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Urgent appeal for social distancing as COVID-19 cases keep rising

Ljubljana, 13 March - Slovenia's health officials appealed on the population to keep their social contacts to the minimum to curb the ever faster spread of coronavirus as the number of those who tested positive has risen to 141.

Šempeter pri Gorici
Number of coronavirus cases in Slovenia keeps rising.
Photo: Rosana Rijavec/STA

The tally by 2pm on Friday means that the number of cases rose by 45 from 6pm on Thursday. So far 4,346 tests have been conducted, Nina Pirnat, director of the National Public Health Institute, told reporters.

The biggest increase in cases has been in the Ljubljana region. Almost half of the infections are linked to the first two cases in Metlika and Ljubljana, while there have also been cases whose origin could not be traced.

The latest cases include a French citizen, which Pirnat said was the first foreign citizen to have tested positive for coronavirus in Slovenia.

Mojca Matičič of the UKC Ljubljana hospital's Department of Infectious Diseases said that three COVID-19 patients were currently at the intensive care unit, all of them on respirators and in a life threatening condition.

A total of 11 patients were hospitalised in Ljubljana and five at UKC Maribor. None of those in Maribor are in a critical condition.

"We have reached a point when not all the infected persons are being hospitalised, and the Department of Infectious Diseases will from now on admit only coronavirus patients," said Matičič.

Meanwhile, Pirnat said that the number of cases would certainly be higher that what the tests show. "A mathematical model will thus be prepared."

"We must limit social contacts to the greatest possible extent to curb the spread of infections as much as possible," Pirnat said, adding that studies of past pandemic outbreaks show social distancing was the most effective measure.

"Through inventive prevention of infections we'd like to enable the health system to be able to take care of everyone who needs aid on time," she said.

As all education institutions close their doors on Monday, Pirnat called on parents to make sure young people follow social distancing rules and do not get together and socialise in groups, possibly while consuming alcohol, thus jeopardising themselves and in particular others.

Meanwhile, daycare will be provided for children up to the 5th grade of primary school whose parents work in critical industries, in groups numbering up to six healthy children.

Schools will get detailed instructions on how to conduct remote teaching with the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija to help in the effort, Education Ministry State Secretary Martina Vuk said, adding that people could not expect instructions how each school and kindergarten should get organised.

Pirnat also said that analysis showed that temperature screening of passengers at airports was not effective so they would propose withdrawing that measure.

Health Ministry State Secretary Simona Repar Bornšek appealed against panic, which she said was bad for the immune system. She also advised against panic buying and stockpiling, assuring the public that the state would see to the supplies.

Srečko Šestan, the chief of the Civil Rescue, said that the new government would probably order a complete lockdown.

He said that Slovenia had a total of 168 respirators and that UKC Ljubljana got the go-ahead to buy 50 new ventilators. A few more are to be supplied as aid from China.

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© STA, 2020