Gantar: COVID-19 outbreak could get out of hand unless slowed down
Ljubljana, 13 March - Tomaž Gantar, who is expected to be endorsed as Slovenia's new health minister late on Friday, has warned of the urgency to slow down the current rate of growth in new coronavirus cases in Slovenia or else the situation could soon get out of hand.
In his hearing before the parliamentary Health Committee, Gantar announced further measures to curb the epidemic. "It's necessary to beat the drum at the maximum level and adopt most drastic measures interfering in our lives," he said.
Gantar, a 60-year-old urologist, said the problem had been underestimated at the beginning with COVID-19 compared to flu and a two-metre distance seen as sufficient to prevent the virus from getting transmitted.
However, he said the risk of the disease was much greater and the disease much more contagious than first thought. He said that not only elderly people were at risk, and that 2% of those who had developed grave symptoms in Italy were between 18 and 45 years of age.
The number of those infected in Slovenia is increasing exponentially and if the trend keeps up, the number of the sick would soon get out of control.
"A fast increase in the number of the infected also means a fast increase in the number of those who will need hospital care, with facilities being limited."
The goal is to slow down the virus's spread so that not all patients need treatment at once.
But Gantar also said that "we can only hope" that severe measures were coming on time, because the virus was spreading within communities in Slovenia.
This is why it people should avoid any groups of any size. He offered China as an example of a country that was effective because it implemented measures strictly.
If the situation in Italy was projected to Slovenia, the country would soon need more than 200 respirators, while it only has 168 now but only about 20 or 30 are available for use at the moment, he said.
"We cannot let it happen that the doctor had a choice of whom to leave and whom to put on the respirator. If the concentration of patients at the same time becomes excessive the system will not be able to cope."
The heath system needs to be alleviated of all non-urgent examinations, while infected and non-infected patients must be kept and handled separately, said Gantar.
He reported that Slovenia was facing problems with the supply of equipment because the countries that have it restricted supplies.
According to him, Slovenia would need a million special protection surgical masks, three million surgical masks, half a million protective goggles, half a million protective suits, 200,000 pairs of gloves, more than 100 extra hospital beds and 100 or 200 ventilators, as well as sanitisers, among other things.
One of the few options is to try to get equipment from China where the coronavirus spread has been slowing down.