vaccinated to do so and thus affect the course of the epidemic.