Coronavirus (Covid19) in Slovenia

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Respecting the rules saves lives and eases limitations on your freedom

Several years ago, I read and reviewed a book titled “Another Place to Die” by Sam North. The book is a work of fiction based around the idea of a mutated strain of the H5N1 avian flu virus having spread voraciously and devastated the world. I remember writing in my review “this is not science fiction, this is potential fact”.

Well, while we are not quite at the apocalyptic stage depicted in the book, I fear my comment may have been too close to the mark.

Covid19 Coronavirus is devastating the world right now, in a way that we haven’t seen since the early 1900s. Granted the Spanish Flu pandemic was even worse in terms of fatalities, but in today’s modern world the effect is being felt not only on a health and well being level, but on an economic level too.

While epidemics are nothing new to China, and the Chinese are a little more used to the totalitarian measures their government puts in place, the freedom-loving nations of Western Europe and North America are definitely not.  Europe is under lockdown. Whether this is full lockdown or partial lockdown, being ordered to stay at home is not something this generation has even known.

Each country is implementing its own rules. Currently I am in Slovenia, so I thought I would give you an update on the situation here.

Partial Lockdown Rules

While Slovenia is not under the full, crippling lockdown that countries like Italy, France and Spain are implementing due to Covid19, stringent rules are in place:

  • Schools, restaurants, bars, cafes, hairdressers and all other non essential businesses have been ordered to close.
  • All public transport has ceased to run, and the airports are closed. Taxis are running, but only allowed to carry one person who must be in the back. The Taxi must be sanitized after each trip. People are allowed to go out in their cars and public parking is free during this time.
  • Borders are closed.
  • Shops and supermarkets remain open, but the first few hours each day are restricted to the elderly and then each store is limiting the number of shoppers at a time. Most are providing hand sanitizers at the entrance and some even gloves. Cashiers are behind screens and wear masks.
  • People are allowed to go out, but only with members of their household, and there must be no more than 5 people in one public space. Children are forbidden to use the public playgrounds.
  • Social distancing: everyone is being asked to respect social distancing rules and keep at least 2 metres apart.
  • Currently you are allowed to go anywhere within Slovenia as long as you respect the rules above.
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Queuing at the till in Mercator with the cashier behind a screen and wearing a mask. This is in a suburb of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Mercator is Slovenia's largest supermarket chain. Taken 23-3-2020
Queuing at the till in Mercator with the cashier behind a screen and wearing a mask. This is in a suburb of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Mercator is Slovenia's largest supermarket chain.
Shopping in Mercator with plastic gloves provided at the entrance. This is in a suburb of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Mercator is Slovenia's main supermarket chain. Taken 23-3-2020
Shopping in Mercator with plastic gloves provided at the entrance. This is in a suburb of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Mercator is Slovenia's main supermarket chain.
In Slovenia all public transport has been stopped, but people can still go out in their cars. The rule is no more than 5 people in a public space at once.
In Slovenia all public transport has been stopped.

The latter helps give a sense of some freedom. There is nothing worse for the human psyche than being imprisoned, which a situation like this makes you feel; even though in our case imprisonment means lazing on the couch watching TV. However, I’m sure you’ll all agree these rules are for the safety of us all, and should be respected if we are to defeat this disease. Additionally, respecting these rules also results in fewer restrictions. For the most part, everyone in Slovenia is doing just that. Therefore the government has so far held off implementing a further restriction it had in its plan: limiting people to their respective municipalities.

In Slovenia all public transport has been stopped, but people can still go out in their cars. The rule is no more than 5 people in a public space at once. Photo taken in a suburb of Ljubljana on 23-3-20
People can still go out in their cars. The rule is no more than 5 people in a public space at once.

Infections and deaths

At the time of writing, there are 562 confirmed Covid19 cases, and 6 deaths. Although this may seem low, it does well to remember that Slovenia has a population of just 2 million. Furthermore, Slovenes in general are a healthy bunch, and very active. They love to be outdoors and you’ll regularly see them hiking, cycling, running and doing all manner of sports and activities. That combination of activity and outdoor life could be the very thing that saves them. Being outdoors and getting lots of sun means plenty of vitamin D. It’s been proven in studies that Vitamin D helps boost your resistance to respiratory illnesses.

Next to Italy

Slovenia is situated right next to Northern Italy. In fact, many Slovenes regularly travel to these regions for work and holidays. My family and I often go to Trieste for the day (however thankfully we haven’t been since last summer). But throughout January and February many Slovenes spent their holidays in the Italian ski resorts and in Venice for the festival. When the news of the outbreak in Italy broke, the Slovene government was quick to inform the public of this and start advising anyone who had been there to self isolate for 14 days, along with anyone who starts to display symptoms. From mid-February all travel to Italy was restricted or advised against, and businesses in Slovenia began to cancel trips and meetings in the region.

Once the situation escalated in Italy, more restrictions were put in place and the borders were closed. Perhaps, for this reason, the infection rate in Slovenia has not escalated to the levels of neighbouring European countries. It could also be because the general public heeded the warnings, took care and also now are respecting the rules put in place.

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In Slovenia the government has forbidden the use of public playgrounds and all schools are closed.

We all must do what it takes

Hand sanitizer at Mercator supermarket entrance in a suburb of Ljubljana, Slovenia.. Mercator is Slovenia's largest supermarket chain. Taken 23-3-2020
Hand sanitizer at Mercator supermarket entrance in a suburb of Ljubljana, Slovenia.. Mercator is Slovenia's largest supermarket chain.

Following rules is a must in this case. While I would be the first to shout out against any kind of totalitarian restrictions on a person’s freedom, this is not about control; it’s about saving lives. But it also shows that if you respect this situation, not only follow the rules but also do your bit, you can still enjoy some freedom. In my home country, they didn’t do this and now they are under an even tighter lockdown than here in Slovenia.

Slovenia is a small country with a small population. Therefore much of its landscape is sparsely populated. There are plenty of places to go where you can be far away from anyone else. Being small, it’s also very easy to get to these places.

So while #stayathome is the mantra which we should all respect and do, it’s nice to know that we can get out for a little bit and go for walk where others are not. And for that reason alone, I might just retain my sanity.

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