Ljubljana: Slovenia opened its borders on Friday after declaring an end to its coronavirus epidemic, despite new infections still being reported.
"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 mountainous nation of two million people, which borders Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary, had reported 1,465 coronavirus cases and 103 deaths as of Friday. But with the rate of new infections trailing off, the government ordered borders open for all EU citizens, while non-EU citizens will have to stay in quarantine.
People coming from Slovenia will still have to undergo a two-week home quarantine in Austria, however, according to the Austrian interior ministry. Even in Slovenia, "some general and special measures will remain in force" to prevent a resurgence in virus cases, Ljubljana said.
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 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," Logar added.
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.
These measures will now be in force until the end of May.