Slovenia's COVID-19 cases exceed 80,000

LJUBLJANA, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- Slovenia on Thursday reported 1,772 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the national tally of confirmed cases to 81,338, according to official figures.

A total of 1,289 patients were being treated in hospitals (four more than the day before), 198 of them in intensive care (one fewer than the day before). Forty-five new deaths took the toll to 1,592.

According to the COVID-19 tracker site Sledilnik, there are currently 20,288 active cases in the country. The average 14-day incidence rate is now 968 per 100,000 population.

Health Minister Tomaz Gantar has said that Slovenia plans to launch mass coronavirus testing before the end of the year. The Health Ministry is purchasing half a million rapid antigen tests with another million to follow.

The ministry also revealed on Thursday details about the COVID-19 vaccination plan, under which vaccine doses will be free of charge and available to all residents regardless of their health insurance status. Vaccine doses for around 50,000 residents are expected to be available in the first phase.

The vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech is expected to be the first to receive authorization. It is scheduled to be available at the end of December or more probably in the first half of January, according to Doroteja Novak Gosaric, secretary at the Health Ministry's Healthcare Directorate.

The Slovenian government adopted on Thursday a five-tier strategy for the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions based on a proposal by the Health Ministry and the coronavirus task force, Prime Minister Janez Jansa said on Twitter.

The relaxation of measures will hinge on two factors: the seven-day rolling average of daily infections and the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

The current measures will remain in force as long as there are over 1,350 daily infections on average and more than 1,200 people in hospital. This is designated as the "black tier."

Slovenia has been in its second lockdown since mid-October and several measures have been tightened since then.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as the United Kingdom, China, Germany, Russia and the United States are racing against time to develop coronavirus vaccines.

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