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Poklukar: Let's make sure that the vaccination bubble is as big as possible

Today's press conference on the current situation regarding COVID 19 was attended by the Minister of Health, Janez Poklukar and the Director of the National Institute of Public Health, Milan Krek.

According to the epidemiological data, a total of 1,734 PCR tests and 27,712 rapid antigen tests were carried out yesterday. The PCR tests confirmed 88 new cases. The number of active cases in Slovenia rose to 799. According to the latest data, the 7-day average of confirmed cases stand at 54 and the 14-day incidence at 37.

Currently, 28 people with COVID-19 are being treated in hospital, nine of whom are in intensive care. No COVID‑19‑related deaths were recorded. This marks the eighth consecutive day without a COVID‑19‑related death.

Poklukar: The vaccine has become synonymous with caring for each other

Minister of Health Janez Poklukar highlighted that the vaccine is the only protection against the virus. According to him, the virus is far more deadly than the vaccine, which has extremely rare side effects that occurred in only a few individuals. Minister Poklukar therefore calls on everyone to learn about the vaccine, overcome their fear, get vaccinated and contribute to society as a whole being safe. He is convinced that the vaccine has become synonymous with caring for each other.

Minister Poklukar also noted that so far we have spent over EUR 50 million on rapid tests, almost EUR 70 million on PCR tests, and over EUR 123 million on testing. Over 17,000 COVID-19‑related hospital admissions were recorded, which amounted to around EUR 200 million. Of these, 7,700 patients were treated for complications, over 1,200 were on ventilator support and 2,600 were treated in intensive care units. Minister Poklukar stressed that none of the people hospitalised had the privilege or the possibility we have today – to be vaccinated.

He warned that rapid testing neither cures nor protects. It is purely an epidemiological measure to detect and break the chain of infection. Concerning data from Portugal and Spain show an increasing number of infections among young people. The virus does not discriminate, and it is wrong to believe that only the vulnerable are at risk said Minister Poklukar.

Rapid tests will no longer be provided free of charge with some exceptions

He then presented the Decree on the implementation of screening programmes for the early detection of SARS-CoV-2 virus infection, adopted at yesterday's correspondence session. The decree will enter into force on the day following its publication in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia, and will apply as of 23 August 2021.

Minister Poklukar explained that when there was no vaccine or not enough vaccine, screening programmes were an important measure for containing the spread of the virus. Today, however, sufficient quantities of various vaccines are available. Rapid tests will therefore no longer be provided free of charge, except for the following:

‒ persons who could cause the spread of COVID-19 with their work or conduct in environments where a direct risk of spreading the disease exists, i.e. healthcare service users, residents of social care institutions, persons in prison or juvenile correction facilities or centres for foreigners or safe houses or asylum centres or integration homes or crisis centres for children,

‒ persons who cannot be vaccinated due to medical reasons, which must be proven with a medical certificate.

In schools, self-testing with rapid antigen tests will continue. The tested person will take a swab by themselves and read the result. The method of self-testing will be determined by the Government together with the ministry of education.

The highest permitted reimbursement price for rapid antigen tests will be set. In the case that a programme provider performs rapid antigen tests for self-funding persons, the price of this service must not exceed EUR 12.

Slovenia has bought enough vaccine for everyone to be vaccinated, Poklukar stressed. The decision to get vaccinated is a free choice. However, the minister calls on everyone to come together and make sure that the vaccination bubble is as big as possible. The more people that are vaccinated, the safer the society.

The EU COVID Digital Certificate is available via the zVEM app

The minister also presented the zVEM app, where a digital certificate can be downloaded free of charge to your mobile phone. This will enable access to your digital health records anywhere in the world. The eRecept (ePrescription), eDokumenti (eDocuments), eNapotnice (eReferrals) and the EU Digital COVID Certificate are available via the app. As a key innovation, the minister pointed out that parents will also be able to upload the certificates of their children and other family members to their mobile phone.

The minister further revealed that this week or next week all public event organisers will be able to access an Android application to be downloaded to mobile phones and use it to anonymously monitor visitors' compliance with the recovered/tested/vaccinated requirement. An update and access to these applications via the Google and Apple websites is planned to be completed in the first half of August.

Krek: A new wave is on the horizon

Director of the National Institute of Public Health, Milan Krek, warned that a new wave is on the horizon and urged people to get vaccinated and take protective measures. He further stressed that information on vaccination should be obtained from verified professional records.

To date, 186 million people worldwide, or 2.45% of the global population, have contracted COVID-19. More than 4 million have died. Krek warned that the situation in EU Member States is worsening. The Delta variant is on the rise in the EU.

In Slovenia, the third wave ended at the beginning of July 2021 and now a new wave is emerging. The number of newly infected people has increased. The Delta variant is also increasingly present in Slovenia. Currently, south-eastern Slovenia and the Posavje region are affected the most.

With respect to the secondary school pupils who returned from Spain, a total of 205 pupils are actively infected, with 94 secondary infections. There are 760 persons in quarantine. Most of the imported cases over the last week have originated in Spain (57), Croatia (42) and Serbia (8).