Strict lockdown measures in Slovenia to last at least another 2-4 weeks

Ljubljana, 5 April - Stringent lockdown restrictions introduced three weeks ago to fight the coronavirus epidemic are working and they will last "at least two to four more weeks," only then will Slovenia consider starting relaxing the measures so that life may start returning to normal, government spokesman Jelko Kacin said on Sunday.

Bojana Beović, the head of a Health Ministry medical task force for the coronavirus epidemic, speaks to the press at the government's daily media briefing.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Miroslav Petrovec, the head of the Institute of Microbiology and Immunology, speaks to the press at the government's daily media briefing.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Jelko Kacin, the government's spokesman for the coronavirus epidemic, speaks to the press at the government's daily media briefing.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

"Once we initiate relaxation measures, they will have to be carefully planned and measured, with the awareness that we will have to live with the virus and the epidemic for a while," Kacin, the spokesman for the coronavirus epidemic, said at the government's daily media briefing.

Kacin said the curve of new infections was more favourable than in other EU countries but "this may not blind us". Stringent measures will have to continue.

Prime Minister Janez Janše delivered a similar message after a visit on Sunday to UKC Ljubljana, Slovenia's largest hospital. He said Slovenia was doing fine at the moment but was mindful of a possible new spike in infections and was keeping a close eye on "countries which have thought they have already contained the epidemic but where [coronavirus] erupted again."

"It is necessary to be very cautious in relaxing certain measures. It is already clear - based on our experience and the experience of some others around Europe that acted in a timely fashion - that a lot of what we currently perceive as the suspension of public life may gradually return to normal, even before the end of May and perhaps some of it before the end of April, after there is enough protective equipment and we have learnt how to use it."

At the same time, services and industries will have to "get used to doing business in circumstances that have become the new normal - and this new normal will unfortunately last until an effective vaccine [is developed] or at least an effective drug against this disease," he said.

Bojana Beović, an infectious disease specialist who heads the Health Ministry's medical task force for coronavirus, said Slovenia was handling the epidemic well due to the stringent measures and hospitals have not been overwhelmed yet, but she noted that this was merely "an intermediate objective" albeit a very important one.

The curves have been flattened and the epidemic is currently in a "static state" but "we have not yet been able to reverse the trend". Achieving that will depend on government measures as well as the actions of each individual, she said.

Miroslav Petrovec, the head of the Institute for Microbiology and Immunology at the Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine, said the existing measures were adequate and were working although the trend had not been reversed yet.

"I'm afraid these [new] cases originate from get-togethers that are not in public places but are happening in private," he said, noting that the only way to reverse the trend was to also eschew socialising in private.

Petrovec also commented on the country's testing policy. He advocates the position that testing should be expanded to certain other groups, but bearing in mind the supply of high-quality testing materials. Rapid tests that are becoming available are not yet up to standard.

He thinks the focus of testing should be on patients and health workers in order to prevent hospitals from becoming covid-19 hotspots.

Slovenia reported 28 confirmed coronavirus deaths by Saturday, up by six in a day, whereas the number of confirmed infections increased by just 20 to 997. So far 156 health staff have been infected.

A total of 27,764 tests were performed until Saturday, placing Slovenia among the countries with the largest number of tests per million population.

© STA, 2020