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Minister Poklukar: Omicron will be a test for the whole of society

Today’s press conference on the current situation regarding COVID-19 was attended by the Minister of Health, Janez Poklukar, and by the Head of the Institute of Microbiology and Immunology and the Head of the Laboratory for the Diagnosis of Viral Infections, Professor Dr Miroslav Petrovec.

Minister Poklukar began by outlining the current epidemiological situation in the country. In recent days we have witnessed a steep rise in Omicron infections, and it is most likely that this variant of the coronavirus is already prevalent. One person infected by Omicron is currently in hospital. This morning, 160 people were hospitalised in intensive care units, 120 of them on respirators and three people, aged 42, 48 and 58, need extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Among the COVID-19 patients in intensive care, as many as 86 per cent are unvaccinated; in ordinary wards, this share is 78 per cent. There are also four children and six new mothers in the COVID-19 wards (4 in intensive care).

The Head of the Institute of Microbiology and Immunology and the Head of the Laboratory for the Diagnosis of Viral Infections, Miroslav Petrovec, said that the Omicron variant first appeared in Slovenia in November. Experts expect that by the end of the week, Omicron will become the most common viral variant encountered. In the samples analysed on Tuesday alone, this variant was confirmed in as many as 67 per cent of cases. Petrovec also warned that the closure of public life may happen next month due to the huge number of quarantines resulting from the rapid spread of infections.

We are entering the fifth wave with heavily burdened hospitals

In the fourth wave, 15 COVID-19 hospitals were opened, and with a gradual decline, three were closed (Topolšica, Sežana and Trbovlje). Capacities are adjusted weekly, and all hospitals are coordinated three times a week. The aim of all these redeployments is to enable as many non-urgent interventions as possible,” the minister said, adding that the numbers of confirmed cases being monitored are not encouraging, but still expected to some extent. Professionals are learning about this virus variant from one day to another. The results of more and more studies, which show that the course of the disease is milder in the Omicron variant, are somewhat reassuring. “However, what worries me the most as the minister of health,” he continued, “is that Slovenian hospitals are entering the wave caused by the Omicron variant heavily burdened.”

At the press conference, Minister Poklukar called on the entire system of critical infrastructure, as well as businesses and the rest of society, to organise work, processes and life in such a way that tasks are performed in two or even better three teams that are not in contact with one another. He stressed that this is the only way to prevent the sudden cessation of certain activities due to persons infected with the virus and quarantined. The first projections show that there may be as many as 400,000 patients and quarantined persons at the same time, which is almost a quarter of the total population.

There is no excuse for verbal and physical violence against health workers and professionals

At the end of the press conference, the health minister also addressed verbal and physical violence against healthcare professionals and workers who publicly expose themselves regarding the safety of vaccination. “In healthcare, it is hard to understand how anyone can think that healthcare professionals would want to harm you, threaten you or even poison you. We are always here for you to help you, heal you and save your lives. We can understand that people are exhausted from the pandemic, that they sometimes have enough, that they no longer feel like complying with measures. But this can never be an excuse for verbal and physical violence. That is why I am publicly expressing my support for and standing with all victims of violence. In the name of healthcare, I declare that violence will not be tolerated. I believe that, as a society, we are united on this issue, and that we are unanimously distancing ourselves from such actions.”