Saturday, December 4, 2021

Slovenia considers possible isolation due to surge in COVID-19 infections

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) – Slovenia’s Minister of Health warned on Wednesday that the country could face a nightmare scenario if it does not contain the virus outbreak raging in the small Alpine country and other low-vaccination countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

Health Minister Janez Poklukar said hospital beds are filling up as the country has the highest number of daily cases since January. More than 3,000 infections have been confirmed in the past 24 hours, Poklukar said.

“While we watched neighboring Italy with fear at the start of the epidemic, we are now at a turning point due to low vaccination rates and we could easily have a Bergamo scenario,” Poklukar said, recalling the worst-hit Italian city in Last year. …

Officials say Slovenia has fully vaccinated about 53% of its 2 million people. According to Poklukar, the authorities are planning to open more COVID-19 units in the European Union, as intensive care units are 92% full.

Elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe, where vaccinations are also low, infections have skyrocketed to record levels. Countries are reluctant to impose some restrictions to control the situation.

Slovenia has so far required a COVID-19 badge for employees to enter their workplaces. In Croatia, they are required for health workers and nursing homes, while in Serbia, a health passport detailing vaccinations is required for late evening hours in bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Romania has reinstated tighter restrictions, including a curfew and the closure of certain establishments.

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While the average vaccination rate in the European Union is around 70%, in Central and Eastern Europe the rate is around 50% or less. Despite the large number of COVID-related deaths in the region in recent weeks, the number of vaccinations there has grown only marginally.

“We have weapons and means – vaccination,” Poklukar said. “And we don’t use it.”

In neighboring Croatia, health authorities also reported a daily rise in the number of new cases on Wednesday – about 4,500 in the country of 4.2 million. Authorities said every second test in the capital Zagreb has been positive and new testing centers are opening.

Serbian doctors said children and infants are among those on artificial lung ventilation as the weekly surge in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations shows no signs of abating. Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said there would be no immediate new restrictions, but health authorities are considering moving school classes online.

Serbia reported nearly 7,000 new infections on Wednesday and 64 more deaths. In the 7 million Balkan country, more than 1.1 million people have been infected, of which almost 10,000 have died.

“At the moment, the most important thing is to implement the already existing rules,” Brnabic said. “If we don’t do this, any new measures will not make sense.”


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