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First cases of the omicron variant of coronavirus confirmed in Slovenia

Today’s press conference on COVID-19 was attended by the Minister of Health, Janez Poklukar, the National Coordinator of the Vaccination Programme at the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH), Dr Marta Grgič Vitek, and by the Head of the Institute of Microbiology and Immunology and the Head of the Laboratory for the Diagnosis of Viral Infections, Prof Dr Miroslav Petrovec.

Marta Grgič Vitek presented the updated vaccination recommendations. She said on the subject of the vaccination of children up to 12 years of age that vaccination is recommended for children with chronic diseases and those living with people having such diseases. The recommendations will also be modified to cover the booster dose. The booster dose is recommended after six months, with a minimum interval of three months between the primary dose vaccination and the booster dose. As Grgič Vitek added, the consultation group that met yesterday also agreed with the European Commission's proposal to limit the validity of the Digital COVID Certificate. For those vaccinated with the primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine, the validity of the Digital COVID Certificate will thus be limited to 270 days. After this period the certificate will expire and a booster dose will be required to renew the certificate.

According to Dr Miroslav Petrovec, four samples of the omicron variant were detected in the last screening tests carried out at the Institute of Microbiology and Immunology. The persons infected come from the Ljubljana area and were tested in the period from 29 November to 6 December. The epidemiological data are still being investigated. One of the infected persons contracted COVID-19 last year. Dr Petrovec therefore urged everyone to get vaccinated and invited those who received two doses of the vaccine at least six months ago to get vaccinated with a third dose.

In his introduction, Minister Poklukar presented the epidemiological indicators measuring the burden of the disease in hospitals. As he pointed out, 83 % of the 235 COVID-19 patients that are in intensive care have not been vaccinated. According to the Minister, there are a total of 817 coronavirus patients in hospital, of whom 71 % have not been vaccinated.

The Minister believes that the discovery of omicron may cause another COVID-19 wave. The decline in the daily number of infections in recent days is also slowing down and the Minister renewed his call to the people to get vaccinated.

Poklukar noted that 90% of the patients admitted to the COVID-19 wards are over 45 years of age. In COVID-19 intensive care units the situation is the same. He also pointed out that approximately 190,000 people aged over 50 years have not yet been vaccinated. In this age group, the rate of hospitalisation is about 10 %, while the rate of admissions to intensive care units amounts to 3 %. In the light of the rapid transmissibility of the omicron variant, between 15,000 and 20,000 hospital admissions can be expected. The virus will continue to burden hospitals until summer, which will be difficult for the health sector to sustain.

The Minister added that from 19 to 23 December 2021 a vaccination campaign will take place across Slovenia. Vaccination centres will be open from 8 am to 8 pm at all current locations. In each statistical region there will also be a vaccination centre or a location where vaccination will take place form 8 pm to 8 am. Mobile units will also be set up, in larger numbers than in the past, concluded Minister Poklukar.