Politics

10 Apr 2020, 13:32 PM

What follows is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia, as prepared by the STA.

If you’d like to keep up on the daily headlines then follow those here, or get all our stories in your feed on Facebook.

FRIDAY, 3 April
        LJUBLJANA - The government started discussing guidelines for a second fiscal stimulus package. It will focus on correcting any flaws in the first package, worth EUR 3 billion, and measures to boost the economy's liquidity.
        LJUBLJANA - The Defence Ministry announced that the rotations of contingents of the Slovenian Armed Forces in international operations and missions planned in the next three months would not be carried out due to the coronavirus pandemic. The contingents which are currently abroad will need to extend their service for three months.
        LJUBLJANA - The government restricted the usage of drugs containing chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine or azithromycin to make sure enough of those substances are available to patients who need them.
        LJUBLJANA - Florist shops and nurseries reopened, with the government explaining that spring is a peak selling time for these businesses.
        DOBROVNIK - Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec hailed a decision by orchids grower Ocean Orchids to also start growing vegetables as a case of rapid adaptation. She announced government measures to facilitate this.
        LJUBLJANA - The chair of the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee, Matjaž Nemec, expressed surprise because Slovenia failed to join a group of EU countries that have expressed concern about the risk of violations of the rule of law by measures to curb the spread of coronavirus. On Monday, Justice Minister Lilijana Kozlovič expressed support for the statement.
        SKOPJE, Macedonia - Slovenia donated to North Macedonia protective equipment worth EUR 110,000 to help the country fight the novel coronavirus.
        LJUBLJANA - Individuals and businesses donated over EUR 58,800 as they responded to the Finance Ministry's call to raise funds for Covid-19 relief. The donations went into the "budgetary reserve" and the government will report to parliament on the use on a monthly basis.
        LJUBLJANA - The coronavirus crisis started to take a toll on the unemployment situation in Slovenia and what had been a favourable trend until recently was reversed. The number of people registered as unemployed grew by 0.5% to 77,855 in March compared to February.
        LJUBLJANA - Thirty members of the Slovenian chapter of PEN International called on the Slovenian authorities to respect all citizens' rights guaranteed by law and constitution as measures to contain the coronavirus epidemic are being introduced.

SATURDAY, 4 April
        LJUBLJANA - All persons arriving in Slovenia from abroad now face a 14-day quarantine. They will be quarantined at home if possible and if not, they will be placed at facilities.
        LJUBLJANA - The bonuses for vital public sector staff envisaged by the government mega stimulus bill will be fully covered by the state, Public Administration Minister Boštjan Koritnik said.
        LJUBLJANA - Police were checking compliance with movement restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus across the country, detecting no major violations.
        LJUBLJANA/KOPER - Due to the coronavirus epidemic, Ljubljana airport recorded a 20% drop in the amount of cargo transported in March. This was mostly the cargo transported in passenger planes, the airport operator Fraport Slovenija said.

SUNDAY, 5 April
        LJUBLJANA - Coronavirus death toll in Slovenia rose to 30 as infections topped 1,000.
        LJUBLJANA - Government spokesman Jelko Kacin announced that stringent lockdown restrictions introduced to fight the coronavirus epidemic would remain in place at least two to four more weeks.
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša rebuffed critics who have accused the government of sidelining public health professionals. He said the government had listened to a broader circle of experts beyond the domestic National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ).

MONDAY, 6 April
        LJUBLJANA - The government said it was preparing measures to enable some industries to relaunch operations immediately after the Easter holidays if the current trend in the number of persons diagnosed with Covid-19 continues.
        LJUBLJANA - The Agency for Commodity Reserves delivered 66 mechanical ventilators to hospitals, as well as 1.83 million three-layer face masks and over 401,000 FFP2 masks the week before.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor and US Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard met to mark the Slovenian-American Friendship and Alliance Day.
        LJUBLJANA - The Commission for Justice and Peace of the Slovenian Bishops' Conference recalled the first free multi-party elections in Slovenia 30 years ago likening the situation at the time to the coronavirus crisis in which the bishops see "our civic duty, responsibility" put to test again.
        NOVO MESTO/BEGUNJE/ŽIRI - Several Slovenian companies, including Adria Mobil, Alpina and Elan, announced they would shortly relaunch production after suspending or scaling it down amid the coronavirus epidemic.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian agriculture organisations raised concern about "huge" damage to business due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, urging the government to take a series of measures, including curbs on meat imports and increased purchase of produce for national commodity reserves.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian lawyer and UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin told sport newspaper EkipaSN in an interview he believed Slovenian authorities should express a bit more optimistic view of the situation as the country is fighting the coronavirus epidemic.
        LJUBLJANA - An OECD report found Slovenia to be one of the most transparent OECD countries in the field of public procurement, yet it recommended it to open up its public procurement procedures to more experimentation and innovative methods.
        KRANJ - A dystopian play by Tjaša Mislej about four workers working and living in a giant warehouse won this year's Slavko Grum Prize for best new Slovenian play.
        HOLMEC - The Holmec border crossing was partly reopened after Austria closed it as part of restrictions to contain the spread of coronavirus.

TUESDAY, 7 April
        LJUBLJANA - More than five years after deciding the state must provide equal funding for public and private primary schools, the Constitutional Court specified that this applies only to the mandatory part of school curricula at private schools but not to non-mandatory curricula, such as morning and afternoon care, or remedial tutoring.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly voted with the needed two-thirds majority in favour of changes to the rules of procedure that allow it to hold sessions and vote remotely in exceptional circumstances such as the coronavirus epidemic or natural disaster.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed legislative changes that will shorten the period for laws, which cannot be challenged in referenda, to take effect. The changes are expected to speed up the implementation of laws designed to alleviate consequences of the Covid-19 epidemic by 8 days.
        LJUBLJANA - The business newspaper Finance reported, referring to Bloomberg, that the Slovenian state had borrowed another EUR 2.25 billion by carrying out a new 10-year bond issue and expanding the amounts of the previous two bond issues.
        LJUBLJANA - The Fiscal Council endorsed the measures taken by the government to contain the coronavirus epidemic and mitigate its consequences. For the most part the measures are in agreement with recommendations by international organisations and comparable in scope to measures taken by other countries. However, in the future the measures must be more targeted, simple and limited in duration.
        LJUBLJANA - Administered fuel prices in Slovenia dropped to eleven-year lows despite the government increasing excise duties the day before. Regular and diesel sold at service stations outside the motorway network dropped to euro per litre. The last time regular cost less than a euro was in April 2009 and diesel in May 2009.
        MARIBOR - Pošta Slovenije generated EUR 262.7 million in revenue last year, EUR 12 million more than the year before. While failing to disclose the profit figure, the company said it was substantially below projections. The main reason for the lower-than-expected profitability is a pay deal the company had struck with trade unions.

WEDNESDAY, 8 April
        LJUBLJANA - Hospital data indicated the novel coronavirus epidemic is stabilising, with hospitalisations and intensive care cases flat. A total of 108 persons were in hospital, of whom 34 in intensive care. So far 128 persons have been discharged from hospital.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor discussed efforts to overcome the coronavirus pandemic with his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella. The presidents underlined the importance of solidarity and cooperation among nations, and expressed regret at the EU's inability to respond earlier and more effectively. They expressed support for the measures adopted by the governments of their respective countries.
        LJUBLJANA - Medical Chamber head Zdenka Čebašek-Travnik urged the government to use all medical staff, including private doctors and dentists, to restart the country's healthcare when it begins to gradually exit the coronavirus crisis.
        LJUBLJANA - The central bank suspended for a year the payout of dividends by banks and savings banks. The measure is aimed at securing sufficient capital so that the system could better sustain potential losses and be able to supply the economy and individuals with loans.
        LJUBLJANA/STRASBOURG, France - Responding to criticism coming from the Council of Europe over pressure on the media in Slovenia, the government argued the situation was a result of media having "their origin in the former communist regime". The dispatch was criticised the next day by the Journalists' Association and the opposition, while coalition partners distanced themselves from it.
        LJUBLJANA - Vojko Urbas was appointed acting director of the Criminal Police Department and took over from his predecessor Boštjan Lindav. He was appointed by acting Police Commissioner Anton Travner, who has led the force since the Janez Janša government was appointed in mid-March.
        LJUBLJANA - The top leaders of major religious groups in Slovenia called on believers to stay home, pray and peruse religious texts as they addressed the daily government coronavirus press briefing.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Roma warned about tenacious discrimination and their communities struggling in the face of the coronavirus crisis as they observed International Roma Day.

THURSDAY, 9 April
        LJUBLJANA - The government's coronavirus spokesperson Jelko Kacin rejected interpretations Slovenia had decided to freeze membership payments to the World Health Organisation given that PM Janez Janša said everybody would need to follow the example of the US in taking this step.
        LJUBLJANA - Unofficial data from the Employment Service showed the registered unemployment total rising by 4,922 in the first eight days of April, jumping by 1,030 on 8 April alone.
        LJUBLJANA - The Defence Ministry said that Slovenia will ask for international assistance via NATO's Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre in securing transport for protective gear and other supplies to ensure there is enough equipment to battle the coronavirus epidemic.
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša exchanged information on the current coronavirus situation with Friuli Venezia Giulia President Massimiliano Fedriga via videoconference.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's trade in goods continued to grow in February, the month before Slovenia introduced strict lockdown measures amid the coronavirus epidemic. Exports grew by 11.7% and imports by 5.9% over February 2019, data by the Statistics Office showed.
        NOVO MESTO - The supervisory and management boards of Krka proposed the shareholders of the drug maker be paid dividends of EUR 4.25 gross per share. Not only is the proposed payout almost a third higher than in 2019, Krka is actually one of few listed companies whose shareholders may get dividends this year.
        LJUBLJANA - A group of five Slovenian MEPs led by Tanja Fajon (S&D/SD) called on the government to join EU countries helping and taking in unaccompanied refugee children stranded on Greek islands.
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided to allow non-urgent health services to resume under certain conditions after these have been suspended in the efforts to contain the coronavirus epidemic in the country.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenians are increasingly optimistic regarding the situation around the coronavirus epidemic, showed the latest survey by Valicon, as a vast majority of respondents believes that things are turning for the better.

All our posts in this series are here

10 Apr 2020, 11:23 AM

Contents

Govt points to ex regime in response to CoE criticism of pressure on media in Slovenia

SDS under fire following dispatch about communist origins of Slovenian media

MEPs defend freedom of press, disagree over communist media dispatch

Govt points to ex regime in response to CoE criticism of pressure on media in Slovenia

STA, 8 April 2020 - Responding to criticism coming from the Council of Europe (CoE) over pressure on the media in Slovenia, the government has argued the situation is a result of Slovenian media having "their origin in the former communist regime".

While the CoE has been highlighting pressure on media occurring under the new government and named the state as the "source of the threat", the government wrote that it welcomes that the CoE Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists is taking a stronger interest in the media situation in Slovenia.

It added that the CoE's attention should be drawn to the broader context of the media situation in the country, including historical facts in the development of the media market.

"The majority of the main media in Slovenia have their origins in the former communist regime, and even in the late 1990s the positions of editors-in-chief were held by the former members of the infamous security service UDBA," says the letter accessible on the website of the CoE Platform.

Sent to the CoE by Slovenia's Permanent Representation to the CoE on Tuesday, the letter also says that up until 2004 the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija had been run directly by "former communist structures".

The letter says that "more or less all attempts to create new media that would not be based on the legacy of of the totalitarian past have failed" because new media had not received money from advertising. One of the few media that survived was Catholic Radio Ognjišče, surviving above all because listeners supported it with their contributions.

The situation changed partly only in the period between 2004 and 2008, "when for the first time the parties originating in the former regime lost the authority for four years", the letter says of the period when Janez Janša was prime minister for the first time.

"During this period, the law governing the operations of RTV Slovenija also changed with a view to promoting greater plurality of the media space. As a result, in some media that in one way or another are financed by all citizens, individuals who were not connected with the former totalitarian party also took on leading roles."

However, already in 2008, when the Borut Pahor government took over, there was "tremendous persecution of all editors and journalists who were not part of the former regime's network," the letter says, referring to editor dismissals at the STA and RTV Slovenija, and saying that similar actions had been taken in some private media.

The letter also says that media in Slovenia had during this time undergone ownership consolidation. "With the consent of left governments, the majority of the main media have been sold to individuals who are known to the general as Slovenian tycoons, many were also members of Forum 21," an outfit established by former President Milan Kučan.

"Journalists themselves also contributed to their increasingly poorer public image. Jumps from journalism to politics are, unfortunately, too common for the public to fully trust the integrity of journalists," the letter says, naming here MEPs Tanja Fajon and Irena Joveva.

"There are not isolated cases of political rewards for journalists who appeared in public as the greatest fighters among journalists against parties that did not arise from the network of the former regime," the letter says, naming Rok Praprotnik and Dejan Karba.

The government expresses satisfaction in the letter that Slovenia had finally become the subject of international interest in terms of freedom of the press and the general state of the media in the country, saying that "warnings of the unbearable situation of the Slovenian national broadcaster should also be taken seriously".

It says that initiatives for a more rational spending of public funds are being misinterpreted. "While many media companies are struggling to survive... RTV Slovenija has hired an additional 400 people in the last 10 years alone, bringing the total number of the institution's employees to approximately 2,300."

The letter was sent to the CoE, after the latter issued an alert in response to Janša's tweet on 20 March. Janša tweeted "Don't spread lies, @InfoTVSLO. We pay you to keep us informed in these times, not to mislead the public. Apparently there are too many of you and you are paid to well."

Janša tweeted this after TV Slovenija aired an interview with a trade unionist who criticised the government's decision to raise the salaries of ministers and state secretaries.

Janša's tweet was criticised also by the Journalists' Association (DNS), the Journalists' Trade Union and the leadership of RTV Slovenija. The union and the DNS interpreted the tweet as a threat to RTV Slovenija employees about possible loss of employment or other repressive measures that may befall them unless they report in a way that suits the government.

This was the second alert by the CoE Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists issued to Slovenia in the past two weeks. On 27 March, the Platform said that investigative journalist Blaž Zgaga had received death threats from far right groups.

In response to that alert, the government said it "strongly rejects and condemns the case of alleged harassment... At the moment, we have no conclusive evidence as to how this event came about."

Zgaga was also mentioned in the letter sent to the CoE on 7 April, which said that his credibility was destroyed when claims of Janša's involvement in the Patria defence scandal were proven false.

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SDS under fire following dispatch about communist origins of Slovenian media

STA, 9 April 2020 - The senior coalition Democratic Party (SDS) has been criticised, not only by journalists and the opposition, but also by its coalition partners, after an official government dispatch to the Council of Europe's Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists claimed that all the main media stemmed from the communist regime.

The dispatch was a response to an alert issued by the Platform after Prime Minister Janez Janša tweeted in late March that the public broadcaster RTV Slovenia was misleading the public, adding "apparently there are too many of you and you are paid too well".

The Journalists' Association (DNS) said that the dispatch was far from reality of Slovenia's media market, that the writing reflected the ideological position of the the SDS and was undermining Slovenia's reputation abroad.

For 30 years, Slovenia has been a democracy with a media market, which has seen various anomalies, but is nonetheless operating in a relatively normal framework, the DNS said on Thursday.

Editorial policies, as well as ownership, vary from one media outlet to the next, so to claim that all are guided by an ideological war against the SDS is "peek paranoia", which has been evident in the existing attitude of the SDS and the incumbent government toward the media and journalists, the DNS said.

The association underlined that Slovenian journalists are performing their job in line with professional and ethical standards, and on par with their colleagues in other western democracies.

"In fact, the only instances of aberration are seen in media directly or indirectly linked to the SDS, which have received substantial funding from Hungarian companies. These have been conducting degrading campaigns against anybody who does not agree with SDS politics, they have manipulated facts and spread intolerance toward anybody who is different or thinks differently," the DNS said.

It added that the government failed to understand that freedom of the press is guaranteed by law in Slovenia, that public media are not state media and that the state, albeit the founder of public media, does not have the right to play editor.

Meanwhile, the director of RTV Slovenija Igor Kadunc repeated his reaction to the initial tweet in a statement for Radio Slovenija that RTV Slovenia was operating economically.

Bojan Veselinovič, the director of the STA, also a public media outlet, meanwhile denied allegations levelled against him in the dispatch, which explicitly mentions Veselinovič firing editor-in-chief Borut Meško, who later died due to severe illness.

Coalition partners Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) have distanced themselves from the letter, all of them saying that they had not been informed about the contents of the dispatch. The parties also said that they would demand to learn who authored the dispatch, sent to the CoE on 7 April.

The SMC said in its response to the STA that it only learnt about the letter from the media and that its position was clear: "any attack and pressure on the media is unacceptable."

The NSi as well said it had not been informed about the dispatch and would demand explanations "within the coalition", including about who wrote the dispatch. Similar sentiment was echoed also by DeSUS.

The opposition was also critical, with the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), the Social Democrats (SD), the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) and the Left calling for an emergency session of the parliamentary culture and foreign affairs committees to demand explanations from Foreign Minister Anže Logar.

The opposition parties believe the dispatch amounts to abuse of power for political purposes and an action that undermines the country's international renown.

The Left called on Logar to resign, while LMŠ MP Nik Prebil said in a statement that no government minister, least of all the foreign minister, must allow that such documents "bear a personal or party connotation".

Meanwhile, Matjaž Nemec, an MP for the SD and the chair of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, said he expected Logar to explain to the committee why the dispatch could be interpreted as reinforcement of a political agenda through diplomatic networks.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry denied having drafted the dispatch. Instead, government Communications Office (UKOM) head Uroš Urbanija, told the newspaper Delo that his office had written the letter and that neither Logar nor Janša were aware of its contents.

Urbanija, a former home desk editor at the STA, former editor at RTV Slovenija, as well as Nova24TV, told the paper that the letter had been sent in a clear procedure of UKOM receiving a question from the press and responding to it without any special notification to government officials.

The ministry, while denying having written the letter, said it forwarded the explanation to the CoE in line with established diplomatic practice.

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MEPs defend freedom of press, disagree over communist media dispatch

STA, 9 April 2020 - Slovenian MEPs have expressed support for freedom of the press after an official dispatch was sent to the Council of Europe (CoE) saying that all the main Slovenian media had their origins in the Communist regime. But while MEPs from right-leaning parties expressed support for the dispatch, others labelled the writing as politically motivated.

Sent to the CoE's Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists on 7 April, the dispatch was a response to an alert issued by the Platform after Prime Minister Janez Janša tweeted in late March that the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija was misleading the public, adding "apparently there are too many of you and you are paid too well".

MEPs Milan Zver and Romana Tomc, both members of the senior coalition Democratic Party (SDS) and the European People's Party (EPP) group, expressed belief that Slovenian media had not yet reached EU standards.

"Slovenian media space has been occupied above all by monochrome dominant media outlets which have been in the hands of the old (neo)Communist nomenclature since the beginning," Zver said in a statement for the STA.

"Unfortunately, political pluralism was not followed by media pluralism, one of the pillars of modern democracies," he added.

The dispatch "describes the actual state of affairs of so-called independent journalism and the so-called independent media in Slovenia," Tomc said, adding that the media space in Slovenia is completely "unbalanced".

"Therefore it would be very beneficial if relevant international institutions started more comprehensively dealing with this problem, to which we have been drawing attention for a long time," Tomc added.

Franc Bogovič of the People's Party (SLS), also a member of the EPP, said he wanted to see substantial discussions about social responsibility of the media, as well as plurality and autonomy of Slovenian media.

"Political ideas and individuals on the centre-left political spectrum get a lot more room" in the media, he said, adding that the three biggest daily newspapers are owned by persons from a certain "economic-political-media circle" which is trying to interfere with the state.

Ljudmila Novak of the New Slovenia (NSi), also a member of the EPP group, said that constructive criticism can only be of help to the authorities. She believes that Communist heritage and the influence of left-leaning political parties can still be felt in some media outlets.

"Some political parties, their leadership and membership originate in the former Communist regime. Therefore this can be felt also in some media. Unfortunately, the media under the patronage of some political parties or in their ownership are the least democratic of all."

Meanwhile, MEPs from the ranks of the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), Klemen Grošelj and Irena Joveva, a former journalist for the STA and commercial broadcaster POP TV, said that the dispatch amounted to politically-motivated abuse of state institutions to promote party agenda.

Social Democrat (SD) MEPs Milan Brglez and Tanja Fajon, were also critical. Fajon, also a former journalist who worked for TV Slovenija, said the dispatch was politically-motivated and disgraceful.

She said the dispatch failed to mention contentious funding from Hungary of media close to the SDS, as well as threats by Janša and his supporters to individual journalists.

Brglez meanwhile regretted that Foreign Minister Anže Logar put the interests of his party before the interests of the state. The Foreign Ministry meanwhile denied having drafted the dispatch, while the head of the government Communication Office Uroš Urbanija said the dispatch had been written by his office and that to his knowledge neither Logar nor Janša had been aware of its contents.

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09 Apr 2020, 20:40 PM

All our stories on coronavirus are here, while those covering covid-19 and Croatia are here. We'll have an update at the end of the day, and if you want newsflashes then we'll post those on Facebook

We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists. Today it’s Aleksander Sandi, and you can see more of his work here.

Contents

Coronavirus death toll climbs to 43, confirmed cases reach 1,124

PM says substantial easing of lockdown only after key conditions are met

Passenger flight ban extended again

Non-urgent health services to resume

Coronavirus death toll climbs to 43, confirmed cases reach 1,124

STA, 9 April 2020 - The coronavirus death toll in Slovenia has reached 43 as three people died on Wednesday. The number of confirmed infections rose by 33 to 1,124, show the latest government data.

Hospital data indicates the situation is stabilising, with hospitalisations and intensive care cases flat. A total of 108 persons were in hospital yesterday, of whom 34 in intensive care.

So far 128 persons have been released from hospital, eight of them yesterday, government spokesmen Jelko Kacin said.

Two groups stand out: infections have been confirmed in 225 residents of nursing homes and in 208 health workers, of whom 72 work in nursing homes.

The Šmarje pri Jelšah nursing homes, site of one of the first major outbreaks, remains a hot spot as 137 residents and staff have been infected.

The Slovenian government has not been releasing the details of the death cases for a while quoting protection of personal data, but at least in the early stages of the epidemic the vast majority of fatal cases were in retirement homes.

Kacin said today that there were "a lot of elderly people" among the fatalities.

Hospital data shows that the age structure of the infections is strongly skewed towards the older population. At UKC Ljubljana, all fatalities have been in patients over the age of 60 who had underlying health conditions.

The average age of those hospitalised is 68, with the majority falling in the 50-60 age bracket, Mateja Logar of the infectious diseases clinic told the press today.

Testing in Slovenia continues at roughly the same pace as 1,144 tests were performed yesterday, for a total of 31,813 since testing began.

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PM says substantial easing of lockdown only after key conditions are met

STA, 9 April 2020 - Elaborating on the timeline of the announced easing of coronavirus lockdown measures, PM Janez Janša stressed on Thursday a number of conditions would need to be met before any substantial softening is possible. The government spokesperson Jelko Kacin said movement would remain limited to municipal borders for at least eight more days.

Janša wrote on twitter that a softening of measures would need to be preceded by the transmission rate falling below one. Moreover, the healthcare system must not be under excessive pressure, sufficient testing capacities need to be secured and working instruments need to be in place for the transitional period.

He also wants legal and technical possibilities in place and available at sufficient capacity to monitor those who test positive and to manage a potential spread.

Janša pointed to the ever chancing circumstances globally, for instance in Japan where a state of emergency was declared today even tough Japan was thought to have contained the epidemic during the first wave.

Kacin, the government's spokesperson for the crisis, commented on the situation at the regular daily briefing. He said that the movement of people would remain restricted to municipal borders at least until the weekend next week.

"If we lift the movement restrictions too fast, we will all get the false feeling that the epidemic is behind us and that we're safe. We first need to prepare for this mobility," he said.

He explained the announced easing of retail and service sector restrictions after Easter would be reassessed next Tuesday on the basis of the situation in hospitals. The easing would apply for tyre repair shops, car washes, mechanic shops, and technical goods repair services.

The government is also thinking about relaunching public transport, but Kacin could not yet speak of a timeline.

Meanwhile, opposition parties responded to the developments by mostly stressing the measures needed to be coordinated with experts and that results so far have been good, while they also suggested some restrictions could already be lifted.

The SocDems for instance repeated that people should be allowed to move across municipal borders, although possibly not flock to tourist sites, the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) sees no need to still restrict shopping time for vulnerable groups, while the Left feels the expanded police powers should be cancelled immediately.

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Passenger flight ban extended again

STA, 9 April 2020 - Slovenian air traffic remains restricted as the government yet again extended on Thursday a ban on passenger flights that was already prolonged in late March. Under today's decree, flights within the EU are suspended until 27 April, with the rest banned until further notice.

The ban was originally put in place on 17 March, suspending passenger flights from and to EU countries until 30 March and other flights until further notice. In line with the EU law, the government then extended the ban for two weeks.

The ban does not apply to aircraft transporting cargo or mail, aircraft conducting special transport without passengers or ferry flights, or to foreign planes or helicopters on humanitarian or health missions.

Passenger air traffic has ground to a halt across the world as countries try to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

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Non-urgent health services to resume

STA, 9 April 2020 - The government has decided to allow non-urgent health services to resume under certain conditions after these have been suspended in the efforts to contain the coronavirus epidemic in the country.

A release issued after Thursday's government session says services such as out-patient specialist and diagnostic services, rehabilitation and other non-emergency treatments will be resumed for patients "with negative epidemic anamnesis who do not have symptoms of a respiratory infection and whose health condition could worsen should the health service be omitted or delayed".

Detailed instructions on how the patients will be admitted and handled will be drawn up by a group of experts at the Health Ministry.

The instructions determine preventive and other measures to ensure safe handling of patients and efficient prevention of the spread of Covid-19, as well as how the patient's negative status will be checked.

Non-urgent health services can only be provided by those providers who have the staffing, organisational and technical conditions in place to provide suitable, quality and safe health services.

The decision was taken to disburden primary care providers, ensure a smooth flow of patients from primary to secondary level of care and to provide health care for other patients as soon as possible in as much omission of such services could lead to a deterioration in the patient's health condition.

The change in the relevant decree, which will come into affect the next day after being published in the Official Gazette, is also aimed at reducing the impact of measures taken on the prolonging of waiting times.

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09 Apr 2020, 13:03 PM

The tax office issued a reminder that Thursday 9 April, and not tomorrow is the last date for tax payments (akontacija) by sole proprietors (SP). Anyone who will be late with the payment will not be able to apply for government subsidies related to pandemic relief. This is because tomorrow is a bank holiday, due to Easter.

The application form for two kinds of aid, social contributions waiver and monthly basic income, will be available on eDavki from April 14.

You can apply for a contributions waiver for March for the period from 13 March onwards (due on April 20), April (due on May 20) and for May (due on June 20). If you want to apply for a contributions exemption for March and April, you must submit a statement via eDavaki by April 30. The application deadline for the May contributions waiver is May 31. All applications can be made in one statement.

SPs can also apply via the same statement for the monthly basic income, which amounts to €350 for March, and €700 for April and May.

The conditions for the monthly basic income are the same as the contributions waiver.

- at least a 25% reduction of income in March 2020 compared to February 2020, or

- at least a 50% reduction of income in April or May 2020 compared with the income of February 2020.

Those eligible for help are SPs whose income will decline by more than 20% in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019 and will not exceed 20% growth of revenue in the second half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019 although this is not clear on the official website. If this condition is not met, the beneficiary will have to repay all the aid they have received.

From the website of the Financial Administration of the Republic of Slovenia.

09 Apr 2020, 10:41 AM

STA, 8 April 2020- The programming council of the public broadcaster has come out in defence of independent and professional journalism after several RTV Slovenija crews have been attacked and Prime Minister Janez Janša accused the broadcaster of lying in recent weeks.

In a statement adopted after its tele-session, it condemned attacks on RTV Slovenija's independence and on the professionalism of its journalists.

Noting that constructive criticism is welcome because it can lead to improvement, "the council resolutely rejects all attacks which more or less openly aspire to damage RTV Slovenija's independence and the media professionalism of its staff".

The council said it supported upright journalism regardless of political or religious affiliation of journalists and regardless of their world-view.

It noted Slovenia being amid the Covid-19 epidemic, entering recession and witnessing increased social distress among its residents. But in this complex crisis, public media play an important role of bringing news, providing explanations and opening up debate.

The council said the situation demands great efforts and self-sacrifice also from RTV Slovenija, its leadership, editors, journalists and other staff to bring a professional public service.

Janša accused RTV Slovenija of lying in the first week after his government assumed power amid the coronavirus epidemic in a tweet targeting an interview with a trade unionist who expressed indignation about the government's pay raise. A few days later two TV crews were harassed verbally, with one of them also having the company's vehicle damaged.

08 Apr 2020, 21:21 PM

All our stories on coronavirus are here, while those covering covid-19 and Croatia are here. We'll have an update at the end of the day, and if you want newsflashes then we'll post those on Facebook

We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists. Today it’s Klara Jan, with a poster from a series organised by Tam Tam.

Contents

Four new deaths and 36 new cases of Covid-19 recorded

Minister announces gradual easing of retail and service sector restrictions after Easter

Chinese twin cities rush to provide PPE to Maribor

Questions raised why not cut out intermediaries in PPE supplies

Religious leaders urge believers to stay home

Four new deaths and 36 new cases of Covid-19 recorded

STA, 8 April 2020 - A total of 1,214 Covid-19 tests were performed in Slovenia on Tuesday, with 36 persons confirmed as positive. Four patients have meanwhile died, increasing the death toll to 40, the government has announced.

The total number of confirmed cases is up to 1,091, with 111 Covid-19 patients currently in hospital, after five were discharged yesterday. 35 patients are in intensive care.

So far 30,669 tests for the new coronavirus have been performed in Slovenia. A total of 120 persons diagnosed with Covid-19 have been discharged from hospital.

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Minister announces gradual easing of retail and service sector restrictions after Easter

STA, 8 April 2020 - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšk announced on Wednesday at a government coronavirus crisis briefing that his ministry had proposed a gradual easing of restrictions in place for retail and service businesses after the Easter holidays.

He said tyre repair shops, car washes, mechanic shops, and technical goods repair services would gradually reopen after Easter. Stores selling construction material will also reopen, which is important to ensure self-sufficiency and enable people to work from home, the minister said.

Later, a gradual reopening of stores selling technical goods is planned, meaning shops selling household appliances and furniture.

Počivalšek stressed that the epidemiologic situation would be monitored and that each individual would have to follow recommendations of the Public Health Institute.

Production has not been restricted so far and will also not be restricted in the future, the minister added, noting that employers must provide for the safety of staff.

No coronavirus hotspots have been recorded in production facilities, so in most companies work is running without disturbances, he said.

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Chinese twin cities rush to provide PPE to Maribor

STA, 8 April 2020 - Maribor, Slovenia's second city, has received 10,000 face masks from Hanghzou, its twin city in China, after turning to its partner cities in China for help with the supply of much needed personal protective equipment (PPE). Donations have also been announced by other cities.

The FFP-2 masks that arrived yesterday are essential for staff working with persons infected with coronavirus. They will be distributed to the UKC Maribor hospital, the community health centre, the city's two care homes, home nursing care service and taxi services.

Maribor's twin city Chongqing has pledged a donation of 15,000 FFP-2 masks, while partner cities Nanjing, Huaian and Nanchang have promised a total of 62,000 surgical masks and some thermometers. The donations are due to arrive in the coming days on a special flight organised by the government.

"We are very happy about the great response by our partner cities, which have selflessly rushed to help us even though strict measures to contain the virus remain in force in China," Maribor authorities said, adding that Mayor Saša Arsenovič will thank his Chinese counterparts in a letter.

The city also expressed its gratitude to the Slovenian Consulate in Shanghai and the Embassy in Beijing for assistance with the paperwork and logistics.

Maribor is also benefiting from experience of the Chinese cities in battling Covid-19. Among other things, it has received a handbook on Covid-19 prevention and treatment from Hangzhou, and been offered to get involved in MediXchange for Combating Covid-19, an international project set up by the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba with the Zhejiang University hospital.

The project features a platform to facilitate communication and cross-border cooperation as well as provision of computer capacities and data to enhance key research efforts in the fight against the novel virus. The platform also allows medical staff to communicate in order to share practical experience and information.

Maribor has recorded 22 of the 1,055 confirmed coronavirus cases in Slovenia.

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Questions raised why not cut out intermediaries in PPE supplies

STA, 8 April 2020 - As countries worldwide grapple with how to secure sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus pandemic, Slovenia has also faced the problem of unreliable intermediaries, which the country's chief auditing authority says could be cut out altogether.

Supplies for the country are being ordered by the Agency for Commodity Reserves, which the Economy Ministry says cannot buy directly from Chinese manufacturers because the agency or the state cannot engage in direct financial transactions with subjects in China but can only deal with Slovenian subjects.

"This is not a government's decision, it is a matter of valid legislation," the ministry said in response to media queries about the matter.

However, the newspaper Dnevnik and news portal portal Necenzurirano.si have cited the Court of Audit in reporting that there is no such legal restriction that would prevent the agency from entering into business deals with Chinese suppliers directly.

"Slovenia being an EU member it is obliged to comply with the rules of the EU single market as well. However, public procurement regulations do not provide a basis for limiting public procurement solely to Slovenian bidders," the Court of Audit is quoted by the two media outlets.

Asked by Necenzurirano.si which regulation prevented the agency from buying abroad, the Economy Ministry said that "doing business with foreign subjects in a state of emergency in the global market of protective equipment and agents at the moment would entail excessive risk."

Foreign manufacturers often demand advance payments, and the Agency for Commodity Reserves does not have representatives abroad who could check the suitability and reliability of offers, the ministry explained.

The news portal reported on Monday that the agency had received as early as 23 March an offer from a Chinese PPE manufacturer sent by a group of Slovenian academics via their Chinese colleagues. The Slovenian academics contacted Slovenia also through the PM's office and coordinated technical specification of the equipment with Economy Ministry State Secretary Aleš Cantarutti. The portal's information indicates there are more such direct offers.

The Agency for Commodity Reserves agreed more than EUR 130 million worth of deals with various Slovenian companies over the past three weeks. Most of them are companies that had not supplied such equipment in the past, the portal reports.

The country's anti-graft watchdog has already called on the Court of Audit to review operations of the Agency for Commodity Reserves once the coronavirus emergency has ended.

The opposition Left meanwhile expressed concern that Slovenia could find itself in a repeat of the Patria corruption scandal, in which the Finish defence contractor Patria was accused of handing out kickbacks in return for a multi-million euro order of armoured personnel carriers.

The Left says that the companies importing masks, above all from China, have no previous experience in the field, and that contracts worth upwards of EUR 100 million have been signed in a non-transparent way in recent weeks.

"These have been signed with intermediaries... who should have been cut out. Počivalšek's ministry is enabling provisions and profits from million euro deals by lying that there is no other way," the party said about alleged restrictions in doing business with Chinese companies.

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Religious leaders urge believers to stay home

STA, 8 April 2020 - The top leaders of major religious groups in Slovenia called on believers to stay home, pray and peruse religious texts as they addressed the daily government coronavirus press briefing on Wednesday.

Ljubljana Archbishop Stanislav Zore, bishop of the Slovenian Evangelical Lutheran Church Leon Novak, the head of the Slovenian Jewish Community Boris Čerin-Levi, the Islamic community's leader Mufti Nedžad Grabus and Peran Bošković, the leader of the Ljubljana Serb Orthodox community, stressed observance was important but people should stay home to help contain the spread of coronavirus.

The Slovenian Bishop's Conference has already adopted guidelines on how to celebrate Easter during the epidemic, urging social distancing and protecting public health, said Zore, adding that the organisation followed the example set by the Italian Catholic Church.

The Slovenian Catholic Church acknowledges the role mass ceremonies play in celebrating Easter, however it is also aware of the possible devastating consequences such gatherings could have during an outbreak.

Zore called on the believers to stay at home and help slow the spread of coronavirus. He appealed to them to find comfort in home-based prayers and watch the ceremonies via public broadcaster or social networks.

Novak highlighted the importance of Easter's message which gives people hope in the times of disease, while Bošković noted that the crisis had revealed how helpless people could be. He also stressed the importance of cooperation and solidarity.

While Christians are celebrating Holy Week, the Jewish communities are observing Passover or Pesach. Čerin-Levi described it as a holiday celebrating freedom, adding that living in a free, democratic country such as Slovenia was a privilege "that could be shared regardless of faith, ethnicity, culture or language".

Ramadan, a month of fasting and reflection, is drawing nearer for Islamic communities. "We were looking forward to Ramadan and prayers in the new, long-awaited mosque. Unfortunately, the building is among those closed," said Grabus, adding that the community would heed all the instructions and restrictions imposed to contain the epidemic.

Asked about a potential financial fallout that would affect the clergy due to cancelled ceremonies, Zore said that many priests had been struggling to make ends meet even before the crisis and were supported by a priests' solidarity fund.

He also thanked the government for lending a hand to priests in need of help, a reference to the recently adopted fiscal stimulus bill, which includes a waiver of social contributions for the employees of religious communities.

Novak highlighted that everyone, not just religious communities, had been affected by the crisis and its economic ramifications.

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07 Apr 2020, 21:16 PM

All our stories on coronavirus are here, while those covering covid-19 and Croatia are here. We'll have an update at the end of the day, and if you want newsflashes then we'll post those on Facebook

We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists and designers. Today it’s Janja Rozman and Damjana Sušnik, from Ljubljana Castle. You can see more of this series of posters here.

Contents

Number of detected coronavirus cases up by 35 to 1,055, death toll at 36

All critical groups have enough protective gear to get by, more shipments expected

PM says easing of lockdown could start in a week

Number of detected coronavirus cases up by 35 to 1,055, death toll at 36

STA, 7 April 2020 - The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Slovenia rose by 35 to 1,055 on Monday and six more people died, bringing the death toll to 36, show the latest statistics released by the government. The number of people in hospital care was 111, 31 of which were in intensive care.

The total number of new positive cases was 23 on Sunday, but only 489 tests were conducted on Sunday compared to 1,202 on Monday.

Health authorities have so far performed 29,455 tests, usually conducting around 1,000 per day.

The number of confirmed cases among health staff is 189, while the number of infected elderly in nursing homes has risen to 219.

The number of people discharged from hospital after being treated for Covid-19 increased by 13 to 115 on Monday.

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All critical groups have enough protective gear to get by, more shipments expected

STA, 7 April 2020 - All critical groups in Slovenia currently have enough protective gear to get by, chief of the civil protection service Srečko Šestan told the STA on Tuesday. However, no accumulation of the equipment is possible yet, he added. More shipments of protective gear are expected in the coming days.

Šestan did not go into detail about the expected new shipments, but he said that the civil protection was making room for the gear in its warehouse.

"We expect quite a few big shipments shortly. When the first arrives in Slovenia, we will present the contract and all the details about it," coronavirus crisis spokesperson Jelko Kacin told the press today.

He added the government was planning to report on new purchases of protective gear on a weekly basis. "But as we all know the situation on the market - especially the Chinese - is very difficult. We can hear in the news every day how countries come, pay more for equipment that has already been paid for, and manage to redirect it.

"In such a situation it is very difficult to talk about transparency. But we will inform you on a daily basis on what has been ordered, and how much we will pay for it when it arrives."

Šestan said there was currently no vulnerable group in the country without protective gear. But he admitted that the stock was still not big enough for every citizen to get a mask as many might expect. "We might even come to that, but not in the next few days."

Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek announced on Twitter on Friday that three millions of three-pleat masks were in, and on Saturday he reported of a shipment of 336,000 three-pleat masks and 10,800 protective suits.

The Slovenian aviation portal Sierra5 meanwhile reported that a Boeing 777-300 of the Russian airline Nordwind Airlines had touched down today at the Ljubljana airport, bringing medical equipment from China.

The portal said that the passenger aircraft had brought 40 tonnes of equipment, mostly three-pleat face masks, to Slovenia.

The 24ur news portal reported that it was a private donation. This was later confirmed for the STA by the Economy Ministry, which added that the donor wished to remain anonymous.

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PM says easing of lockdown could start in a week

STA, 7 April 2020 - PM Janez Janša has announced that some of the restrictive measures related to the coronavirus epidemic could perhaps be eased as early as next Tuesday, provided that certain conditions, including the stability of the healthcare system, are met. Janša was critical of developments in the EU, including of the lack of support for corona bonds.

In a special announcement on Tuesday evening, Janša said that the government was examining the possibility of relaunching manufacturing, part of the services sector, commerce and transport if protective measures are implemented.

Provided that the epidemic eases further, that testing is expanded at critical points such as nursing homes and that infections are better controlled, some restrictions of movement could also be gradually eased, the prime minister added.

"But we must be aware of the undeniable fact that an alternative to loosing supervision of the source of the contagion can only be drastic restriction of contacts."

Janša suggested that the healthcare system was still exposed, as almost a fifth of all infested persons in Slovenia are healthcare workers. "The curve of the spreading of the virus is no longer climbing steeply, it is more horizontal, but it is still not dropping."

He added that without control of infected persons and additional testing of their contacts, it would not be possible to scale down the current movement restrictions only to a few areas.

Janša noted that people sticking to the restriction of movement to the municipal boundaries had significantly reduced the possibility of new infections and creation of new hot spots last week.

He also called for understanding of the "fact that we cannot ease certain measures as quickly as the countries which reacted to the epidemic days or even weeks ahead of us, while they were also institutionally ready, unlike us."

Meanwhile, Janša also voiced criticism of the EU, saying "European solidarity, which depends solely on the institutions of the EU, does not exist in practice when it comes to protective equipment".

"Since the start of the epidemic we've not received a single mask, a single piece of protective equipment, not a single ventilator from the EU. Not a single so called joint European procurement procedure has been completed with even one supply case," he said.

Janša commended the ECB and European commission on easing aid rules, but added: "However, the key instrument, so called corona bonds...still do not have sufficient support from the wealthiest EU members. This is the point where the future of our joint currency is weighed today, as well as the future of the EU."

Meanwhile, the opposition Left and Social Democrats (SD) again called on the government to lift the ban on non-essential travel between municipalities, arguing that a vast majority of people are sticking to the lockdown measures.

The SD said that citizens were disciplined and protected their own health and health of their families, adding that the ban on travel outside the municipality of the permanent or temporary residence was "nonsensical and excessive."

Left MP Matej T. Vatovec said that "we see that the things are moving slightly forward, and we hope that the government will also realise that certain measures were premature and that it will start taking steps back."

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07 Apr 2020, 14:41 PM

All our stories on coronavirus are here, while those covering covid-19 and Croatia are here. We'll have an update at the end of the day, and if you want newsflashes then we'll post those on Facebook

We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists. Today it’s Xenia Guzej. You can see more of her work here.

Contents

Healthcare system preparing Covid-19 exit strategy

Covid-19 hotline becomes barometer of public atmosphere

Fiscal Council finds government coronavirus measures justified

Do Foreigners Feel Safer in Slovenia?

Healthcare system preparing Covid-19 exit strategy

STA, 7 April 2020 - After focussing all resources on Covid-19 patients and emergency cases since mid-March, the Slovenian healthcare system is preparing to gradually reopen to other patients while taking stringent precautionary measures. Hospitals have already received instructions from the Ministry of Health to start accepting other patients.

Because of the coronavirus epidemic, hospitals and other health institutions around the country have limited their services to treating emergency cases, cancer patients, child deliveries and paediatric cases.

But medical experts have been issuing increasingly dire warnings that such a regime must not last too long. Tit Albreht from the Public Health Institute has said a plan should be made before the summer on how to reactivate the healthcare system so as to prevent long-term detrimental effects on the population.

If patients with chronic diseases do not receive proper treatment this will become a big problem, he told the STA.

"You cannot freeze healthcare for 18 months or a year, because you run the risk of losing more patients to various other problems and chronic disease than to the epidemic," said Albreht, who is in charge of the Health Security Centre at the institute.

"A person who needs an operation, which may not be urgently needed right now, will have to be operated in a few months because by then it may become urgent."

In the first phase of the exit strategy, the country's biggest hospital, UKC Ljubljana, plans to start accepting patients with the level of urgency (which is indicated on referrals) 'fast', next to the 'urgent' and 'very fast' that it is accepting now.

UKC Ljubljana kept its hospital activity at 80% throughout the epidemic, according to Zlatko Fras, medical director of the internal clinic at UKC.

Doctors are dealing with some urgent cases alongside emergency cases via telephone or e-mail and the two channels will be used in the future as well.

"The backlog of a month or a month and a half will not be easy to make up but we'll do our best," Fras said. Specialist appointments and diagnostics will be increased gradually, he said.

According to the head of the gastroenterological unit at UKC, Borut Štabuc, endoscopic procedures will be launched again soon, and all patients with the level of urgency 'fast' and 'very fast' should be able to get treatment by the end of the month.

In order for all these patients to receive treatment, afternoon appointments will be introduced just like for cancer patients and patients with inflammatory bowel disease who are receiving biological drugs. The clinic also plans to work on Saturdays.

The head of the nephrology unit at UKC Ljubljana, Miha Arnol, said the epidemic had not changed much for dialyse patients, so 260-270 of them had been receiving regular treatment despite the epidemic. All patients are being tested for coronavirus and three cases of infections have been confirmed so far.

Patients with transplants are a very sensitive group as well. The condition of those in early stages after transplantation is being monitored using telemedicine, while transplant activity for non-urgent cases has been suspended. "We are conducting about 1,500 check-ups a day, which is about a third of all check-ups conducted before the epidemic," Arnol said.

UKC Ljubljana is now taking in the most demanding cases from all over the country, especially in cases requiring specialists in ophthalmology, neurology, dental medicine and otorhinolaryngology. The paediatric clinic is working with the most vulnerable children.

Annually about a million people are examined at UKC Ljubljana and some 100,000 people are hospitalised. UKC Ljubljana has about a third of all hospital capabilities in the country and during the epidemic, about 1,000 patients are at the hospital on a daily basis, about 50 of whom are Covid-19 patients.

Meanwhile, at UKC Maribor, 512 patients with conditions other than Covid-19 are hospitalised at the moment, and the hospital is treating all patients with the level of urgency 'urgent' and 'very fast'.

Several hundred such patients are treated daily, which is three times less than in the same period last year, Matjaž Vogrin, the hospital's medical director, told public broadcaster RTV Slovenija late last night. The number of hospitalised patients is 40% lower than in the same period last year.

Vogrin stressed in the Odmevi late news show that no member of the medical staff had gotten infected with coronavirus at the hospital so far, which showed that protective measures were working.

Currently, special medical councils are going through medical files to determine the order in which the hospital will start admitting other patients that need treatment.

Dušan Deisinger, medical director of the Izola hospital, told Odmevi they had no Covid-19 patients at the moment and were accepting only urgent cases and patients who need treatment very fast. The number of hospitalised patients is about a third of what the hospital had before the epidemic.

The hospital will now start accepting more patients in line with the ministry's recommendation.

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Covid-19 hotline becomes barometer of public atmosphere

STA, 7 April 2020 - The UKC Ljubljana hospital launched a coronavirus crisis hotline four weeks ago, as Covid-19 contagion started taking hold in Slovenia. The call centre, manned by a crew of senior medical students guided by mentors, has since become much more than a hotline, growing into what is seen as a barometer of public atmosphere.

The centre is doing a very important job, government speaker Jelko Kacin said on Monday. It takes hundreds of calls a day and is in direct contact with the people, allowing an insight into which measures need to be clarified and what the people are worried about, as well as what they are happy with.

He said that the government looked into all the proposals forwarded to the call centre with care, one of them being the recent reopening of florists' shops and nurseries.

The hotline is available every day of the week at 080 1404 between 8am and 8pm, with callers having to wait for a response no longer than 30 seconds on average, said Mojca Matičič of the Ljubljana Infectious Diseases Clinic, which launched the hotline.

In total, the hotline was called more than 21,000 times, with the highest numbers, about 1,200 a day, reached after the government announced the closure of schools and presented the crisis stimulus package.

Matičič praised the team working in the centre, saying they were not only very knowledgeable but also showed a lot of empathy, commitment and dedication, and were very good in appeasing some callers, while warning others.

She said the basic purpose of the call centre to provide reliable information to the public has long since been surpassed, adding that the subject of the calls varied from one week to another, depending on the developments in the country.

In the first two weeks, people were calling in to ask about Covid-19 testing and the closure of borders and schools. Then they were calling about the use of protective gear, social distancing and movement restrictions, whereas most recently they are more worried about care provided by retirement homes and the functioning of the healthcare system.

Some callers also phone in to report people breaking quarantine and self-isolation and are steered to the relevant inspection services.

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Fiscal Council finds government coronavirus measures justified

STA, 7 April 2020 - The body overseeing Slovenia's adherence to the fiscal rule has endorsed the measures taken by the government to contain the coronavirus epidemic and mitigate its consequences, finding that extensive and multi-layered effective action by the government has been warranted.

The Fiscal Council, in a release issued on Tuesday, ascertained that the Slovenian government's measures were for the most part in agreement with recommendations by international organisations and by scope comparable to measures taken by other countries.

"Despite the temporary departure from fiscal sustainability over the mid-term being justified and taking into account the discussions upon the passage of the [EUR 3 billion stimulus] law, we are calling on all stakeholders that in taking further measures they follow even more than in the process so far the principles of the targeted nature of the measures addressing the consequences of the epidemic, their simplicity and time limitations," reads the release.

Considering the increased social and economic uncertainty and the substantial cost to public finances, the Fiscal Council recommends a more careful consideration as to when or in which phase of the battle against the epidemic certain measures would be the most effective and when potential stimulus measures would be needed to restart the economy.

The council says that it will crucially depend on the combination of the measures taken and their implementation whether the Slovenian economy will await the end of the epidemic in a shape that will allow it to exit the crisis as fast as possible.

A fast exit from the crisis and restoration of trust is one of the urgent conditions required to ensure social security and economic prosperity as well as to maintain fiscal sustainability in the long term.

International organisations recommend taking measures in a sequence that best addresses individual fields affected. "On those recommendations it is first necessary to ensure suitable means meet the health system's needs. In the next phase it is necessary to see to preserving jobs and allowing the economy to function as normally as possible."

Back in March, the Fiscal Council said that declaring an epidemic allowed temporary deviation from the mid-term structural budget balance. Given the projections of a substantial economic contraction, the measures taken will result in a high general government deficit and will push up government debt.

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07 Apr 2020, 10:16 AM

STA, 6 April 2020 - The government-sponsored amendments that would set down the National Assembly's course of action in case of a referendum initiative challenging a law that cannot be challenged under the constitution is likely to garner the needed two-thirds majority in parliament to pass, judging by parties' indications.

The Public Administration Ministry told the STA on Monday that the coalition had pledged its full support for the amendments to the referendum law, while the only opposition faction to voice its vocal dissent was the Left.

Speaking to the STA, the head of the Left's deputy faction, Matej T. Vatovec confirmed their opposition but said that they were yet to decide whether they would vote against the proposal or abstain.

Noting that the same solutions had been under discussion in the previous term, Vatovec said the Left was against restrictions to the referendum initiative in principle. The party has also voted against the constitutional amendment that sets forth when a referendum cannot be called.

The constitutional amendments passed in 2013 ban referendums on laws deemed vital for the country's defence and security or tackling the consequences of natural disasters, along with laws dealing with taxes, budget implementation, ratification of international treaties, and laws correcting existing unconstitutional provisions.

Vatovec believes the motive behind the latest change to the referendum law is the government's desire to enforce laws as fast as possible, which he finds contentious because it means all laws could presume retroactivity and because he believes referendum is not a mechanism whereby constitutionality or technical issues are established, but rather an expression of people's disagreement with a political course taken.

Information available to the STA indicates that the opposition Social Democrats (SD) have no major misgivings about the government proposal, whereas the former prime minister's Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) has some, so it plans to table amendments and then decide on how to vote depending on the discussion and amendments passed.

The deputy groups of the opposition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) and National Party (SNS) told the STA the government could count on their support, with SNS leader Zmago Jelinčič adding that he hoped the new provisions would not be abused.

Under the new amendments, the laws that cannot be challenged in a referendum could be promulgated as soon as the upper chamber's potential reservations ceased.

Under exiting law, the speaker of the lower chamber sends laws to the head of state to promulgate them on the eighth day after adoption, except when a referendum initiative or a veto by the upper chamber has been submitted in the meantime.

President Borut Pahor, who promulgates laws, expressed support for the amendments, saying that they would allow greater efficiency in a democratic way and within the "framework of the constitution and law".

"The proposal is strong proof that both the executive and legislative branches want to act in line with the constitution in these extraordinary circumstances. This is also my wish as president," he added.

Noting that a two-thirds majority in parliament was needed, Pahor said that it was "right that a broad discussion is held, that possible reservations are expressed, but that the amendments are eventually passed".

The president assessed the safeguards as sufficient, as "the right to referendum is not being taken away, but the implementation of a low is only being sped up", adding that only measures which were really necessary should be adopted this way.

The amendments to the referendum law would cut short procedures to enact measures to fight the coronavirus epidemic and mitigate its consequences.

The National Council, the upper chamber of parliament, has already expressed its plan to actively avoid vetoing emergency laws in order to accelerate their implementation, and has already demonstrated its commitment by waiving its right to veto the EUR 3 billion stimulus package.

The government has proposed for the referendum reform bill to be passed by emergency procedure, which the college of deputy groups endorsed today.

The bill will be first read by the parliamentary Interior Affairs and Local Government Committee on Tuesday morning and then at the plenary in the afternoon.

06 Apr 2020, 21:04 PM

All our stories on coronavirus are here, while those covering covid-19 and Croatia are here. We'll have an update at the end of the day, and if you want newsflashes then we'll post those on Facebook

We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists. Today it’sPatricija Selič, with one of series of posters organised by Tam Tam, with the rest here.

Contents

Some industries could be restarted after Easter holidays

Retail chamber hopes shops could reopen after Easter

Farm organisations urge measures to mitigate damage to sector

Vast majority of drivers stick to inter-municipal travel ban

Some industries could be restarted after Easter holidays

STA, 6 April 2020 - The government is preparing measures to enable some industries in Slovenia to relaunch their operations immediately after the Easter holidays if the current trend in the number of persons diagnosed with Covid-19 continues, government spokesman Jelko Kacin announced on Monday.

"The government could examine as early as this week measures which would enable the re-start of certain branches of industry already after the Easter holidays, if this positive trend continues," Kacin said.

He explained that the positive trend meant that there was no excessive, or no increase at all over the holidays in the number of patients who needed hospital care, intensive care in particular.

Asked by the press what measures these could be, Kacin said that coordination meetings were still being held and that the government would need to hold a session on this topic. Once a final decision is made, it will be presented to the public.

He praised citizens for sticking to the restrictive measures, which he said was confirmed by the number of new infections, as it was not increasing as steeply as last week.

"We are not recording a downward trend yet, we are still not in a phase where there are no new infections. So let all of us be patient and hold on for a few more weeks so that we beat the epidemic together," Kacin added.

The government meanwhile continues to discuss additional measures to mitigate the impact of the epidemic on the economy and individuals, with Prime Minister Janez Janša holding a meeting with trade union representatives in Brdo pri Kranju today.

A task force headed by Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj has also met, and the government is also in talks with trade unions about measures in education and welfare, Kacin said, adding that details would be presented tomorrow.

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Retail chamber hopes shops could reopen after Easter

STA, 6 April 2020 - The Slovenian Chamber of Commerce (TZS) hopes the first stores which have been subject to closure since 16 March due to the coronavirus epidemic will reopen after Easter in less than a week. The chamber thus plans to make an assessment of the situation this week and draft a proposal for their reopening.

TZS president Mariča Lah told the STA on Monday that the assessment will take into account the number of Covid-19 patients in the country. "If the situation in the country improves, stores may begin to open. But if it worsens, they will likely have to remain closed."

Allowed to operate under the government decree are grocery stores, stores carrying farming products, pharmacies, petrol stations, as well as banks, postal offices, delivery services, news agents and online stores.

Since 3 April, florist's shops and plant nurseries have also been open, while the government has also allowed construction work to take place on construction sites where builders do not have direct contact with clients.

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Farm organisations urge measures to mitigate damage to sector

STA, 6 April 2020 - Slovenian agriculture organisations have raised concern about "huge" damage to business due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, urging a series of measures on Monday, including curbs on meat imports and increased purchase of produce for national commodity reserves.

Farm organisations from the north-east of the country, the centre of Slovenia's farming sector, report serious disruption in sales of meat, dairy and wine and the damage suffered by complementary activities such as farmsteads.

Citing unofficial information about a surge in meat imports recently, the organisations say that many farms are unable to sell livestock and pigs due to a lack of interest by the purchasers at home and closure of foreign markets.

With foreign markets closing up fast, the organisations also expect excess supply of milk as early as this month, calling for an increase in purchasing by the National Agency for Commodity Reserves.

Sales in the wine sector have all but ground to a halt. On top of that, abundant crop in 2018 and 2019 could leave the Podravje winemakers with enormous surpluses of wine in the autumn, which in turn would send prices tumbling and spell out a wine sector crisis that could last for years.

In a proposal set out on Monday, the organisations are calling for minimum buy-in prices to be set in all the affected sectors, stepping up border controls of meat imports and weekly reporting on the imports. They want a halt on imports of meat and timber.

The organisations are also urging the government to ensure livestock and milk are bought up to increase national commodity reserves, also so that milk could be distributed to groups at risk.

They believe all business subjects in the food chain that are granted state aid due to the pandemic should be made to commit to buying mainly produce, livestock and foodstuffs of Slovenian origin during and after the crisis.

Among other things, they also demand allowances for the loss of income during the epidemic, for farmers to pay VAT only after their invoices are paid, and extending aid for the self-employed to farmers. They moreover disagree with restriction of movement to municipality of residence because it interferes with direct selling.

Similar calls have been addressed to the government by the trade union of Slovenian farmers, among others. The government has been given the discretion to intervene in the agricultural markets in one in the series of laws already passed to mitigate the coronavirus crisis.

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Vast majority of drivers stick to inter-municipal travel ban

STA, 6 April 2020 - The statistics provided by the police shows that a vast majority of drivers respect the ban on non-urgent travel between municipalities, as only 103 drivers out of 3,348 ones checked at the weekend violated it. Mayors of coastal municipalities also report that most of the people stuck to the rule over the weekend.

The police carried out 3,348 checks over the weekend in a campaign involving 139 officers and issued 69 warnings and reporting 34 to the relevant inspectorate, shows a report on the website of the police released on Monday.

The report says that people mostly respect the limitations, while the police frequently take into account the personal circumstances of potential violators. Those who violate the rules out of negligence are sent back home.

The most frequent excuses are visits and care of grandparents, visits to relatives or friends, plumbing work for a friend, gardening work in another municipality or visit to grandchildren.

The report notes that some of the violators said they were looking for protective equipment and that police officers have found that "some drivers are very skilful in justifying their travel during the lockdown".

In the period between 30 March when the measure entered into force and last Sunday, the police have issued 1,366 warnings, and reported 1,574 persons to the Health Inspectorate. There is no statistics on the total number of checks performed.

The mayors of the coastal municipalities, where heavy traffic and gathering of larger groups of people were still recorded at the 28-29 March weekend, report that people mostly stuck to the rules over the last weekend.

Izola Mayor Danilo Markočič told the STA today that "people have respected the instructions and if at all, they went on walks in small groups, mostly families or couples".

Piran Mayor Đenio Zadković, who was among the first to point to visits from other parts of Slovenia to the coast, praised the measure that came after their "emergency call" and also thanked the locals for taking the instruction seriously.

Security services, police and health inspectors did not record any major violations in Koper, either. "People understand and respect the restrictions, which are needed if we want to contain the epidemic," the municipality said.

Italians also rarely cross into Slovenia. The Koper Police Department has told the STA that only a few Italian citizens were recorded daily at the open border crossings, and some of them get rejected.

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06 Apr 2020, 14:53 PM

All our stories on coronavirus are here, while those covering covid-19 and Croatia are here. We'll have an update at the end of the day, and if you want newsflashes then we'll post those on Facebook

We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists and designers Today it’s Damjan Tomažin. This is part of series presented by Tam Tam, and you can see the rest here.

Contents

Coronavirus death toll in Slovenia rises to 30 as infections top 1,000

Health official says epidemic easing but much still depends on people's behavior

Hospitals in Slovenia got nearly 70 new ventilators last week

Coronavirus death toll in Slovenia rises to 30 as infections top 1,000

STA, 6 April 2020 - Two persons infected with Covid-19 died in Slovenia on Sunday, bringing the death toll to 30. The number of confirmed infections rose by 24 in a day to 1,021, show the latest statistics released by the government.

The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital rose by six to 114 but is still below the end of March peak of 120. Of those, 30 were in intensive care, one fewer than on Saturday.

A total of 102 persons have recovered enough to be discharged from hospital.

Health authorities have so far performed 28,253 tests, up 489 in a day. While the figure is below the daily average of 1,000-plus, fewer tests are typically performed during weekends.

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Health official says epidemic easing but much still depends on people's behavior

STA, 6 April 2020 - The head of the Koper unit of the the Public Health Institute (NIJZ) Milan Krek told the press on Monday that the current measures had helped turn the curve of new daily Covid-19 cases in Slovenia. He however urged caution, saying future behaviour will determine whether the epidemic calms or cases rise from 1,000 to 10,000.

 Krek assessed at the government's regular briefing that Slovenia would have been looking at 480,000 Covid-19 cases and 90,000 deaths had containment measures not been adopted. Had the epidemic evolved the way it did in Lombardy in neighbouring Italy, 800 people would have died in Slovenian so far as opposed to 30.

"The virus doesn't have legs of wings and cannot spread on its own. It is only people who can allow it to spread by behaving inappropriately and disregarding safe movement rules," he said, urging that these rules continue be observed, or else the curve "can quickly turn into a much worse direction".

Welcoming the lockdown measures currently in place, he noted a seven-day fluctuation pattern in the number of cases, which he said "was the result of imprudent behaviour and travelling during the past weekends".

Krek highlighted the cancellation, at the eleventh hour on 7 March, of a concert by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli scheduled at Ljubljana's Stožice Arena as a major moment.

"We were edging on a disaster which could have started after the concert. The Italian tragedy started at a football match where over 40,000 people came together," he said.

Pointing to a model by a London institute, Krek said a failure to use social distancing would have led to 7 billion infections around the world and 40 million deaths. If key measures are adopted and observed these numbers can be reduced to 2.5 billion and 10 million respectively.

Meanwhile, commenting on opinion discrepancies among experts, including in Slovenia, he said opinions among experts were never uniform. He believes a united position will be reached in the end "so that all is right".

"I do not see the tensions between experts, epidemiologists and within the NIJZ as a problem. It is good that a discussion is developing and that we can talk freely and look for common points," he said.

He also welcomed the much debated government orders for compulsory use of masks indoors and disinfecting of multi-home buildings.

"The stricter the measures, the better, since transmission is reduced. We believe that the current measures suffice, since we are seeing a decline in new daily cases," Krek said.

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Hospitals in Slovenia got nearly 70 new ventilators last week

STA, 6 April 2020 - Slovenia has been acquiring medical and protective equipment to better face the coronavirus epidemic for weeks, with gear coming in also from corporate donors. Last week, the Commodity Reserves Agency delivered 66 mechanical ventilators to hospitals, as well as 1.83 million tri-layer face masks and over 401,000 FFP2 masks.

Economic Development and Technology Minister Zdravko Počivalšek has tweeted that other institutions have also received masks. He is also very excited about the launch of mask production in Slovenia, saying that half a million masks would be produced this week alone.

Last week, the agency delivered 270,000 masks made in Slovenia, as well as more than 10,000 disinfectants and nearly 7,400 items of other equipment, Počivalšek also tweeted today.

Nearly two weeks ago, the government announced that it had ordered, among other things, more than 570 ventilators, which are to be delivered in 60 days.

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