Morning Headlines for Slovenia: Friday, 2 April 2021

By , 02 Apr 2021, 04:09 AM News
Morning Headlines for Slovenia: Friday, 2 April 2021 02 Flickr - Ilkka Jukarainen CC BY-ND 2.0

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This summary is provided by the STA

Slovenia enters third lockdown

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia entered its third lockdown in just over a year in a bid to buy time for vaccination and stem the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, which is driven by the highly virulent British variant. The lockdown is planned until 11 April, with the exception of Easter Sunday, when up to two households will be able to socialise. Schools, museums and most retail businesses are closed and face masks obligatory outdoors. Industry may operate normally, but companies have been urged to switch to remote work as much as possible. Addressing the public on the occasion, President Borut Pahor said the lockdown was the only alternative to protect people's lives and health.

UK variant spreading rapidly

LJUBLJANA - The highly virulent UK variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly and currently accounts for more than 40% of all cases. The National Laboratory of Health, Environment and Food (NLZOH) said the share of the variant among sequenced samples rose to almost 42% from 33% last week. The Institute of Microbiology and Immunology said 44% of the samples it analysed between 15 and 21 March were the UK variant. The NLZOH has detected another specific mutation in the most prevalent coronavirus variant in the country (B1.258.17), but it remains unclear how the mutation affects the virus.

Vaccination focusing on persons aged 60+ in next three weeks

LJUBLJANA - Health authorities recommended that Covid-19 vaccination be focused in the next three weeks on older persons so that shots are given to all Slovenian residents aged 60 or older who want to get vaccinated. The National Institute of Public Health said the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines should be administered to persons aged 65+, and to particularly vulnerable chronic patients regardless of age and residents of care homes. The AstraZeneca vaccine is recommended for persons aged 60-64, and older persons if they express interest in getting this specific vaccine.

Some 33,000 shots of vaccine for Slovenia from 10-million EU batch

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia would get an extra 32,769 shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from a package of 10 million EU doses whose delivery has been pushed forward from the second to the first quarter, according to a proposal discussed Wednesday by the COREPER. Under the proposal, seven million doses would be divided according to the pro rata principle, while the remaining three million would go to countries currently farthest behind in vaccination. This means Slovenia would not get any of the quota reserved for the vaccination laggards.

Rising trend persists, 1,335 new coronavirus cases reported

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia recorded 1,335 new cases of coronavirus Wednesday as the rising trend continues. The positivity rate was 23.7%, up significantly from the day before. A total of 518 persons were in hospital this morning, up by 18 on the day before, and 108 were treated in intensive care units, down by three. Another seven Covid-19 patients died. The 7-day average of new daily cases exceeded 1,000 for the first time since mid-February.

Slovenia introducing self-testing for students

MARIBOR - After schools reopen on 12 April, secondary school students will begin self-testing for coronavirus, followed a while later by pupils of the final three years of primary school. Announcing the plan while on a visit to Maribor, Health Minister Janez Poklukar said everything would be done for schools to reopen on 12 April. By then Slovenia will set up a system of rapid self-testing for older students. Next week, school staff will be coached about self-testing and the project would be launched when the schools reopen.

Logar calls for deepening ties with Morocco

LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar spoke over telephone with Nasser Bourita, the Moroccan minister of foreign affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccan expatriates. They called for the strengthening of bilateral relations and exchanged views on current regional issues, including migration, strengthening relations between the EU and Southern Neighbourhood and the latest developments in Libya, according to the Foreign Ministry. The pair also discussed cooperation between the ports of Koper and Tanger Med, while Logar presented the priorities of Slovenia's upcoming EU presidency.

No decision yet about Počivalšek becoming MP

LJUBLJANA - The executive council of the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) discussed the possibility of its leader Zdravko Počivalšek resigning as economy minister and returning to the National Assembly to secure an additional vote for the party, which recently saw three MPs leave its 8-member deputy group. It is yet to decide how to proceed. The party saaid the option raised a lot of questions that needed to be examined carefully, including calls by business representatives who want to continue working with Počivalšek in his capacity as minister.

Border restrictions challenged

LJUBLJANA - Aleš Zalar, a former justice minister, has requested a constitutional review of the decree governing the crossing of borders. He has a spouse in Austria and argues the restrictions have strongly affected his family life because it is not possible to freely leave the country. He alleges the decree is discriminatory towards all foreigners who have a temporary or permanent residence in Slovenia compared to those who do not have such a residence and can come and leave without problems. Meanwhile, Equal Opportunities Ombudsman Miha Lobnik said the decree was potentially unfair to those who have not acquired immunity to the virus, among others.

Public sector unions call for preservation of single pay system

LJUBLJANA - More than a dozen public sector trade unions called on the prime minister and public administration minister to preserve the single pay system for the public sector. They say that breaking this system could have consequences for the public finance and could disintegrate the entire public system. They also see tendencies for privatisation of parts of the public sector and its services.

Regulator closes insider trading case against minister

LJUBLJANA - The Securities Market Agency has closed an insider trading case against Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak concerning purchases of Petrol stock prior to full liberalisation of fuel prices, Delo reports, quoting unofficial information that the regulators did not find grounds to press criminal charges. Vizjak confirmed for Delo he had received the agency's decision. "The agency did not find irregularities. This was the decision I expected," he told the paper.

Govt proposes extending loan deferment by year's end

LJUBLJANA - The government is proposing the sixth coronavirus relief package be amended to extend the moratorium on bank loan repayments for some types of borrowers until the end of the year. The amendments are to be rushed through parliament. Under the proposal, a new deferment would be granted to borrowers engaged in activities that have been temporarily banned due to coronavirus after 12 March and who are still not able to pay their dues to banks on time. Also eligible would be borrowers who generate the bulk of revenue with services or goods sold to the borrowers who cannot do business due to coronavirus restrictions.

UKOM says STA director concealing documentation

LJUBLJANA - The Government Communication Office (UKOM) said the director of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) was "concealing documentation" as it responded to an appeal by the STA supervisory board that the government resume public service payments to the agency as demanded by law. It said there were contracts that were detrimental to the STA and that the STA was engaging in "creative accounting" when it came to distinguishing between its public service and commercial activities. The director denied the charges.

Fitch upgrades NKBM

MARIBOR - Ratings agency Fitch upgraded the long-term credit risk for NKBM, Slovenia's second largest ban, from BB+ to BBB- with a stable outlook, citing the completion of the merger with Abanka, firm capital position and low share of non-performing loans. The agency said, according to NKBM, that the positive impact of the merger on capital and profitability outweighed the negative impact of medium-term risks associated with Covid-19.

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