Slovenians urged to postpone travel, as number of coronavirus cases rises

Ljubljana, 6 March - The Foreign Ministry issued an alert on its web site on Friday, advising Slovenians to postpone all non-essential trips abroad in the face of the spreading of the new coronavirus. Meanwhile, two new cases of infection have been confirmed in Slovenia, putting the total number of cases in the country at eight.

The ministry's unprecedented call has been met with severe criticism from the Association of Travelling Agencies, which said it may spell bankruptcy of all Slovenian travelling agencies.

The association stressed that no other EU member had issued such warnings.

Because of the spreading of the new virus, some hotels in the country have already temporarily closed their door. Spas seem to be less affected than accommodation facilities in Ljubljana, lakeside resort Bled and on the coast.

Hotels in the capital are detecting a 30% decrease in occupancy rate and an even bigger slump in revenue.

Calls have been mounting for measures that would offset the negative effects of the virus on businesses, and the Labour Ministry has reportedly drawn up an emergency bill to subsidise companies for part of pay of workers temporarily laid off because of the virus.

The Chamber of Trade Crafts and Small Business (OZS) said today that Slovenian small businesses, including hoteliers, coach companies and pub and restaurant owners, were hit hard.

Tourist guides expressed concern as well, listing cancellations spanning the entire tourist season and a looming threat of complete loss of income.

Yesterday, several associations, including the trade union of employees in the hospitality sector from the ZSSS trade union confederation, the Employers' Association and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, have urged immediate action from the government.

Meanwhile, two unrelated new cases of infection were confirmed today, one in the north-east and one in the south-east, putting the number of coronavirus cases in the country at eight.

The seventh case was related to the previous one, with the infected person being the wife of a 32-year-old man from the Štajerska region who tested positive for the virus on Thursday.

Both are employed at the Maribor UKC hospital, but the authorities say all precautionary measures had been taken to prevent further spreading of the virus.

State secretary at the Health Ministry Simona Repar Bornšek told the press today that all confirmed coronavirus patients were stable.

According to the information collected so far, the first seven infected patients have recently been in Italy.

Information is, however, still scarce on the eighth case, a doctor working in a community health centre in Metlika.

Currently, the search is on for the persons who had been in contact with him and according to Health Minister Aleš Šabeder their number exceeds 40.

The minister said that having doctors affected was "the worst possible scenario". But he noted that the medical staff got infected on trips abroad and not at work.

Some additional protective measures were introduced today, including a recommendation for hospitals and retirement homes to ban visits. Schools and kindergartens remain open.

© STA, 2020