1. Preventing transmission
The section on PREVENTING TRANSMISSION includes information on key public health measures that aim to prevent the further spread of the disease. It details how countries are advising the general public and people who (might) have the disease to prevent further spread, as well as measures in place to test and identify cases, trace contacts, and monitor the scale of the outbreak.
1.1 Health communication
Official advice on hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and social distancing was issued on 27 January 2020, at the time of the epidemic unfolding in China and COVID-19 was declared a serious threat by the Secretary General of WHO, through the webpage of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) (https://www.nijz.si/sl/koronavirus-sars-cov-2-navodila-za-strokovno-javnost and https://www.nijz.si/sl/preprecevanje-okuzbe-z-virusom-sars-cov-2019 ). Since then, the Ministry of Health promoted it daily through press conferences and other briefings. Given the great amount of interest by the public, NIJZ started a special telephone line for informing the public and handling general enquiries related to COVID-19 as well as offering specific advice on individual cases and contacts. Another toll-free hotline was set up on March 9, with mostly final year medical students (under supervision of clinicians) providing information on COVID-19 and measures to the public. The same advice was published on the website of the Government and was later, after the declaration of the epidemic, expanded as the central information point on COVID-19 (https://www.gov.si/teme/koronavirus/ ). This page now also includes FAQs (https://www.gov.si/teme/koronavirus/vprasanja-in-odgovori-ministrstva-za-zdravje/ ).
Based on a proposal by the NIJZ, Slovenia declared the epidemic on 12 March 2020 at 18.00 by a Decree of the Minister of Health. It then activated the State Plan for the protection and saving of people’s health and lives in the case of an epidemic or pandemic adopted in 2016 (http://www.sos112.si/slo/tdocs/epidemija_pandemija.pdf ). This Pandemic Plan was prepared on the basis of WHO guidelines, but it did not include all the measures needed for the Covid-19 outbreak. Nevertheless, the activation of this plan meant that new measures would be defined by the Government on a daily basis. To this end, the Government formed a special Advisory Commission formed by infectious disease specialists, pulmonologists, microbiologists and public health specialists/epidemiologists. This Advisory Commission now advises the Government directly on the state of the epidemic and on the measures to be undertaken.
On 13 March there was a change of Government after its Prime Minister resigned. The new Government was sworn in on that day and changed some of the elements of the Pandemic Plan and its communication. It appointed an Advisory Professional Group, now led by an experienced clinical infectious disease specialist. The lead in the reporting on cases, measures and all information about COVID-19 was thus shifted to clinicians, with less of a role for epidemiologists and public health experts of the National Institute of Public Health.
The Government announced early that it would also implement strong economic and fiscal measures to alleviate the economic burden caused by the state and public health interventions that aimed to mitigate the effects of the advancing epidemic (see more under Section 5 Governance).