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Sweeping new restrictions introduced to contain epidemic

Ljubljana, 15 March - Slovenia has put in place sweeping new measures effective at midnight on Sunday to contain the coronavirus epidemic as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 219 and one person died. Most shops will be closed, public transportation will not operate and schools will be closed until further notice.

Nemčija, Berlin.
Prazne police v trgovini, koronavirus.
Foto: dpa/STA

The vast majority of retail establishments will close, but grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, post offices, petrol stations, news stands and stores selling agricultural products will remain open.

Within 24 hours the National Institute of Public health will also issue recommendations about limits to the number of customers that may be in a shop at a given time.

The decree does not come with a time limit, it will remain in place until it is revoked.

The government also decided to indefinitely extend the previous government's two-week decree ordering the closure of all educational institutions.

The ban is near-complete with few exemptions, for example for special educational institutions providing care for persons with mental disabilities.

Students living in dormitories who cannot return home will be allowed to stay, as will foreign students who cannot return to their countries, student families, and visiting professors living in student housing.

The original plan was to organise daycare for children whose parents work in critical industries, but that has been cancelled now as well.

A decree has been adopted banning any sort of organised care given that children can be very important vectors of coronavirus transmission.

Instead, Prime Minister Janez Janša and Education Minister Simona Kustec issued an urgent appeal to people to help each other with home care.

"I'm asking all healthy youths who have time to help. Currently the only safe form of daycare is home care," Janša wrote on Twitter.

Travel will also be severely affected as Slovenia shuts down air traffic, much like most European countries have done or are planning to do.

The ban will take effect on Tuesday, giving travellers some time to make arrangements to leave the country or get back home, according to Jelko Kacin, spokesman for the government's crisis management unit.

The authorities are now looking into possibilities to help individual citizens who may be stranded abroad.

But travel has been hampered anyway by bans countries have been introducing to protect their citizens.

The Foreign Ministry announced that Slovenian citizens were no longer allowed by Serbian authorities to enter the country. Croatia started to reject Slovenians who do not opt for two-week self-isolation at an address in Croatia.

The Foreign Ministry has issued a travel alert advising all citizens against any travel whatsoever, after issuing special travel warnings for Italy, Serbia, Spain, Iran, South Korea, the US and China.

"On 12 March Slovenia declared an epidemic based on an increasing number of infections with the coronavirus. Slovenian citizens are advised against any travel!" the ministry said.

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© STA, 2020