The Slovenia Times

Minister says all Covid measures on the table due to Omicron


Ljubljana - Due to enhanced spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus all Covid measures are on the table and will be discussed this week, Health Minister Janez Poklukar told the press on Monday, adding that the best solutions for the health system and society in general would be sought.

If the measures are not socially acceptable they do not serve their purpose, Poklukar said.

He noted that a rise in the number of quarantine orders was expected in the coming days due to the quick spread of Omicron, which could hinder work processes not only in healthcare but in other areas as well.

Since data show that the average Omicron's incubation period is 2.5 days, the minister asked epidemiologists whether the quarantine could be cut from ten to five days if the person tests negative for coronavirus.

The National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) told the STA the epidemiologists had discussed the matter last Friday, agreeing that cutting the quarantine short would not make sense at this point, as Delta is still the predominant variant.

But talks on this will probably continue this week, the NIJZ said.

Poklukar too expects the rules on quarantine to probably change because of Omicron in the coming days and weeks.

As for the quarantine for children, who cannot receive booster shots yet and can thus not avoid quarantine, Poklukar said he had held informal talks with the NIJZ regarding this, but for now the rules remain the same.

Although different information about the new variant is coming from other countries, including that Omicron causes fewer hospitalisations than Delta, Poklukar warns that hospital capacities are not as occupied in many countries due to higher vaccination rates, while in Slovenia 173 Covid patients were in intensive care this morning, two-thirds of the fourth-wave peak.

Although Covid vaccines offer slightly lower protection against Omicron, the minister stressed that vaccination was still sensible.

Latest research shows that cell immunity remains also after vaccination with viral vector vaccines, so the rise in hospitalisations may not be as big as it initially seemed, he said.

Asked whether obligatory vaccination may be introduced and the recovered-tested-vaccinated rule changed to recovered-vaccinated, Poklukar said he was waiting for guidelines from experts.

"When we receive guidance, we will discuss their implementation with other segments of the society," he said.

The college of epidemiologists at the NIJZ unanimously decided last week that they cannot support the introduction of mandatory vaccination for now, citing an absence of legal basis and questions about implementation.

Under the communicable diseases act, the health minister could put vaccination against Covid into the list of obligatory vaccinations at the proposal from the NIJZ.

The NIJZ stresses the importance of testing and the availability of free self-testing kits for the entire population.


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