Sweeping easing of restrictions as Slovenia formally moves to orange tier

Ljubljana – Following a gradual but persistent decrease in coronavirus infections and hospitalisations, Slovenia has entered orange tier, with the government deciding on Thursday for a sweeping easing of restrictions. Movement will once again be allowed throughout the country and primary schools will reopen in full on Monday, among other things.

The decision comes as the rolling seven-day average of daily confirmed cases rose slightly to 837 on Thursday, but was still well below the 1,000 threshold required for a move to tier orange, the third highest and two notches above green where all restrictions are eased.

In line with the plan, the government decided to abolish municipal and regional movement restrictions, which have been in place for months.

Nevertheless, the 9pm-6am curfew remains in place and is to be scrapped in tier yellow, in line with the government’s easing strategy, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs said.

The government also decided to increase the number of people allowed by the existing gathering ban from six to ten.

Slovenia will scrap special designated checkpoints on internal Schengen borders on Saturday as crossing will be possible via all border crossings. Moreover, those who have recovered from Covid-19 or have been vaccinated with two jabs against it will be able to enter the country without having to quarantine or provide a negative coronavirus test, Hojs said.

The country is adding a new list of high risk countries to the red Covid country list to comprise countries in the EU and Schengen area whose epidemiological status is poorer than Slovenia’s. Hojs listed as those currently including Spain, Portugal and the Czech Republic.

All primary school pupils and the final year secondary school students will return to school after almost four months. In western Slovenia, schools will reopen on Monday, while the eastern part of the country will be on winter holidays and will start school a week later, when the western half goes on holiday.

Strict safety measures will need to be adhered to at schools. Pupils will not be leaving their classrooms for different lessons to avoid contacts outside their class. Schools also are urged to organise school meals in a way to minimise contacts outside the bubbles.

Moreover, exams will again take place at the university level along with seminars for up to 10 students. The same exceptions will apply for student dormitories.

Also on Monday all stores will reopen without restrictions, as well as a number of services operating on a surface area of less than 400 square metres. The latter condition does not apply to car repair shops, Economy Ministry state secretary Ajda Cuderman told the press after the government session.

The restriction of one customer per 30 square metres remains in place in closed spaces and one customer per 10 square metres in open-air markets.

Moreover, testing conditions for the services sector are being loosened. Customers will no longer have to produce a negative test, while the testing requirement does remain in place for providers in a number of services, including all retail, as well as hair and beauty salons.

There are, however, some exceptions to the abolishment of customer testing. Those wanting to ski will be able to buy a pass only with a negative test no older than 7 days, whereas now, the test cannot be older than 24 hours.

Testing requirement changes have also been made for taxi services and driving schools. Taxi drivers, driving school teachers and students will need a negative test no older than three days, according to Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec.

So far, taxi drivers did not have to get tested at all, while driving school students were required to produce a test no older than 24 hours and their instructors were tested every three days.

Those who have recovered from Covid-19 will not have to get tested for six months and will be able to access services with a doctor’s note. Testing will also not be required for those who have been vaccinated.

Also from Monday, non-contact sports will be allowed again for up to 10 people if the two-metre distance can be maintained at all times. Exercising will no longer be limited to families or individuals. Indoor training will be limited to one person per 30 square metres.

The hard-awaited easing has been warmly received. The Chamber of Craft and Small Business (OZS) welcomed the loosening of restrictions for services, above all the abolishment of tests for customers, noting that many beauty salons did not reopen while this requirement was in place.

So have the ski lift operators hailed the relaxation of conditions for skiers with the head of their association Manuela Božič Badalič expressing the hope that those, coupled with school holidays and the lifting of the ban on travel between municipalities and regions, will lead to increased turnout at the ski resorts.

The Ljubljana and Maribor universities also welcomed the changes, highlighting above all that they have to make up for a lot of time of distant studying.