Partial lockdown warning as Slovenia’s Covid situation worsens

Ljubljana – Slovenia’s epidemiological status is poor as the country’s heads towards the worst situation since the start of the epidemic, said Health Minister Janez Poklukar on Wednesday. If the trend is not reversed, he will propose at least a partial lockdown, he announced, noting that some Covid restrictions were being stepped up.

If the situation does not improve and the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care rises to 160-180, the minister will propose to the government at least a partial lockdown.

“393 people need hospital care, of whom 253 need oxygen, and an additional 133 patients are being treated in intensive care units,” said Poklukar at the government’s Covid briefing.

This morning, all the hospital beds in Covid wards were occupied, while the occupancy rate in intensive care units is 92%, he said, announcing capacity boosts.

Another two Covid hospitals are expected to be opened, in Sežana and Topolšica, joining the current 13 such hospitals. This will also be discussed at a meeting with hospital representatives on Thursday.

However, given the forecasts, all non-urgent procedures and services in hospitals could be restricted as early as Friday.

“Our hospitals can activate 220 intensive care beds. But who will be treating people on top of these beds? With each additional Covid patient, we run out of space for non-urgent, non-Covid, but equally sick people,” the minister said.

Currently, there are 140 ICU beds available across the country and at Thursday’s meeting, officials will agree on how to proceed and how much to increase the number by Monday. The minister said that the figure was likely to climb to 155.

He thinks that, due to the low vaccination rate, Slovenia is at a tipping point where the country could be hit by a scenario like the one seen in Italy’s Bergamo.

“In fact, we’re heading into the worst situation in the Covid-19 epidemic since we have been first faced with the novel coronavirus,” he warned.

He again stressed the importance of vaccination. “You can criticise and you can have concerns. All this is legitimate and is at the heart of a democratic society. But opposing measures designed to prevent the spread of the virus currently endangers people’s health and lives,” he noted.

The implementation of the recovered-vaccinated-tested (PCT) restriction does not seem to be working as well as the authorities would like it to, with on-the-ground verification of the Covid pass being an exception rather than a rule.

The minister also warned about an increase in the number of fake passes. “Mask-wearing is also not consistent, and we have long forgotten about [social] bubbles,” he added.

Therefore, regular coronavirus testing in all hospitals and social care institutions will be put in place. “This means that users and care recipients will be regularly tested to prevent outbreaks of infections,” Poklukar said.

Employees who have not been vaccinated or have not recovered from Covid-19 will have to get tested every 48 hours, whereas students will be tested twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays. Self-testing for primary and secondary school students remains voluntary but is recommended.

Self-testing is also required for participation in sports programmes, recreational activities and extracurricular activities.

Mask-wearing is mandatory in healthcare, educational and social care activities and in all activities and services where there is personal contact even when participants observe the PC rule.

The changes will enter into force on Monday and all the potential next steps will be coordinated with the government’s Covid-19 task force.

The head of the advisory group Mateja Logar said that if the situation did not take a turn for the better, next measures might be reducing the opening hours of cafes and bars and introducing mandatory self-testing for all students.

“The only thing that can save us at this moment and safeguard the stability of our healthcare is vaccination and the strict implementation of the PCT condition,” Poklukar noted.

Responding to the rising Covid cases, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said that the situation should not be ignored anymore. “If we don’t stop making excuses regarding the PCT, we will have to go into lockdown,” he wrote today.

Počivalšek also met with representatives of inspection services and ordered them to step up monitoring in hospitality establishments, such as bars and restaurants.

“If necessary, we will close down, in accordance with the law, establishments that do not check the Covid pass,” he said.