Exceptions to quarantine, limitations of the validity of COVID certificates and changes to the testing protocol
The Minister of Health, Janez Poklukar, the Director of the Postojna Primary Health Care Centre, Irena Vatovec, and paediatrician Denis Baš attended a press conference on COVID–19 updates.
Minister Poklukar began by presenting the current situation in hospitals.
Today, a total of 818 patients are hospitalised, of whom 138 require intensive care. Due to the increase in the number of patients, the Trbovlje General Hospital has been reactivated as a COVID-19 hospital, with 13 COVID-19 hospitals currently active in Slovenia. Given the Omicron infections, the professional circle presented a revised protocol for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 last week. As of tomorrow, a new way of communicating data will begin. This will distinguish between those patients who are hospitalised for COVID-19 and those who have COVID-19 as an associated disease. Of the total number of hospital admissions, according to the latest data, 394 patients have been admitted for COVID-19 and 286 for COVID-19-associated diseases; intensive care units have admitted 119 patients for COVID-19 and 19 patients for COVID-19-associated diseases.
Exceptions to quarantine
As of 10 January 2022, persons who have received a booster shot, i.e. the third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, are exempt from quarantine. Minister Poklukar stressed that this exemption is a move by the Government and the professional circles to benefit the economy and critical infrastructure, as it will significantly reduce the number of absentees at the workplace.
Exceptions to quarantine are:
- persons who have recovered from COVID-19 in more than 10 days and have received a second vaccine dose, regardless of the sequence of recovery and vaccination; and
- persons who have recovered from COVID-19 in more than 10 days and less than 45 days.
As of Wednesday, 19 January 2022, the exceptions to quarantine also apply to:
- persons employed in the healthcare, social care or education sectors. These persons must undergo a daily rapid antigen test (HAG) or self-test at the workplace for seven days after coming into contact with an infected person. They must also wear an FFP2 mask and inform their employer of any contact with an infected person outside the workplace;
- pupils and students, if contact with an infected person occurred in the classroom. They are also required to do a rapid antigen self-test on a daily basis in the classroom. If more than 30% of pupils are infected, the whole class must go into quarantine. The same applies to extracurricular activities;
- pre-school children, unless more than 30% of the class is infected with COVID-19.
Limitations of the validity of COVID certificates
As has been stated on several occasions, the limitation of the validity of the Digital COVID Certificate to 270 days will be enforced as of 1 February 2022, as follows:
- persons vaccinated with a booster dose will have an unlimited validity of the certificate. These are certificates 3/3 and 2/1. Only an mRNa vaccine (BionTech/Pfizer or Moderna) will be considered to be a booster vaccine. To date, 587,000 people have received a booster dose. There is no limit on the validity of Digital Covid Certificates for children aged 6 to 18 years;
- the digital COVID certificate for fully vaccinated residents (i.e. vaccinated with two doses, but not with a third, booster dose) is valid for 270 days from the last vaccination. These are certificates 1/1 and 2/2. This means that everyone who has been fully vaccinated by 1 May 2021 must receive a third, booster dose of the vaccine in order for the QR code on their EU Digital COVID Certificate to remain valid.
Those vaccinated with the first dose of a vaccine within 180 days of recovery are recognised as fully vaccinated after only one dose of a vaccine.
As the rules for issuing the EU certificate in Slovenia must be in accordance with EU regulations, recovery in conjunction with vaccination allowing for unlimited validity is only recognised in the following order: recovery from COVID-19, followed by vaccination with the first dose of a vaccine in due time and the second dose (recovered + vaccinated + vaccinated).
Changes to the testing protocol
The Minister of Health, Janez Poklukar, further presented the changes to the testing protocol, which will enter into force tomorrow, 1 February 2022. Thus, from Tuesday 1 February 2022, a positive rapid antigen test (RAT) will be sufficient to confirm a COVID-19 infection and PCR testing will only be possible based on a doctor's referral. The minister stressed that this is a temporary measure, which will remain in place as long as COVID-19 is so widespread among the population.
On 1 February 2022, Slovenia will also introduce a Slovenian COVID certificate confirming a positive rapid test (RAT) result.
The difference between the EU certificate and the new Slovenian COVID certificate is that the EU COVID certificate takes effect on the 11th day after a positive rapid test (RAT) result has been confirmed, while the Slovenian COVID certificate will take effect on the 7th day, or the 11th day for persons who have not shortened their isolation period. The Slovenian COVID certificate will only be valid in Slovenia.
The Slovenian COVID certificate will not be valid in other countries nor will it be valid for crossing the national border.
The Slovenian COVID certificate will include a QR code and the data set will be identical to the EU Digital COVID Certificate for the rapid test (RAT), except that the Slovenian certificate will state that the result of the rapid test was positive. The Slovenian COVID certificate will be verified using the same application as EU COVID certificates.
The Director of the Postojna Primary Health Care Centre, Irena Vatovec, presented the work of the health care system at the primary level, i.e. at the level of family doctors, pointing out that they have had much more work with patients infected with the delta variant, while the omicron variant is not as aggressive, although not everything is known about it yet.
Speaking on behalf of primary paediatricians and school doctors, paediatrician Denis Baš said that the new testing method is the best in the current situation and is a safe way to test children who are symptomatic or asymptomatic and who test positive for COVID-19 on rapid tests. He highlighted that all children at risk of a more severe course of the disease, such as oncology patients, children who have undergone transplants, are immunocompromised or have severe heart disease, and infants under six months of age will continue to be referred for PCR testing.