Slovenia officially confirms first case of UK coronavirus variant

Ljubljana – The first case of the highly transmissible UK coronavirus variant has been officially confirmed in Slovenia in a Kosovo national with temporary residence in Slovenia who arrived from Belgium, Prime Minister Janez Janša announced on Sunday.

The Kosovo national was in Belgium on company business. He arrived in Slovenia on Saturday and had been tested twice, with one coming back positive and one negative, Janša told a special press conference.

The man appears to have used the negative test to cross the border but was detected after Slovenia received notification from Belgian authorities via a rapid reporting system.

A new test at arrival was positive. The man does not appear to have had contact with other people. “If that is indeed the case, the risk was not big,” Janša said.

In addition to the first confirmed case, another two cases of UK coronavirus variant are suspected as a result of the testing of 80 Slovenian samples, said Janša, who added it was possible the UK variant has been in circulation in Slovenia for a while.

The National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) now plans to retroactively check tests from all regions that have come back positive since 11 January, in order to get “a clear enough picture” of the potential prevalence of the UK variant in the country.

This will be done after the health authorities received on Friday special test kits from Slovakia that detect the UK variant.

Janša thanked the Slovak government for providing the kits. He said Slovenia would now order such kits too, but he noted that their availability on the market was limited.

As for the overall epidemiological situation, the prime minister said that it had not been improving as Slovenia hit a new plateau.

While kindergartens and the first three grades of primary school will reopen on Tuesday as scheduled after nearly three months of closure, Janša noted that the situation was prone to change in the event the UK variant becomes more widespread.

“We are facing very demanding times and have very challenging weeks ahead… It is all the more important to comply with all hygienic and precautionary measures,” he said.

Unlike some other countries, Slovenia has not yet decided to demand the wearing of better masks in certain situations. Janša nevertheless urged the people to wear surgical or FFP2 masks when possible.