Slovenia, a mountainous nation of two million people, has become the first European country to proclaim an end to the coronavirus epidemic at home.
The European Union state’s government said on Friday the COVID-19 spread is under control and there is no longer a need for extraordinary health measures.
“Today Slovenia has the best epidemic situation in Europe, which enables us to call off the general epidemic,” Prime Minister Janez Jansa said, two months after the epidemic was declared.
The government says EU residents are free to cross into Slovenia from Austria, Italy and Hungary at predetermined checkpoints, while most non-EU nationals will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
The first coronavirus case in Slovenia was recorded on March 4 in a returnee from neighbouring Italy. The nationwide epidemic was proclaimed on March 12.
By May 13, there were 1,467 confirmed cases and 103 deaths in Slovenia.
“Since the danger of spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus remains, some general and special measures will remain in force,” the government said in a statement.
Public gatherings remain banned while social distancing rules and mask-wearing remain mandatory in public spaces.
Earlier this week, the government said some shopping centres and hotels would be allowed to reopen next week.
It also announced football and all other team competitions could resume from May 23.
Despite Slovenia apparently declaring an end to the epidemic, experts clarified that the disease was still present in the country.
“No other European state has so far declared the epidemic was over so we should be cautious in Slovenia too,” infectious diseases expert Mateja Logar told public television on Thursday. “The virus remains present.”
Declaring the end of the epidemic meant the government avoided an automatic extension until the end of June of the first package of economic measures approved to help the population and companies, according to Public Radio Slovenija.
This measures will now be in force until the end of May.