Intensive care units in Slovenian hospitals are overflowing with COVID-19 patients as the country grapples with the worst wave of the pandemic so far.
ICU wards treated 221 COVID patients on Sunday, the highest number since the start of the pandemic, even as the overall number of COVID hospitalised patients remains below the second-wave peak. ICU capacity has been expanded but is expected to reach capacity soon.
Red Cross volunteers and army medics have been enlisted to help the ICU wards, which are in worse shape than at the start of the pandemic due to departures of exhausted staff from what is already a severely understaffed sector.
Restrictions have been tightened to contain the surge, including expanding the COVID pass mandate and mandatory self-testing of all students in schools which kicks in this week. Still, the government has ruled out a new lockdown and has not declared a state of health emergency.
Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said a new lockdown would bankrupt the country, which has already spent the equivalent of 5% of GDP in stimulus measures.
According to Our World in Data, Slovenia has the worst COVID statistics in Europe, with a seven-day case notification rate of over 1,500 per 100,000 population.
Only 54% of the population is fully vaccinated, and vaccination is proceeding at a snail’s pace. It has taken an entire month to get from 50% to 54%, and while vaccination has picked up slightly, the vast majority of vaccinations are people getting their booster shots.
(Sebastijan R. Maček | sta.si)