Press conference (21.12.2020) on the current situation regarding the COVID-19 disease was attended by Marija Magajne from the Ministry of Health, Prof. Dr Borut Štrukelj, psychologist Dr Andreja Poljanec, and the government spokesperson Jelko Kacin.
The government spokesperson, Mr Kacin, initially explained that the situation remains serious. The virus is still spreading and the hospitals remain rather full. Regardless of the slight improvement in the situation that we have witnessed in the last week, or the slightly lower number of daily confirmed cases, the situation can quickly deteriorate if we do not, each and every one of us, observe the measures in force and engage in self-protective behaviour.
This weekend, Prime Minister Janez Janša called upon the public to postpone all travels and visits abroad to a later time, as the epidemiological situation, especially in Western Balkan countries, remains grave and unstable. The risk of importing infections when coming home is substantially higher.
Marija Magajne from the Ministry of Health said that Slovenia was starting a 3-day promotional voluntary and free testing with rapid tests. The campaign will include all municipalities, and testing will be the strongest in the most endangered regions of the country. Individual municipalities, their mayors, and civil protection services will help with the organisation.
Ms Magajne emphasised that there were enough tests available. Residents wishing to be tested only need to bring with them their personal identity document and the health insurance card. Those interested in the testing do not need to sign up for the test. If you would like to be tested, simply come to the testing location where qualified personnel will collect a swab. Observe all recommendations, especially concerning distancing. You are also advised to wear a protective mask.
If you test positive for the virus, self-isolate immediately and go home as soon as possible making with minimal contact with other people. Do not use public transport. At home, contact your physician, who will prepare the doctor’s certificate you need for your job.
A negative test result means that you are negative at the moment of being tested. Do not let the test lull you into a false sense of security. Consistently observe all recommendations and protective measures.
With regard to COVID-19 vaccination, Ms Magajne emphasised that the vaccine was planned to arrive in Slovenia on 26 December, i.e. just under 10,000 doses of it. Vaccinations will begin as soon as the procedures for the preparation of the vaccine and its distribution to vaccination spots have been implemented.
The first doses will be prepared for the residents and employees of care homes and the most exposed and at risk healthcare workers in hospitals and healthcare centres. These groups will be followed by the elderly population (60 years and older), who will be vaccinated gradually with regard to the availability of the vaccine, i.e. first the 80 years and older age group, followed by the 70 years and older, and the 60 years and older age groups. The next group will include patients with a chronic illness and increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, followed by groups of people employed in critical infrastructure (employees in education, transport, retail, etc.).
The costs of the vaccine and the vaccination equipment, the preparation of the vaccine, and the vaccination itself will be borne by the state budget and will be reimbursed to the vaccination providers in full, provided that records are kept of the vaccinations.
Prof. Dr Borut Štrukelj said that there were currently 82 vaccines in clinical trials. Approximately one half are conventional vaccines, i.e. vaccines that use an inactivated virus or a protein base and one half are vaccines based on new technologies (DNA and RNA).
18 vaccines are currently in phase three of clinical trials. Six vaccines have been approved, of those 4 in China and 2 in Russia. Now, there are two more – Pfizer and Moderna. He emphasised that the European Medicines Agency was expected to approve the Pfizer vaccine today.
Mutations, especially of RNA viruses, are nothing out of the ordinary, Dr Štrukelj emphasised. With influenza, we are constantly dealing with new mutations and new subtypes. As influenza is also an RNA virus, the same as SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, mutations can be expected, Dr Štrukelj says.
Each mutation affects the spreading of the disease and its course. It can be negative (the virus weakens) or positive (the virus becomes virulent). At the moment, we are seeing greater virulence, the virus is spreading more easily, causing a higher number of infections, but not resulting in a higher mortality rate.
At the end of the press conference, psychologist Dr Andreja Poljanec emphasised that we need to use these unfamiliar times for diversification, for creating a new version of ourselves, for finding new beauty in relationships, and for new experiences. She believes that we should learn to express beauty with words and other gestures instead of physically, as we were used to doing in the past.