Slovenia sees daily coronavirus count nearly double to 356

Ljubljana – Slovenia has seen a new record daily increase in coronavirus infections as those nearly doubled to 356 on Tuesday, data from the government show. The total number of cases has now passed 7,000 and hospitalisations hit a record 122.

The latest cases come from a record 3,998 tests for Sars-CoV-2 performed on Tuesday, which means a positive test rate of 8.9%, another record high.

Government spokesman Jelko Kacin, speaking at today’s press briefing, said Slovenia’s coronavirus incidence rate, that is the number of cases per 100,000 residents in a fortnight, rose to 116 after 106 the day before.

Hospitalisations rose to a new high of 122 to exceed the number seen in the first wave of coronavirus in spring; 22 patients require intensive care, which is still below the high of 36 seen in early April.

The new daily high comes just days after Slovenia logged a record of 238 on 1 October. It brings the overall case count since the start of the pandemic to 7,120, of which 2,426 remain active cases, data from the tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org show.

The national Covid-19-related death toll remains unchanged at 159.

Aleš Rozman, director of the Golnik University Clinic of Respiratory and Allergic Diseases, told the press briefing that he was “very concerned” about the “sharp rise” in the epidemic and number of hospitalisations.

If harsh restrictions are taken now, and if everyone starts abiding by precautionary measures now, it will only show in ten to 14 days, he said.

He said Slovenian hospitals had already exceeded 70% of the capacities which they can allocate for Covid-19 patients without affecting other health services, but projected that 200 Covid-19 beds would be required in ten days and 300 by the end of the month.

They were trying to mobilise extra beds, but that would also entail halting other programmes in hospitals and consequently prolong waiting times.

A point is about to be reached when it will no longer be possible to move infected care home residents showing mild symptoms to nursing hospitals to isolate them, so Rozman urged care homes to set up so-called red-zones before infections occur.

An even bigger problem is a shortage of staff, Rozman said, referring to infected and quarantined staff, both as a result of infections in non-work environment and those brought to hospitals by patients that only developed symptoms days after being admitted.

Tracker data shows 16 of the latest cases are health staff and six among care home staff, but none among care home residents.

By far the largest number of new cases, 60, was recorded in the capital Ljubljana, which tracker data show has 410 active cases out of the total of 1,305 logged since the start of the pandemic.

The government briefing heard that community transmissions account for the bulk of new cases, with one problem being private parties such as weddings and birthday parties, which continue in contravention of restrictions.

Kacin mentioned a wedding party featuring 150 guests in Koroška, which has the highest infection rate per capita among all Slovenian regions.

Similarly, Rozman said the problem was private parties, as well as working environments where precautionary measures were not being heeded, as well as commute to work in private cars.

Both Rozman and Kacin appealed for solidarity and responsible conduct, with Kacin announcing that the government would take measures already announced and potential new ones on Thursday. They will become effective from Friday.

Mobilisation of new beds and staff in preparation of a surge in Covid-19 patients was discussed yesterday in a meeting between Health Minister Tomaž Gantar.

Rozman said the idea was to coordinate and pool bed and staff capacities of hospitals, in order to allow patients to be treated as near as their home as possible, which is why new hospitals are setting up Covid-19 departments.

In a post on its Twitter profile after the meeting, the Health Ministry said that Gantar on the occasion appealed for a joint effort to turn down the curve of infections. “Let’s be serious and responsible. We can do it,” the post reads.

Moreover, during a visit to the Koroška region today, Gantar confirmed talks were under way on transforming the local hospital in Topolšica entirely into a hospital for Covid-19 patients with a capacity of 100 beds. Gantar explained the Slovenj Gradec general hospital was ready to shoulder Toplšica’s remaining responsibilities.

Črna na Koroškem declared Covid-19 danger zone

The government has formally declared Črna na Koroškem, site of a major coronavirus outbreak at a residential facility for people with mental disabilities, Slovenia’s first Covid-19 danger zone. The declaration, effective on Wednesday, makes the municipality eligible for aid but does not involve restrictions on movement.

The relevant decree was published in the Official Gazette late on Tuesday and took effect today without the knowledge of the local community, with Health Minister Tomaž Gantar saying the move was urgent due to the deterioration of the situation in the municipality.

“It will make things easier… All it means is the possibility of extra staffing assistance and fewer legal obstacles,” the minister said in Slovenj Gradec, one of the stops on the government’s day-long tour of the Koroška region.

Črna na Koroškem, a municipality in the north-east along the border with Austria, has had the highest infection rate among all Slovenian municipalities.

According to the latest data, almost 1.5% of the population was classified as active Covid-19 cases yesterday after over 100 the residents, staff and volunteers at the facility for people with mental disabilities became infected.

Gantar visited Črna and the facility for people with mental disabilities today along with Minister of Labour, the Family and Social Affairs Janez Cigler Kralj, with the latter saying that the government was there to help.

He added that the decision to declare the town a Covid-19 danger zone was important as the facility would be able to get assistance from other similar institutions and nursing homes in the vicinity.

A list of ten staff has already been prepared, and an external location has also been secured in a nearby education centre so that this vulnerable group gets the necessary protection, the health minister added.

Gantar was also acquainted with the overall epidemiological situation in Koroška and in particular in Črna, saying he was happy that there were not many hospitalisations despite the relatively high number of infections.

Črna Mayor Romana Lesjak said regarding the declaration that it did not relate so much to the population, but more to the welfare facility, which would be able to get professional and staff assistance, and additional protective equipment.

“If this is so, we welcome the decree, because we think that the centre, whose residents come from the entire Slovenia, deserves state aid and the burden relieved from its overworked staff,” she added.

According to her, 79 infections have been confirmed in the facility among the residents and 29 among the staff. When it comes to the overall population in the town, the numbers are comparable to other municipalities of similar size.