27 Jan 2022, 11:31 AM

STA, 27 January 2022 - The facade of the National Assembly will be lit up tonight in memory of the six million Jews who were killed by the Nazis and their supporters during Second World War as Slovenia joins observation of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Holocaust victims are being honoured with several events this week. The main ceremony was held in Lendava on Wednesday with President Borut Pahor calling in his keynote address for the preservation of peace, security, tolerance and coexistence.

In order to do this, both individuals and communities at home and in the international community need to promote the culture of remembrance, dialogue and peaceful resolution of disputes, the president added.

Pahor said that people should do everything in their power for reason to prevail, for things to calm down and for diplomacy to gain power so that problems around the world are solved and that the current and future generations are spared from conflict.

Before the ceremony, a delegation featuring Pahor and Israeli Ambassador Eyal Sela laid a wreath at the Jewish cemetery in Dolga Vas in the north-east of the country.

The president then visited Erika Fürst, a Jew from the Slovenian region of Prekmurje and a Holocaust survivor, with whom Pahor attended many remembrance ceremonies in recent years, and wished her a lot of health and vitality.

The National Assembly has joined the #WeRemember Campaign, initiated by World Jewish Congress in partnership with UNESCO, where people worldwide are asked to spread the message through various avenues, including social media.

The campaign, which has been running throughout the week, includes the illumination of notable monuments, coupled with the projection of moving messages in public places.

"It's our duty and the only promise for a better tomorrow to foster memory of the Holocaust victims and to cherish living together in peace with everyone, including those different from us," Speaker Igor Zorčič has said on the occasion.

"Only by preserving the memory of the past horrors and injustices and by fostering universal human values and human rights can we prevent such a tragedy from ever repeating. It is thus important and necessary to do what we can to support the efforts addressed by the #WeRemember campaign," Zorčič added.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is being observed since 2006 to coincide with the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, in 1945.

From Slovenia more than 2,300 people were deported to the camp and more than 1,300 perished there. Of those deported, 350 were Jews and at least 78 were Roma.

The Slovenian Jewish community was all but annihilated during WWII, out of around 1,500 Jews in 1939 only some 200 Slovenian Jews survived the war.

21 Jan 2022, 16:59 PM

STA, 21 January 2022 - The self-isolation time frame will be cut from at least ten to seven days in Slovenia from Monday, health officials said on Friday. This will apply to most of infected people, provided they will not have fever or any other Covid symptoms 24 hours before the end of self-isolation and will test negative on the seventh day.

Self-isolation will be reduced for all people infected with coronavirus, except for those with weakened immune systems or those with a severe Covid-19 who are in need of hospital treatment, infectologist Janez Tomažič told a Covid press briefing.

If a person will have fever on the sixth day of self-isolation or show any other Covid symptoms, then the self-isolation period will be extended.

Moreover, self-isolation will end after seven days if the person's rapid test comes back negative on the seventh day. The test will have to be performed at an approved testing provider, meaning self-tests will not suffice.

If the rapid antigen test is positive on the seventh day, the person keeps self-isolating and does another test the following day until the tenth day, when self-isolation ends in line with the regime so far.

To ensure that the new protocol is extra safe, the person will have to avoid socialising as much as possible for another three days after they stopped self-isolating, and use FFP2 or surgical face masks.

The updated regime will kick in on Monday and will also apply to those who will have been self-isolating before that day, said Mateja Logar, the head of the government's Covid advisory group.

An agreement with rapid testing providers will soon be made to set time slots for those wanting to get tested to end their self-isolation after seven full days.

For asymptomatic infected people, the self-isolation period starts on the day of the positive PCR test, whereas in the case of people with symptoms and a PCR confirmed infection, the first day of symptoms marks the start, she added.

In accordance with the rules of the European Covid pass, the issuance of a QR code for those who have recovered from Covid is possible from the eleventh day after a positive PCR test, so from the eighth through the tenth day since testing positive, people will not have a valid QR code.

The proposal to reduce self-isolation time was given by experts at the Infectious Diseases Department at the UKC Ljubljana medical centre, and was later endorsed by the advisory group.

This comes after calls for shortening self-isolation by business representatives who have been noting Covid-related staff shortages amid the Omicron wave.

"We know that the Omicron variant is highly infectious and that people who have been vaccinated or who have had Covid-19 are less safe than they were from previous variants. This is why the number of isolations and quarantines is increasing rapidly, crippling healthcare, education, the economy, the entire society," Tomažič said.

"By taking a pragmatic approach to reducing the duration of isolation and quarantine, we're adapting to the wishes to keep society functioning, while at the same time acknowledging the additional risk of human-to-human transmission," he added.

Logar meanwhile reiterated the distinction between self-isolation and quarantine, explaining that the former was to separate people who are ill with a contagious disease from people who are not ill, whereas the latter was to separate and restrict the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become ill or not.

Despite the slightly milder Covid-19 in most people infected with Omicron, the huge increase in infections could lead to an increase in the number of patients in the coming weeks, Logar warned.

Moreover, the high number of self-isolations and quarantines in the younger population could lead to problems in the functioning of public services and critical infrastructure. The advisory group is therefore not yet considering relaxing measures.

So far, self-isolation time has been at least ten days depending on the course of the disease.

21 Jan 2022, 11:43 AM

STA, 20 January 2022 - The Slovenian lynx population appears to have come back from the brink of extinction and is now thriving thanks to animals that had been relocated from Romania and Slovakia to expand the heavily inbred population's gene pool.

There were at least 24 adult lynxes in the Dinaric part of Slovenia in 2020/2021, and an additional five in the Alps, where the animals were reintroduced last year, shows the latest report by Life Lynx, an EU-backed project.

Together with the animals in neighbouring Croatia, the border-spanning population now numbers 100 adults.

As part of the Life Lynx project, 13 animals have been relocated, four to Croatia and nine to Slovenia. Four more animals will be introduced this year.

All the relocated lynxes are GPS-collared so that researchers can monitor their movement.

Rok Černe, the head of the Life Lynx project, said four of the relocated lynxes had become an established part of the population, while three have not been sighted for a long time.

Researchers confirmed five litters of lynx kittens in Slovenia in 2020/2021.

Inbreeding is the biggest threat to the population and researchers are keeping a close eye on the genetics.

Analyses conducted so far indicate that the relocation of the wild cats has stopped the deterioration of the gene pool.

If the relocated animals continue to reproduce, the degree of inbreeding could soon drop to levels not seen since 1980, according to Biotechnical Faculty researcher Tomaž Skrbinšek.

The lynx population on the territory of present-day Slovenia was brought to extinction at the beginning of the 20th century, with hunters starting to think about repopulating the area with the species at the beginning of the 1970s.

In 1973, six lynxes were released in the woods near Kočevje in the south. The population rebounded in the subsequent years but became heavily inbred, hence the need for relocations from the Carpathian Mountains.

20 Jan 2022, 08:29 AM

STA, 19 January 2022 - Members of an autonomous social and cultural community that had squatted the defunct Ljubljana bicycle factory Rog for years before being forcefully removed from the premises a year ago warned at a press conference on Wednesday of what they perceive as shrinking of the public space. They also reiterated that the eviction had been illegal.

Addressing the press to mark the first anniversary of the eviction, the squatters said that many of them had lost their home during the eviction, a place to create and work, while in a wider sense an important hub for promoting self-organisation, developing a critical, anti-authoritative thought and solidarity and support has been lost.

They believe Rog was "one of the last strongholds of the culture of living that is not, cannot and will not be a commodity".

The Rog premises were not empty when the demolition started and the Ljubljana municipality crashed into the building without a court order or a bailiff, they said, adding that the police had participated in this illegal activity, preventing residents from accessing their belongings and animals.

They claim that the municipality then tried to conceal the crime by misleading the media and launching a smear campaign against the "victims of the mayor's violence".

Many Rog squatters have lost everything in the ruins, including trust, and nothing has happened in the past year that would restore their trust in the city's policies.

They still do not know where to find their belongings, and finding a place to live and work that would at least to some extent compensate for what has been lost has become increasingly difficult.

"The city is becoming increasingly closed as a public space, controlled and cleansed of any 'anomalies', so many of us feel like we no longer belong here," they stressed.

A rally against social cleansing of the city has been announced for 6pm in the Tabor park to point to privatisation of public space in the city, and adjusting to tourism and other businesses while citizens, especially those who are not well-off are increasingly being pushed to the margins and the social bottom.

A group of culture workers joined the activities marking the anniversary of Rog eviction. They said the rally would be a "political campaign, which will also present art installations, performances and other ways of expression to show how public space can be filled and clearly say that the city belongs to the people not the interests of the capital".

The Ljubljana city authorities launched construction work on the site of the former Rog factory on 19 January 2021. Squatters were forcefully removed from the premises with the help of police. In April the public institute Rog Centre was founded.

The new Rog Centre is to house more than 500 artists and creative groups at more than 8,000 m2, according to the municipality. It will also feature 20 new production halls that will be available for short- or long-term use to different production groups.

The project has been estimated at EUR 27.6 million.

19 Jan 2022, 13:07 PM

STA, 19 January 2022 - New quarantine rules kicked in today for schools and staff at health care and social care institutions, and some changes apply to the protocol of PCR testing as daily numbers of coronavirus infections continue to break records.

The healthcare, social care and education staff are from now on exempt from quarantine if they had a high-risk contact, although they will have to get tested every day for seven consecutive days with a rapid antigen test and use a FFP2 face mask at work.

Similarly, kindergarten kids, primary and secondary school children and university students will have to get tested with rapid tests for seven days if they were in contact with an infected person at school.

Under the new rules, an entire class will be sent into quarantine only if the share of infected children in it reaches 30% in a two-week period.

The rules for the PCR protocol also changed today as labs are being overwhelmed with huge numbers of tests.

From now on, persons who have no Covid-19 symptoms do a rapid test or self-test, and if it is positive, they also undergo a PCR test.

Persons with a respiratory infection are meanwhile divided into two groups.

The first group - persons suffering from chronic diseases, those with a compromised immune system, pregnant women and children - must call their GP to refer them a PCR test.

The second group are all the other persons with symptoms of a respiratory infection. They will have to do a rapid test or self-test. If it is positive, they will also have to take a PCR test.

If the rapid test result is negative, the person with respiratory infection symptoms must nevertheless self-isolate up to three days.

If the symptoms persist beyond three days, they must call their GP to get an appointment for a PCR test. If the test is positive, they have to isolate for ten days. If the symptoms disappear in three days, the person is not considered to be infected.

19 Jan 2022, 13:04 PM

STA, 18 January 2022 - Out of 126 persons who were vaccinated for Covid-19 in the Šentjur Community Health Centre last Friday, 36 were mistakenly given a shot of saline solution that had been put in empty vials.

All 36 persons were contacted, with 34 responding immediately, and the remaining two persons, who had not been reachable at first, being informed about the mistake later.

All of them have subsequently received shots of the Pfizer vaccine, except one person, who will be vaccinated next week.

The Šentjur Community Health Centre said on its website on Tuesday that 30 of these persons had received proper shots on the same day, four persons on Saturday and one on Monday.

The centre said that the correctness of the procedure was checked periodically during vaccination by comparing the number of used vials with the number of vaccinated persons.

It was established during a regular check that 36 people were vaccinated only with saline from a total of six vials, and a correction was immediately made in the central register of patients for those who did not respond to the call on Friday.

The error was also reported to the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), the centre said, adding that apologies were sent to all affected persons with an explanation of what had happened.

"We are very grateful to all persons involved for accepting this with understanding and immediately responding to repeated vaccination," said the community health centre from the town east of Celje.

18 Jan 2022, 11:51 AM

STA, 18 January 2022 - The Ministry of Education, Science and Sport has introduced a separate quota for the enrolment of Slovenians without Slovenian citizenship in universities in Slovenia. The separate quota has been advocated by Minister for Slovenians Abroad Helena Jaklitsch, who has welcomed the change.

The relevant rules have so far stipulated a joint quota for Slovenians without Slovenian citizenship and for foreigners from non-EU countries.

According to the proponents of the separate quota, this has often made it difficult for Slovenians from the neighbouring countries and Slovenian emigrants who fall into this category to get enrolled in Slovenian universities.

Last July, the government instructed the ministry to draft changes to the rules under which a separate enrolment quota would be introduced for Slovenians without Slovenian citizenship, on an initiative from Minister Jaklitsch.

This change and the accompanying changes to the rules were published in the Official Gazette last week.

Jaklitsch said on Tuesday that the changes would enable faculties in Slovenia to "increase the number of enrolment spots intended for our compatriots by taking into account both the actual needs and, above all, Slovenia's interests."

The Government Office for Slovenians Abroad added that some faculties had already announced that they would do so.

"We are firmly convinced that it is in the undisputed interest of Slovenia that as many Slovenians from the neighbouring countries and abroad study in Slovenia," the office said, adding that this would strengthen their Slovenian identity.

As they are also expected to improve their knowledge of the Slovenian language and culture, they become informal ambassadors as they return to their home environments, while some of them decide to permanently settle in Slovenia, it added.

The office noted that the change had also been endorsed by the chancellors of the four universities in Slovenia at a recent meeting with the ministry.

13 Jan 2022, 10:40 AM

STA, 12 January 2022 - An unexploded Second World War bomb has been found at a construction site in Maribor. The site has been cordoned off as a precaution and a bomb disposal team will neutralise and remove the device, which weighs 250 kilos, on Sunday.

The explosive ordnance disposal team has been dispatched to the site after police received a report about the unexploded bomb on Tuesday afternoon and cordoned off the area. The team decided it will defuse and remove the bomb on Sunday, early in the afternoon.

All residents will be evacuated from a 300-metre zone around the site, said Maribor Deputy Mayor Samo Peter Medved, urging people to adhere strictly to the rules and instructions.

In addition to evacuating locals in the 300-metre zone, movement will be restricted in a 600-metre zone around the site. People will be allowed to stay in their homes in this area, but they will be forbidden to move outside, either on foot or otherwise.

The Maribor Police Department has asked the media to stay away from the scene for their own safety and not to interfere with the work of the experts on the site.

"We will inform you when the bomb has been removed and, if necessary, we will keep the public informed of any measures taken in connection with the removal of the bomb," it said.

Maribor, Slovenia's second largest city, was one of the most bombed cities in the lands of the former Yugoslavia during the Second World War.

The most high-profile find in recent years was the discovery of two unexploded bombs near the city's largest shopping centre and the UKC Maribor medical centre in October 2019, when their removal also prompted the evacuation of people from the surrounding area.

This time around, the device has been found in the Tezno borough in the south-eastern part of Maribor, and the removal plan is the same as what unfolded in 2019.

Darko Zonič, the head of the disposal team who was also in charge of the bomb removal in November 2019, said that in the worst-case scenario the device, a typical aerial bomb with two fuses, will have to be detonated.

The Maribor municipality meanwhile noted that last autumn the city council adopted a new decree on protection against natural and other disasters, including protection against unexploded ordnance.

The regulation envisages three levels of hazard, and in areas with a higher or medium level of hazard, prior to the start of construction work, a preliminary site investigation is required due to the possibility of finding bomb residues.

"Unfortunately, this did not happen in this case, but fortunately there were no consequences," said the deputy mayor, confirming that the Tezno area is one of those where the probability of finding unexploded ordnance is quite high.

In the Maribor area, 29 bomb attacks were carried out and a total of 15,795 bombs were dropped between January 1944 and April 1945.

The possibility of finding unexploded ordnance in the areas of Allied bombing is thus relatively high, and so is the possibility of an accident due to the uncontrolled activation of the bombs, the municipality warns.

12 Jan 2022, 15:49 PM

STA, 12 January 2022 - One out of ten primary school children and 16% of all secondary students are self-isolating with a total of 1,431 classes being taught remotely due to coronavirus infections as of Tuesday, Education Ministry data available on the tracker site shows.

As many as 936 classes at primaries and 495 classes at secondary schools were quarantining on Tuesday, the total number being three times that of the figure before Christmas holidays.

A total of 19,651 primary pupils and 12,808 secondary students were isolating on Tuesday.

Only at primaries 1,068 infections were confirmed in pupils and an additional 406 in staff. At secondary schools, where the vaccination rate is higher, 379 infections were confirmed among students and 84 among staff.

At kindergartens, 171 classes numbering a total of 2,446 kids were isolating. On Tuesday, 74 infections were confirmed in kindergarten children and 235 in kindergarten staff.

Before Christmas holidays, as of 23 December, 372 primary and 52 secondary school classes were quarantined.

Gregor Pečan, the head of the Headteachers of Primary and Music Schools, said the situation was getting critical, suggesting for winter holidays to be moved forward to coincide with the peak of the 5th wave.

Pečan's school saw three teachers sent into quarantine only on Tuesday. "If that happens in two more classes, we can shut down years 5 to 9 because there will be no staff to give lessons," he told the STA.

He says the main problem is the new rule under which the teacher is ordered to self-isolate if they were in the same classroom with an infected pupil for 15 minutes, up from the previous rule of 45 minutes.

Since epidemiologists expect the 5th wave of infections to culminate in two weeks, Pečan suggested considering moving winter school holidays from the end of February to the end of January.

Radio Slovenija has reported the Ljubljana Secondary School for Pharmacy shifted fully to remote classes on Monday and the Ljubljana Secondary School of Economics is moving online on Thursday.

Nives Počkar, the head of the Association of Secondary School Teachers, also told the radio further schools would have to be closed due to infections and quarantine orders.

Slovenia reported a record 7,420 coronavirus infections for Tuesday.

10 Jan 2022, 14:38 PM

STA, 10 January 2022 - A total of 32 murders or attempted murders were recorded in Slovenia last year, one of the lowest numbers in recent years. Statistics and surveys show that Slovenia remains one of the safest countries in Europe and globally in terms of murder.

Damjan Miklič of the murder and sexual offences department of the General Police Administration has told the STA that this was also shown by a global survey of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime from 2019.

American and African countries are at the top of this list in terms of the number of murders, followed by Asian countries, while Europe accounted for less than 5%.

"On this list, Slovenia ranks 8th in the world in terms of the number of murders per 100,000 residents, which puts us among the safest countries in Europe," Miklič said, noting that the number of murders in Slovenia had been steadily declining.

In the 1990s, criminal investigators dealt with up to 100 murders and attempted murders a year. After 2000 the number dropped to 60 to 80 cases, and since 2007 it has been at around 40 cases per year.

There were some departures from this average in 2015, 2018 and 2020, when there were 45 or more such cases, while in 2016 there were only 26 such cases.

Although the general belief is that the vast majority of the bloodiest crimes occur within the family, Miklič notes that such cases represent 30-35% of all cases. Standing out were 2018 and 2021, when the share of such cases was 40%.

About one-fifth of such cases occur between spouses, former spouses or cohabitating partners, he said, adding that at least 40% of murders were committed out of revenge or hatred.

Around 15% of murders in Slovenia are committed for personal gain, about 15% are committed without any real motive, possibly due to mental illness, 10% due to jealousy, and about the same share as a consequence of other criminal acts.

A vast majority of severe criminal acts against life and limb has been successfully investigated, with slightly more than one percent of such cases in the last three decades remaining unresolved.

Nine murders or manslaughters committed after 2000 remain unresolved, while there are 14 such cases that happened earlier. The oldest unresolved case is murder with a firearm in the Ljubljana borough of Kodeljevo from December 1991.

10 Jan 2022, 11:43 AM

STA, 10 January 2022 - Several changes to the regulation on measures aimed at preventing the spread of Covid entered into force on Monday, cutting the duration of quarantine and validity of tests, and reducing the number of passengers in public transport in line with guidelines issued by the National Institute of Public Health.

From today, quarantine after a high risk contact or when entering the country without a Covid pass is cut from ten to seven days.

Under the new rules, to avoid quarantine when entering Slovenia, passengers who are vaccinated or recovered will need to present a negative PCR test no older than 48 hours or a rapid test no older than 24 hours.

The quarantine ordered at the border can be cut short with a negative PCR tests at least five days after arrival.

Buses will be allowed to accept only as many passengers as the vehicle has been registered for with the seats right of the driver and behind the driver empty.

Passengers will be allowed to stand in city buses if they stand at least one metre apart, except for persons from the same household. The standing spots must be clearly marked.

Passengers will only be allowed to enter at the front door, while other bus doors will only be used to exit.

Trains will be allowed to accept only as many passengers as they have seats, while the same rules as for buses are in place for standing room.

Special transport vehicles with up to eight seats will accept only six passengers, with the seat right of the driver free.

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