Ljubljana – WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge was received by President Borut Pahor and Health Minister Janez Poklukar as he arrived in Slovenia on Wednesday. In a press statement, they all stressed the importance of vaccination and warned of the rapid spread of the Delta variant in view of the resurgence of infections.
Kluge, Pahor and Poklukar made the comments as they visited the vaccination centre in Ljubljana, where Kluge got acquainted with its organisation and the vaccination process in Slovenia.
Poklukar explained that infections with the delta variant of Covid-19 have increased significantly in Slovenia in the last week, with 66 such cases recorded.
“If we wish to have a pleasant autumn, we will all have to do our part,” said Poklukar, adding that apart from access to drinking water he sees vaccination as the most important factor of public health.
He said the Slovenian health system proved during the pandemic it was able to respond to crises, but also that the pandemic showed that Slovenia, the EU and the whole world needed more resilient health systems for a stabler future.
Meanwhile, Kluge noted that after an 11-week period of decline, infections in the pan-European area have started to rise again. He cited the fast-spreading Delta variant of the virus, the relaxation of precautionary measures and the slow progress of vaccination as reasons for the resurgence.
“By the end of August, the Delta variant will dominate in the pan-European area,” Kluge said. adding that lessons should be learnt from the past year, but also that the difference between last year and now was the availability of several good vaccines that can stop the pandemic.
On behalf of the WHO Kluge thanked health workers in Slovenia and elsewhere in Europe, labelling their contribution in copping with the pandemic as heroic. He described vaccination of health workers as a main priority to be able to halt the pandemic.
Kluge, who was also received by Speaker Igor Zorčič on the first day of his visit to Slovenia, also complimented the Slovenian health system and its handling of the epidemic, especially the mobile vaccination units. He lauded the government for a very inclusive vaccination campaign, which also included the most vulnerable groups.
Pahor also called for vaccination and highlighted the capacity to manage the situation. “This year, we have almost everything there is to know – we know how to limit the spread of infections, and we have the vaccine.”
“We are no longer helpless and we need not rely on the hope that it will not be so bad. The decision is in our hands. By vaccinating as many people as possible, we can overcome this public health threat and look forward to autumn with confidence,” added the president.
Pahor emphasized that vaccination reduces the risk of falling seriously ill with Covid-19 20-fold and the risk of death 50-fold. “Please, let us encourage one another in defeating fear and prejudice against vaccination and let’s get vaccinated in the greatest possible numbers.”