Prime Minister Janša: Yesterday we discovered the first example of a new strain of covid19 in Slovenia, great caution will be needed

Slovenian prime minister Janez Janša (Photo: STA)

By: C. R.

Prime Minister Janez Janša has announced that this week they will have to rethink about loosening up the measures. The state of the epidemic is not calming down as in the last period, and on Saturday the first person who was officially positive for the English strain of the new coronavirus was discovered in Slovenia, he explained. Caution will be required.

Because on Wednesday or Thursday, the government loosened up some measures in the regions with a better epidemiological picture, a cause for concern has been raised, Prime Minister Janša explained at today’s extraordinary press conference. According to his predictions, there will certainly be some changes regarding anti-corona measures on Wednesday. And if testing shows the prevalence of the English strain, that will happen even sooner.

The English strain of coronavirus, which is more contagious, has so far been detected in most EU member states, and on Saturday it was detected for the first time in Slovenia. The infection with it was confirmed with a Kosovo citizen with temporary residence in Slovenia, who explained that he came to Slovenia on Saturday from Belgium, where he worked for one of the Slovenian companies based in Kranj.

He entered Slovenia with a negative test. It was later revealed, however, that he had two tests, one negative, the other one positive dated on January 16th. The person with the English strain ensured that he had not been in contact with anyone in Slovenia, but the authorities are still checking this. As soon as this person was identified, he was re-tested and self-isolated. However, there are still some unknowns in this story that are being checked.

Slovenia was first informed by Belgian authorities that there was a person in Slovenia who had been tested positive for the English strain of coronavirus, Janša said.

According to him, due to the experience of other European countries, some urgent measures were taken on Friday, and at a special request the Slovak government enabled us to immediately receive 2000 special PCR tests that are sensitive to the English strain of coronavirus. Namely, classical PCR tests do not distinguish between mutations, so special testing is required.

Officials from the National Institute of Public Health have already taken these tests and are now testing some positive samples retrospectively in some cities. They will test 10 percent of all samples in which new coronavirus infection has been confirmed, from all statistical regions from January 11th onwards. Janša expects that the results for all Slovenian regions will be known on Tuesday.

The Prime Minister also explained that a study on the speed of the new wave with the new strain of the virus was presented at the European Council last week, and reminded of what had happened in Slovenia in previous months. “This is an additional indication that suggests that it is very likely to expect a higher number of infections with the new strain,” he said. He explained that the laboratory in charge announced today that among the 80 samples tested, there were two with a strong suspicion that it was an English strain.

Of additional concern are some predictions at Thursday’s European summit that there may be a delay in the delivery of some covid-19 vaccines. As he said, it is not so certain that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will grant a conditional marketing authorisation for AstraZeneca next week, as previously announced. He further emphasised that Slovenia’s vaccination plans are based on vaccines that had already been approved by the EMA.

Given that, there will certainly be some changes at Wednesday’s regular government session on covid-19. However, if testing the samples with special PCR tests would show the prevalence of the English strain across the country, changes are possible sooner, the prime minister said. He added that we all want these changes to go in a positive direction, but the data do not indicate this.

He said that schools and kindergartens are opening on Tuesday according to the schedule, i.e. in nine regions. Janša said that the opening of schools and kindergartens will be safe only if we strictly follow all instructions. “Opening is not only a matter for the school, but also for us parents, all of us involved in this process. Our handling must be extremely careful, hygiene and all other measures must be taken into account,” he said, urging citizens to use three-layer surgical or FFP2 masks, which offer better protection, in the inevitable contacts. The better the mask, the more they recommend it, Janša added.