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Spring is usually a very dynamic season in the global meetings industry but this one has been very different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ljubljana Convention Bureau (KUL) believes it is very important to work closely with the business partners from the tourism industry during this time, while also staying actively involved in the home destination.

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© Ljubljanski grad

Many industry players have responded swiftly and effectively in these unpredictable times with actions that benefit the wider community. The first that stepped forward immediately after the coronavirus outbreak were the Ljubljana hotels; more than thirty of them expressed willingness to accommodate medical personnel, patients or quarantined persons.

The tech community united in the “Slovenian Respirator” Initiative

In mid-March the idea of ​​the Slovenian respirator began to be realized within the Ljubljana Technology Park community. A group of more than 30 experts who would develop the most important device for helping the seriously ill was formed: it includes top engineers from global technological companies, doctors from the University Medical Centre Ljubljana, companies offering R&D for free, and different organizations that equip and support them, including the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia, the largest national research organization - Jozef Stefan Institute, the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, TECOS and others. The group worked tirelessly for weeks and put over 1000 hours into developement of the first prototypes that were presented in early April. Several versions of respirators are currently being tested at the University Medical Centre Ljubljana. The participating experts help each other to exchange ideas and solutions, and are a very inspiring example of professionalism, activism and mutual support. 

Support from members of the University of Ljubljana

Support was also offered by members of the University of Ljubljana, one of KUL's key partners and the core of the Ljubljana Ambassador Club (as part of the Slovenian Ambassadors programme). Many faculties have contributed immensely to a better understanding of the current situation and helped mitigate the negative effects of the crisis with their professional expertise. 

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, senior medical students have been working at a government call center that provides residents with access to reliable information about the epidemic in Slovenia. Under the supervision and mentorship of experts and ministry representatives, they have answered more than 10,000 calls from citizens since the start of their operations, which is more than 1,100 calls a day. Following a request by the Red Cross of Slovenia (RKS) to volunteer and perform tasks and activities at the RKS Patient Care Unit operating in the Mobile Hospital they were joined by students of the Faculty of Health Sciences. Together they also offered assistance in delivering nursing care to patients and midwifery at the University Medical Centre Ljubljana. At the Faculty of Pharmacy, a working group was set up in order to monitor the latest developments in COVID-19 therapy and the development of antiviral drugs. They regularly publish information on their website for both the professional and lay public.

A group of experts that are part of the Telecommunication Laboratory of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, has prepared a free online tool entitled Pomoč na dlani (Help in the palm of your hand). Its goal is to find organizations that provide help free of charge in different areas, while at the same time linking them with those in need of help, such as the elderly or parents with young children, who struggle to do the daily chores themselves. A group of the faculty researchers have also been an instrumental part of the »Slovenian respirator« Initiative. 

The Faculty of Mechanical Engineering has prepared concrete proposals to combat coronavirus in seven areas: detection of infected, protection against infections, medical devices for the sick, contagious waste management, general measures to prevent infection, monitoring, analysis and prediction of infections, and methods of communication during the epidemic. A team of experts from the Faculty of Natural Sciences has been advising companies on the production of protective equipment. They also looked at the possibilities to protect those surfaces that people often touch.

Since mental and emotional wellbeing is also at stake in the midst of crisis and during quarantine, it is important to emphasize the contribution of the faculties of social sciences and humanities, too. For example, the Psychosocial Counseling team working within the Faculty of Education has developed a program that helps people deal effectively with the current situation. It is available to both employees and students. The Faculty of Sport, along with their partners, has come up with home-based workout tips and videos available for free on their site.

More about the activities of individual faculties can be found on the University of Ljubljana website.

The importance of cooperation and mutual support

The remarkable achievements of science further enhance the reputation of the destination in the world, and successfully promote it. The Ljubljana Convention Bureau (KUL) that traditionally provides partners with strategic support and guidance in the organisation of professional and scientific meetings is now in regular contact with all of them. Collaboration with crucial local players in the field of science, technology and education is one of KUL's key activities. It is therefore of utmost importance that networking and mutual support remain strong also in the challenging conditions we have now been facing - for the benefit of all.