Slovenia becomes first EU country to announce the end of the pandemic

Slovenia becomes first EU country to announce the end of the pandemic

The Slovenian government has formally called an end to the coronavirus epidemic. Key containment measures remain in place, but the one major restriction has been lifted: EU nationals will be free to cross the border, with some caveats.

In the press release issued after government session on Thursday evening, it was said that “the current epidemiological situation makes it possible to relax measures that were urgent to contain and manage Covid-19, but they cannot yet be completely abolished”.

It noted that Slovenia recorded 35 cases in the past 14 days, while the reproduction number, which shows how many people a patient infects on average, had fallen below 1.

Although the government decree marks the formal end of the epidemic, which had been declared on 12 March pursuant to the communicable diseases act, the majority of public health measures remain in place.

The government said testing, contact tracing, isolation, quarantine for high-risk contacts and physical distancing would remain the key measures to fight the epidemic.

In another decree, the government decided to allow EU nationals to cross the border at selected checkpoints, ending the policy of seven-day quarantine.

Third-country nationals will be subject to a two-week quarantine, with some exceptions.

The decree will enter into effect a day after it is published in the Official Gazette, presumably on Friday.

EU residents are free to cross into Slovenia from Austria, Italy and Hungary at pre-determined checkpoints while most non-EU nationals will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine, in what is a major step for the country as it accelerates the easing of restrictions.

Under the government decree adopted late on Thursday, there will be 19 checkpoints on the border with Austria, nine on the border with Italy and five on the border with Hungary. The listed checkpoints largely correspond to checkpoints where passengers may cross at present. Three airports and two ports are among the ports of entry listed in the government decree. The decree also covers Slovenia’s border with Croatia, which is the external EU border, but there it does not limit crossing to specific checkpoints.

Under the new rules, those with permanent or temporary residence in the EU will be given instructions issued by the National Institute of Public Health upon entering Slovenia but will not need to quarantine. “When such a person declares they have coronavirus or symptoms thereof or clearly show symptoms, they will be rejected at the border if they do not have permanent residence in Slovenia; those who do will be referred to medical services”.

Third-country nationals must undergo a mandatory two-week quarantine, with exceptions for diplomats, members of rescue and relief services, attendance of funeral, lorry drivers and persons with certificates issued by the competent Slovenian ministry showing they will provide urgent services.

The new policy paves the way for a relaunch of cross-border tourism, which has been suspended for two months due to lockdown measures around the world.

The decision was based on the assessment of the National Institute of Public Health, while measures from the mega stimulus package, will be in force until the end of May.

Slovenia is the first European country to declare an end of the coronavirus epidemic.

Only yesterday some medical professionals expressed reservations in a anticipation of such a move, as some restrictions were only being lifted now so it was hard to say what the easing would bring./ibna