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Štrukelj: The first truly effective medications against COVID-19 can be made available in January 2022

Mateja Logar, head of the advisory group at the Ministry of Health, and prof. dr. Borut Štrukelj from the Ljubljana Faculty of Pharmacy participated at press conference on the current situation regarding the COVID-19 disease.

1,504 PCR tests were performed yesterday, with 113 confirmed new infections. Furthermore, 7,399 rapid antigen tests were performed. 407 covid patients are currently being treated in hospitals, of which 121 are in intensive care units. Detailed insight into the conditions of hospitals has shown that 10 patients were admitted to hospitals yesterday and 13 on Saturday. Yesterday, 8 patients were released from hospitals, and 23 on Saturday. 3 deaths on Saturday and 3 more yesterday have been reported.

According to the plan for the release of covid measures, Slovenia is in a yellow phase

The epidemiological situation continues to improve slowly, said Maja Bratuša. Figures show that the number of active cases is decreasing; according to the NIPH, there are currently 7,450 active cases in the country.

The seven-day average of COVID-19 cases has been falling steadily. Today, the seven-day average for newly reported COVID-19 cases stands at 444, and at 449 yesterday.

Nine regions currently met the conditions for the yellow tier, while Primorsko-Notranjska is orange and Koroška green.

Today, numerous release measures, adopted by the government last Wednesday, came into force. All secondary school and university students are allowed to fully return to face-to face teaching; opening hours for catering establishments are being extended; gambling halls may operate again. Sport recreational activities may be carried out, and sports competitions are allowed – sports events are reopened for visitors to 50% seating capacity. The same applies to cultural events. Outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed.

Bratuša highlighted that face masks are mandatory both indoors and outdoors provided that a distance of at least 1.5 metres is not maintained. In schools, masks are compulsory at all times, the exception are physical education classes. There are no changes with regard to mandatory weekly testing for employees in educational institutions. Weekly testing is mandatory for those who have not been vaccinated or have not recovered from coronavirus. NIPH hygiene recommendations should strictly be followed. Visitors may attend sports and cultural events, and visit catering establishments, restaurants subject to the condition of RVT.

The number of new infections and the number of cases admitted to hospitals indicate that the epidemic curve is taking a favourable downward trend

Mateja Logar, the head of the advisory group at the Ministry of Health, said that the trends of the number of newly infected and those admitted to hospitals are favourable; however, more than a third of all patients in hospitals are in intensive care units – the majority of them are over the age of 50 and could already be vaccinated. Therefore, Logar again urged people to get vaccinated.

She noted that the favourable downward trend should not lull us into a false sense of security. In the same period last year there were 36 covid cases hospitalised, now there are significantly more, which implies wide and rapid spread of infection within the population.

Logar added that many activities are being released today subject to the condition of RVT. The RVT model is applied in all European countries, not only in Slovenia. Logar said that we should be aware that this model allows for the activities to be released earlier, and, highlighted that this is not an issue of discrimination. Every individual is free to decide on whether to get vaccinated or tested. In Slovenia, both options are free of charge and available to everyone. Logar is convinced that this is a completely personal decision.

Novelties in medications to treat COVID-19

Borut Štrukelj from the Ljubljana Faculty of Pharmacy presented novelties with regard to medications, including:

- Ivermectin, is used as a replacement therapy. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have updated the recommendations. It is still considered that this medication is not suitable for treatment because the ideal dose for the treatment has not yet been approved. Clinical trials are negative – therefore, the WHO and EMA propose that clinical studies are extended in terms of number of participants and the stages of disease. Štrukelj emphasises that this is not a medication aimed to prevent infection; furthermore, higher doses are highly toxic. Štrukelj revealed that scientists in Slovenia are seeking to enter the international system of clinical studies or conduct a clinical study themselves. The Czech Republic and Slovakia have allowed the conditional use of ivermectin in hospitals.

- Molnupiravir: is one of the antiviral agents and prevents virus duplication. The so-called inspection of the active substance started in January 2021 and is still ongoing; clinical studies from the second to the third phase have not yet shown the level of efficiency based on which the active substance would be registered as a medicinal product. The approval is expected at the end of the year.

- potential biological medicinal product Sotrovimap: replaces our antibodies produced after infection or vaccination. Sotrovimap is to be placed on the market in November or December this year provided that relevant approval is obtained.

Štrukelj said that we currently have 24 vaccines in the third phase. CureVac, an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, is expected to be launched on the market. 300 million doses of CureVac are to be produced in 2021.

The Sputnik V vaccine, which is similar to AstraZeneca and J&J, is slightly more effective because it consists of two vector bases. On Friday, the EMA inspection team returned from Russia, where final inspection procedures were carried out. Sputnik V is expected to be available in the EU as early as June.

The final submission of documentation and production of Novavax vaccine are delayed. The EMA is to launch an inspection of vaccines from China – Sinovac and Sinophrm.

Štrukelj gives information that in the US, 9,760 people out of 117 million vaccinated with one or two doses, fell ill. The ratio of 1 to 10,000, tells a lot about the effectiveness of vaccines.