Coronavirus situation a bit better, worsening expected after holidays, Janša says

Maribor – Statistics show an improvement in the epidemiological situation, but the government is aware a partial relaxation of movement restrictions during the Christmas and New Year holidays will produce some new coronavirus cases, PM Janez Janša said on Sunday. He said it was too early to say whether school would reopen on 4 January.

The government asked hospital directors before the festive season to ensure additional 30% capacity reserves for the post-holiday period, he said, admitting it would he hard.

Janša said the statistics showed Slovenia emerged from the black zone as defined by the government, and entered the red zone on Saturday.

Under the government five-tier exit strategy, red tier is under 1,350 infections and fewer than 1,200 people in hospital.

“The situation has improved a bit. I hope it’s not only temporary,” Janša said as he visited the UKC Maribor hospital to symbolically thank “everyone who has fought the hardest fight with the epidemic since March”.

This is why the government decided to reopen produce markets, hairdressers and news stands as of tomorrow, he explained.

However, more easing could follow only once we enter orange tier, meaning the seven-day average of infections has to fall below 1,000 and several hundred patients more will have to leave hospital, he said.

Orange tier entails under 1,000 daily infections and under 1,000 patients in hospital, and reopening of non essential shops, kindergartens and first three forms of primary school, while gatherings would be capped at 10 persons, and the ban on inter-municipal travel would be lifted.

Janša said reopening schools would be a priority, but it is too early to say whether it would happen on 4 January for first three forms and for special needs kinds.

The government will decide on it in the middle of next week.

Before schools reopen, teachers will be rapid tested and school leaderships and trade unions will have to pledge to act in a way to stem the spread of the virus, he said.

Yesterday, Covid-19 spokesperson Jelko Kacin announced mass testing for educators was planned for 2 and 3 January.

It would involve primary schools teachers teaching in the first three forms, teachers of special needs children, and kindergarten staff.

Janša also said today that many other restrictions, such as cross-border transport within the EU, could be relaxed if the delivery plans for the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech and the approval of new vaccines are at least partly realistic.

And “once we’re out of the worst, it’s our duty to give part of the amount of the vaccine reserved by the EU to others”, especially to countries in the neighbourhood. This is not only a matter of solidarity but also of our own interest, Janša said.

UKC Maribor, the country’s No.2 hospital, received 125 doses of vaccine and already vaccinated their medical staff, director Vojko Flis told the press.

While some 1,250, or a third of their staff, expressed interest in vaccination, a third had already been infected.

Flis and medical director Matjaž Vogrin got vaccinated to encourage others to do the same.

Flis said after meeting Janša that a third wave of the epidemic was expected in January and February and would be very hard for the hospital.

Vaccination of health staff at UKC Ljubljana, the country’s largest hospital, was scheduled for this afternoon, but the hospital did not provide the number of doses it received.