Government introduces the third vaccine dose to National Vaccination Strategy
The Covid-19 update press conference was attended by the Minister of Health, Janez Poklukar, State Secretary at the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, Damir Orehovec, and Maja Bratuša, who opened the press conference by presenting the latest epidemiological data.
Of 2481 PCR tests carried out yesterday, 333 new infections were confirmed. The share of positive tests was 13.4%.
According to the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH), 2,992 people are currently actively infected in Slovenia, which is an increase of 190; it further confirms the warnings of experts that the epidemiological situation in the country is deteriorating again. The data show that Slovenia currently has some individual major hotspots, namely Ljubljana, Maribor, Koper, Izola and Kamnik; otherwise the virus is spread throughout the country.
According to data published today, the 14-day cumulative incidence is 139, while the 7-day average number of new cases has increased slightly to 257.
The latest report of the National Laboratory of Health, Environment and Food shows that 1,264 cases of the Delta variant have been confirmed in Slovenia so far. In the previous comparable period, from 1 to 8 August 2021, 403 cases were confirmed, representing 99 per cent of the sequenced samples. This is one of the reasons why consistently observing self-protection measures is so important, Bratuša emphasised. Unfortunately, we cannot prevent new infections with the novel coronavirus just by following self-protection measures. This means that vaccination remains the best protection against the virus. To date 46% of people in Slovenia have received their first dose of vaccine and 41% have been fully vaccinated. The share of adults who have received the first dose is 55%, while 49% of persons over 18 are fully vaccinated.
Maja Bratuša went on to present the results of today's Government correspondence session, at which the Government decided to extend the following for another week:
- Ordinance on the temporary restriction of gathering of people to prevent the spread of COVID-19,
- Ordinance on the conditions of entry into the Republic of Slovenia,
- Ordinance on temporary measures to reduce the risk of infection and spread of the SARS-CoV-2 infection, and
- Ordinance on the mandatory installation of hand disinfectants in multi-apartment buildings.
At the correspondence session, the Government also adopted a new Ordinance temporarily restricting the offer and sale of goods and services to consumers in the Republic of Slovenia, which continues to provide mandatory weekly rapid antigen or PCR testing for employees in hygienic care services, non-medical counseling and therapeutic services, professional or business education and training services, in casinos, gaming halls and the organisation of special games of chance, in trade fairs and congresses, in catering, in accommodation services and in catering establishments offering dance music or an entertainment programme if these employees are not recovered or vaccinated against COVID-19. The Ordinance will enter into force on 23 August 2021 and will apply up to and including 29 August 2021.
At today’s session, the Government also issued the Ordinance on temporary restriction on the provision of cultural services in the Republic of Slovenia. The new Ordinance maintains the current measures and restrictions in the provision of cultural services and now introduces weekly testing for performers at public cultural events and also for persons participating in the provision of public cultural events and coming into direct contact with end users, unless these persons comply with the recovered or vaccinated rule. This Ordinance, too, will enter into force on 23 August 2021 and will apply up to and including 29 August 2021.
The floor was given to Minister of Health Janez Poklukar, who said that the Government issued the Decree amending the Decree on the implementation of screening programmes for early detection of SARS-CoV-2 virus infections. With the amendment to the Decree, the Government determined the activities for which the funds are covered by the state budget and in which following persons are engaged:
- employees in healthcare, social care institutions, education and training activities, including higher education activities;
- persons providing services or selling goods, organising events and providing education in religious freedom;
- persons subject to mandatory virus testing by government decrees and groups already subject to the Decree.
The Decree also lays down that funds for self-testing for 7th, 8th and 9th grade pupils and secondary school students are to be provided from the budget of the Republic of Slovenia.
In this context, Minister Poklukar stressed that vaccinated persons would not be required to self-test. However, as COVID-19 can also affect vaccinated persons, it is important that they inform their doctor immediately if suffering from cold symptoms and take a PCR test as soon as possible. According to expert recommendations, the National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy has been updated so as to include that, in case of a high-risk contact, vaccinated persons will not be subject to quarantine for a period of nine months after full vaccination.
The Minister of Health explained that, at its session, the Government also included conditions for receiving a third dose of vaccine in the vaccination strategy, which, according to the recommendations of the vaccination advisory group, is primarily intended for immunocompromised persons, who together with a personal doctor decide on a third dose or a vaccine booster shot.
In accordance with the opinion of the medical profession, the vaccination of immunocompromised persons is likely to be followed in the near future by the third dose vaccination of the most vulnerable groups, i.e. elderly persons in homes for the elderly, persons employed in healthcare, social care, education and, of course, persons over the age of 60.
Minister Poklukar drew attention to the upcoming fourth wave of the epidemic, which according to all projections will hit Slovenia hardest in autumn and winter, and pointed out that society as a whole and all social systems must join the efforts to contain the spread of the virus.
The State Secretary at the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, Damir Orehovec, said that in the new school year, four slightly updated and experience-based models (A B C and D) are planned for the implementation and organisation of lessons, which will be applied according to the epidemiological situation. The Ministry of Education, Science and Sport has drawn up a special publication on this topic, which will be presented at the traditional conference of principals of educational institutions. The conference is organised by the National Education Institute and will be held next week from Monday to Wednesday in Brdo pri Kranju.
He announced that the new school year would begin by following model B, which allows the implementation of the entire programme in schools and kindergartens.
Given the current epidemiological situation and with a view to ensuring a safe learning environment, it is necessary to strictly observe hygienic measures, wear face masks, regularly ventilate classrooms and comply with the recovered/vaccinated/tested rule.
In compliance with the decree adopted by the Government today, which applies to educational institutions and sports programmes, as of next week, it will be necessary to meet the recovered/vaccinated/tested rule or the requirement of once a week testing with a rapid antigen test. Such a regime is expected to still apply in the first week of school.
In conclusion, the State Secretary called on all those who have not yet been vaccinated to consider the possibility of vaccination, as only a sufficient level of vaccination will ensure that schools and kindergartens run smoothly.