Slovenia imposes stricter rules on border to prevent imported coronavirus cases
Ljubljana, 18 June - Slovenia will impose stricter rules on its border with Croatia for some countries from the Balkans starting on Friday to prevent the import of new coronavirus cases, after the bulk of a surprise surge in new cases in recent days was found to have originated abroad.
Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia have thus been put on a black list of countries from where arrivals are subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine regardless of residence status in Slovenia or nationality. This list now includes 34 mostly non-European countries.
Additionally, the number of exemptions for these countries has been narrowed so as to minimise travel, in particular of migrant workers, government officials said Thursday.
The exemptions for the countries on the black list include hauliers and passengers in transit, who must leave the country within 12 hours, down from 24 under the previous rules, and hauliers operating the so-called green lanes that ensure smooth transport of goods across the EU.
Some categories of migrant workers are also exempted, but to enter they must present a negative Covid-19 test no older than three days, with the added requirement that the test has to be performed in an EU country.
Two previous exemptions for arrivals from these countries, visiting relatives or property in Slovenia, have been suspended.
The decision comes after half of the 26 new coronavirus cases confirmed in the past two weeks were found to have been imported, mostly from Bosnia and Serbia. Most other new cases are contacts of these imported cases.
The government said the number of persons allowed to enter Slovenia without quarantining has been too high. "In epidemiological terms, this could potentially overwhelm the health system."
On the other hand, Denmark, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta and Spain have been added to the white list of epidemiologically safe countries. This list, comprising mostly EU and Schengen Zone members, now includes 24 countries after Bulgaria was removed from it.
Persons with permanent or temporary residence in these epidemiologically safe countries who arrive from these countries may enter Slovenia without any restrictions.
Health Minister Tomaž Gantar said it was premature to talk about a second wave of the epidemic, but he stressed that Slovenia was making the move out of an abundance of caution to make sure the number of new infections does not increase to the point where there are too many infections and their contacts to trace.
Gantar also noted that Slovenians had started becoming "too relaxed, as if we have forgotten that it took huge efforts to defeat the epidemic" and indicated that some restrictions, for example on the size of crowds in public, may be tightened if needed. Currently gatherings of up to 500 people are allowed.
At the same time, the government is making preparations for the event that the number of infections increases substantially, in particular in care homes and in healthcare. The government is also working on solutions that would allow the economy to function normally in the event of a second wave, he said.