Politics

01 Apr 2020, 20:28 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 Tjaša Derstvenšek, from the agency Pristop. You can see more of thois series of posters Contents

Extended police powers to be thrown out of anti-coronavirus legislation

No major violations of stricter movement rules

Disadvantaged students to get equipment for online classes

Govt Drops Plans to Expand Police Powers

STA, 1 April 2020 - The coalition has backtracked somewhat the decision to extend the powers of the police force for the purpose of controlling the Covid-19 epidemic. Amendments filed by the coalition on Wednesday strike out the possibility of the police to track people in quarantine without a court warrant, create photo robots and enter apartments.

The coalition decided against allowing this after experts and lay public expressed concerns. Information Commissioner Mojca Prelesnik said yesterday that this would in effect amount to Slovenia becoming a police state.

Echoing the view of several opposition parties, Prelesnik moreover said it was inappropriate for additional police powers to be put in the same legislative package as economic measures meant to mitigate the coronavirus crisis. This was also echoed by the Human Rights Ombudsman.

Coalition MPs however said in the amendments that this will create more work for the health inspectorate and that the police force would only be able to assist it.

The legislative package aiming to limit the spread of the coronavirus epidemic still entails that the police force will be able to search for people, use photo facial recognition, set up road blocks, temporarily prevent the movement of people and collect and process data.

Interior Minister Aleš Hojs has said several times that the police force does not want additional powers to restrict people's movement in any way or interfere in human rights.

These measures are included in a massive anti-coronavirus legislative package currently being discussed by the parliamentary Finance Committee. If the committee manages to get through more than 100 amendments today, the package will be discussed at a plenary tomorrow.

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No major violations of stricter movement rules

STA, 1 April 2020 - Residents in Slovenia mostly respect the movement restrictions introduced on Monday to contain the Covid-19 epidemic, moving largely within their own municipality, the General Police Department told the STA on Wednesday.

There are a few exceptions to the rule, allowing Slovenians to go to another municipality to go to work, do farm work, provide assistance to persons in need of care, and to access emergency services, pharmacies, diplomatic missions and judicial authorities.

In controlling compliance with the new restrictions, the police apply common sense as long as people respect safety measures.

However, those who break the rules for negligence or ignorance are told to return to their home municipality.

The police have no powers to carry out procedures related to violations of the contagious diseases law, so in case of suspected violation, they notify health inspectors.

On Monday alone, as many as 107 cases were referred to the health inspection service, and in 85 cases, the police warned people of inappropriate conduct.

The government decree on the new restrictions does not mention the employer's note proving a person has to move to another municipality for work.

But the police say any note proving the person's intended movements makes checking the movement is justified easier.

In Ljubljana, the police and health inspectors are assisted by city wardens, firefighters, mountain rescuers and Civil Protection members in controlling compliance, the Ljubljana municipality said.

City wardens and health inspectors usually monitor areas around chemists, primary schools, kindergartens, petrol stations, playgrounds, parks and similar public areas.

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Disadvantaged students to get equipment for online classes

STA, 1 April 2020 - Students from disadvantaged families will receive on Thursday a donation of tablet computers and modems to get mobile internet access and participate in online classes as schools are shut down due to the coronavirus epidemic. The campaign continues as many other donors are expected to join in.

Mail carriers of the national postal company will distribute 171 tablet computers and 482 modems tomorrow to disadvantaged students in a campaign coordinated by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport.

In addition to the ministry and the postal company, the campaign also includes the National Education Institute, telecommunication companies A1 and Telekom Slovenije, the banks NKBM and Abanka, and IT company Actual.

Minister Simona Kustec said that this was only the first shipment, adding that the donation had encouraged other companies and individuals to donate additional equipment to enable students to follow online courses.

"Not all children in Slovenia being able to learn remotely in 2020 is unacceptable," NKBM chairman and Abanka supervisor John Denhof explained the banks' decision to join the campaign.

A1 chairman Tomaž Seljak said that the "situation also brings opportunities to gain new knowledge", and Telekom Slovenije CEO Tomaž Seljak added that the company had also enabled residents of nursing homes to communicate with their relatives online.

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01 Apr 2020, 20:09 PM

STA, 1 April 2020 - Three teams of journalists of the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija have been assaulted in recent days; in two cases they were harassed verbally, and in another the company's vehicle was damaged. The incidents have drawn condemnation by Slovenia's top officials and Journalists' Association (DNS).

RTV Slovenija reported of a verbal assault and damage to the company vehicle in the Odmevi late night show on Tuesday evening, noting the attack had been reported to police.

According to the broadcaster, police unofficially stated that an increase in violence in society had been detected in these challenging times. The broadcaster stressed that any form of violence was unacceptable and called for tolerance.

The same call was made in the Odmevi show by Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina.

The DNS said today that in the first case journalists had been verbally assaulted by the head of the Velenje municipal administration, Iztok Mori, a few days ago, in the second incident that happened on Tuesday, an unknown perpetrator in Ljubljana first threatened a team of journalists and then cut the tyres on the vehicle of the camera crew, while the third assault happened this morning.

In the incident, a team of journalists from the Dobro jutro (Good morning) show from the Maribor regional centre was harassed while making an interview in a street in Maribor.

RTV Slovenija reported the two most recent cases to police, the DNS noted, condemning both assaults.

Any assault on journalists, who are conducting their work in line with professional and ethical standards, is completely unacceptable, especially in times of crisis, when reporting is crucial to keep the public informed, the association said.

"As a society we may not accept a situation in which verbal and also physical assaults become occupational risk that journalists are exposed to while on the job."

The association has prepared a set of instructions for journalists who are targets of threats or attacks or on-line harassment. It has also called on all journalists to report all threats to police and urged their employers to provide journalists with the necessary support.

The attacks were condemned by senior officials and parties, including Prime Minister Janez Janša, who tweeted: "We condemn any form of street violence targeting journalists or anyone else, as well as any instigating of such acts".

The assaults were also denounced by the opposition Social Democrats (SD) and the junior coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC).

On his Twitter profile, Public Administration Minister Boštjan Koritnik, an SMC member, described intimidation of journalists and their work as an unacceptable and abject act. "During the Covid-19 epidemic journalists are risking their own health to keep the public accurately informed about the developments, for which I'm truly grateful to them."

The SMC added that at this time in particular the need was for powerful, loud and autonomous media that make sure that the public is informed on the developments.

The SD condemned violence by anyone against anyone in the strongest term on its Twitter account, adding that there was no democracy without free and independent media, and urging the government to establish conditions immediately allowing journalists free and safe work.

"I condemn the intimidation that journalists are subject to in the strongest terms! At a time when those in power want to curb democratic standards in the country through various legal acts, media independence and confidence are the more important," SD leader Dejan Židan tweeted, adding that the party would do everything to protect democracy.

01 Apr 2020, 12:59 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, from a series of posters organised by Tam Tam. You can see more of them here.

Contents

Number of coronavirus cases up by 39 to 841, death toll at 15

Solutions sought as Covid-19 situation in nursing homes escalates

Four more crossings on Slovenia-Austria border to close

Dozens more Slovenians returning home

Number of coronavirus cases up by 39 to 841, death toll at 15

STA, 1 April 2020 - A total of 1,288 tests for the new coronavirus were performed in Slovenia on Tuesday, with 39 new Covid-19 cases confirmed to increase the total number of confirmed cases to 841. The death toll increased to 15 by the end of Tuesday as two more persons died.

The government said on Twitter that a total of 119 Covid-19 patients were in hospital, the same number as on Monday, of whom 31 are in intensive care.

Nursing homes remain hot spots for the disease, with 137 residents and 30 healthcare workers employed in nursing homes having contracted the disease.

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Solutions sought as Covid-19 situation in nursing homes escalates

STA, 1 April 2020 - Nearly a fifth of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Slovenia have been in nursing homes, which have been described by a health official as a "battlefield" that would determine the future course of the epidemic. Authorities are looking for solutions and have also urged families of nursing home residents to secure domestic care if possible.

The latest data put the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases at 841, 137 of which are or were residents of what are around 115 nursing homes in Slovenia. Staff working in nursing comes accounts for another 30 cases.

The nursing homes in Metlika and Šmarje pri Jelšah as the first hotspots have been joined in recent days by the Ljutomer home, where the latest figure of confirmed cases is 22, 20 of which are residents. Confirmed cases have been reported in at least eight of Slovenia's 100-plus nursing homes.

While the confirmed death toll for Šmarje pri Jelšah stands at six and in Metlika at least four have died, new data on lethal cases among nursing home residents is not available as the authorities no longer disclose the age or location details of each death case.

Facing a situation where nursing homes are completely full, meaning it is hard to organise isolation measures, and warnings about insufficient staff and protective equipment at nursing homes, authorities initially responded with an reallocation of healthcare staff.

The government's coronaviurs crisis spokesperson Jelko Kacin spoke on Tuesday of the effectiveness of what had been a timely relocation in Metlika. He said talks were under way on relocation possibilities and that specific solutions would be drawn up for each nursing home.

The director of the Golnik clinic for pulmonary diseases Aleš Rozman spoke at length about the situation as Tuesday's press conference and also called on families of nursing home residents who are able to do that to take them home so as to facilitate relocation.

The call was echoed today by Labour Ministry State Secretary Mateja Ribič: "We call on the families to take this on with all seriousness and with the awareness that it will not be possible to readmit their loved one to he home during the epidemic."

Ribič highlighted a number of protective measures put in place at nursing home, while she also said she could guarantee that all nursing homes that urgently need protective equipment will receive it.

Meanwhile, Rozman described on Tuesday nursing homes as a "battlefield" that would determine the future trajectory of the epidemic.

"We are afraid of small epidemics in nursing homes completely saturating our healthcare system and leave us facing unnecessary casualties," he added.

Task forces have been established, comprising experts from hospitals and primary care, with the priority task of preventing the spreading of the virus in nursing homes with confirmed Covid-19 cases.

They will also examine the transfer routes and try to prevent infections in nursing homes where there are no confirmed cases yet, Rozman added.

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Four more crossings on Slovenia-Austria border to close

STA, 1 April 2020 - Only nine points on the Slovenian-Austrian border will be open as of 2 April after the Austrian government has put in place additional restrictions to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The border points at Karavanke, Šentilj (the motorway and rail crossing), Gornja Radgona and Kuzma will operate around the clock. Trate, Radlje and Ljubelj will be open from 5am to 9pm, while Vič will be open between 5am and 11pm.

Holmec, Jurij, Korensko Sedlo and the crossing in Šentilj that is on the main road will be closed, the Slovenian Foreign Ministry announced on Twitter on Wednesday.

Austria had initially closed dozens on crossing points as of 18 March. On 27 March Slovenia reintroduced police checks on what is the EU's internal border and introduced 13 points of crossing.

There are now restrictions in place on all of Slovenia's borders, either introduced by Slovenia or by the neighbouring countries.

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Dozens more Slovenians returning home

STA, 1 April 2020 - Dozens Slovenians returned home on Wednesday on flights organised by the Foreign Ministry. Around midnight a plane from Lisbon carrying 16 Slovenians touched down, and another 20 citizens arrived home from Thailand, the Philippines and Switzerland by bus from the Zurich airport. They will all go into 14-day self-isolation.

A plane from Helsinki is expected to land in Ljubljana tonight, bringing 45 passengers from Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and Italy through Copenhagen. About half of the passengers will be Slovenians.

Prior to picking up the passengers destined to Slovenia, the plane will have carried 29 citizens of Scandinavian and Baltic countries, and Iceland to Helsinki, the ministry told the STA.

According to Andrej Šter, the head of the Foreign Ministry's consular service, a larger, 200-seat plane is to take off from London by the end of the week, carrying Slovenian citizens who want to return from the UK and Ireland.

This week at least ten Slovenians should return from the US to Budapest onboard a Hungarian plane.

The ministry, which has been organising trips home for Slovenians stuck around the world because of the coronavirus epidemic, warns that after 6 April no more special flights will be organised from distant locations. Those who will remain abroad will be assisted only through diplomatic exchange and European aid.

So far, some 360 citizens have returned home on ministry-organised flights. Special buses have so far transported some 120 people. In total, around 1,000 citizens have so far been able to return home with the help of the diplomatic and consular service.

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01 Apr 2020, 10:09 AM

STA, 31 March 2020 - The government has adopted a motion that, if passed in parliament, will activate a legislative provision that gives the military limited police powers in controlling the border. To be passed, the proposal needs the support of two-thirds of MPs. The National Assembly might discuss it as soon as on Thursday.

In two days, the National Assembly may discuss a mega-package of stimulus measures worth EUR 3 billion to help companies and individuals cope with the ongoing coronavirus epidemic.

The government wants to give police powers to the military so as to allow troops to take over some of the tasks from police officers patrolling Slovenia's border with Croatia, which is also the Schengen border.

Interior Minister Aleš Hojs told the Odmevi news show this evening that the proposal has not secured sufficient support in parliament. This comes nearly a week after he said that the government would not go forward with the motion before discussing it with deputy groups.

He said that some remarks by deputy groups had been taken into account, while some could not be. He also said that the remarks were more technical than anything else and believes that the opposition might provide the votes needed for the proposal to pass.

The proposal has raised a lot of dust in public, with many claiming this was a disproportionate measure and that the government was trying to use the coronavirus epidemic to send the military to the border.

Hojs also said last week that the army was not currently needed in Slovenian cities or on the country's roads, but it is "badly needed on Slovenia's southern border" so as to ease the burden on the police force.

The government said in a press release after adopting the proposal that it would brief the relevant parliamentary bodies about the troops' engagement on the border every two weeks and that the troops would have police powers for a period of three months.

Moreover, the troops would be working alongside police officers in line with a plan drafted by the police force and based on its guidelines, the government also said.

31 Mar 2020, 20:32 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 Anja Korošec, with her contribution to Tam Tam's series on our current situation. You can see more of these posters here.

Contents

Four die as number of Covid-19 persons rises by 46 to 802

Quarantine to be extended for infected persons

Hospital head in spotlight after threatening to deny ventilator to critics of govt

Two weeks on the job, Health Ministry state secretary resigns

Stimulus package in parliament no earlier than Thursday

Hisense with major donation of medical equipment for Slovenia

Four die as number of Covid-19 persons rises by 46 to 802

STA, 31 March 2020- Slovenia's Covid-19 death toll has risen to 15 as four people died on Monday and Tuesday, the latest government figures released on Tuesday show. The number of new coronavirus cases increased by 46 to 802 after 1,125 persons were tested on Monday.

At least one of the four persons died at the University Clinic of Respiratory and Allergic Diseases at Golnik, according to coronavirus crisis spokesperson Jelko Kacin.

As many as 119 Covid-19 patients were in hospital, of whom 28 were in intensive care, on Monday, when six patients were released from hospital.

The number of persons who have been so far been tested for the virus in Slovenia has risen to 22,474.

Nursing homes continue to be hot spots as contagion spreads there at a fast pace, and persons accommodated there are the most vulnerable to coronavirus and the death rate the highest among them.

Addressing the press on the issue today, director of the Golnik clinic for pulmonary diseases Aleš Rozman said that nursing homes were a "battlefield" on which the future spreading of the epidemic would depend.

"We are afraid of small epidemics in nursing homes - there are around 115 of them in Slovenia - completely filling up our healthcare system and us facing unnecessary casualties," he added.

Task forces have thus been established, comprising experts from hospitals and primary care, with the priority task of preventing the spreading of the virus in nursing homes with confirmed Covid-19 cases.

They will also examine the transfer routes and try to prevent infections in nursing homes where there are no confirmed cases yet, Rozman added.

One of these hot spots is the nursing home in Ljutomer (NE), where the number of confirmed cases increased in one day by ten to 16 on Tuesday. Two of the infected persons are employees of the nursing home.

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Quarantine to be extended for infected persons

STA, 31 March 2020 - Two persons with mild Covid-19 symptoms who returned from Spain on Friday with another 41 Slovenians and have been in quarantine at Paka Hotel in Velenje, will have their quarantine extended, the Velenje municipality said on Tuesday after meeting with representatives of the government and health authorities.

 All 43 Slovenians returning home from Spain, one of the Covid-19 hotspots in Europe, were tested on Saturday, with the two testing positive for the virus.

Another nine persons from Paka Hotel with light symptoms were tested again today.

Also infected are another two persons from another 43-strong group of Slovenians quarantined at Epic Hotel in Postojna, who also returned from Spain a few days ago.

According to Civil Protection head for Notranjska region Sandi Curk, 40 tests were negative and one would have to be repeated today.

There was no need for any of the infected persons to be admitted to hospital, but all 43 will be tested again in two weeks, before the end of the 14-day quarantine, said Curk.

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Hospital head in spotlight after threatening to deny ventilator to critics of govt

STA, 31 March 2020 - The director of the Slovenj Gradec hospital Janez Lavre, once handled as a potential health minister, has found himself in the limelight over a series of politically charged and unethical tweets, which included threats to withhold potentially needed coronavirus ventilator treatment to critics of the government.

"Great, you are not getting a ventilator," reads a response by Lavre to a tweet in which SocDems presidency member Uroš Jauševec expressed satisfaction over the SocDems deciding not to back a government proposal to give the army certain policing powers.

Lavre, who started running the Slovenj Gradec hospital in 2007 while he was also the head the UKC Maribor hospital in 2016-2017, also lashed out against journalist Blaž Zgaga over a tweet critical of the government. "You may be positive soon and then let's hear you squeak," his response reads.

The transgressions, which occurred during the last weekend, were first highlighted by the newspaper Večer, which wrote that these were not the only ethically questionable tweets coming from the doctor and director in the recent period.

Lavre, a member of New Slovenia - Christian Democrats (NSi) until last year, closed down all of his social media accounts on Monday and issued an apology today.

"Let me express my sincere regrets and deep apologies...I'm aware my statements were completely inappropriate, offensive and unethical...

"They were made during a period of great burdens and mental stress in the face of events related to my work during the weekend and the managing of the Covid-19 epidemic," reads part of the apology sent by Lavre to the hospital's council, whose head Simon Jevšinek demanded an explanation.

Lavre, who referred to critical journalists as vermin in at least two of his tweets, also apologised to those targeted and, according to Večer, to Health Minister Tomaž Gantar, who has not yet responded to the developments.

A call for Lavre to resign has meanwhile come from the opposition Marjana Šarec List (LMŠ), whose deputy group head Brane Golubović tweeted screenshots of several more inappropriate and politically charged tweets by Lavre.

The Medical Chamber said it had already launched due proceeding and that the matter would be discussed by its committee for legal and ethical issues along with another case of contentious social media behaviour by a member.

Explaining it had received a number of warnings about such behaviour recently, the camber condemned any inappropriate statements or actions and apologised to those affected. It urged all members to preserve a professional and ethical attitude amid these circumstances, including on social media.

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Two weeks on the job, Health Ministry state secretary resigns

STA, 31 March 2020 - Andrej Možina has resigned as state secretary at the Health Ministry slightly more than two weeks after he was appointed when the Janez Janša government assumed power. "This was his personal decision," the ministry told the STA on Tuesday, as it confirmed the newspaper Delo's report on the resignation.

Možina, who headed the Slovenian Medical Chamber in 2012-2017, became the only state secretary at the ministry at the first session of the new government on 13 March.

Delo reported, citing its unofficial but well-placed sources, that the true reason for the resignation was "a clash of egos, crisis of leadership, work overload, and interference in the ministry's work by other departments".

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Stimulus package in parliament no earlier than Thursday

STA, 31 March 2020 - The new stimulus package to mitigate the impact of coronavirus will not be discussed and voted on in the National Assembly on Wednesday, as initially planned, as it has turned out to be too extensive for the relevant parliamentary committee to go through it and the many submitted amendments by then.

Estimated at EUR 3 billion, the package includes bonuses for vital staff and a pay cut for public office holders, and support measures for companies like pay compensation for temporary lay-offs, and tax and loan payment deferrals.

It also includes loan guarantees and financing of social contributions, temporary basic income for the self-employed and allowances for pensioners, large families and students.

The package, presented by the government on Sunday, was expected to be discussed and prepared for the plenary session of the National Assembly today, but this has proven to be impossible as the MPs apparently did not have enough time to go through it.

The opposition Left, Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) and Social Democrats (SD) proposed today as the Finance Committee session started that the National Assembly plenary be postponed for a day.

The proposal failed to garner sufficient support and the session continued, but committee members did not even have all the announced amendments on the table. The coalition alone has proposed more than 100 amendments and the opposition has come with amendments of its own.

Some six hours into the session, committee chair Robert Polnar of the coalition Pensioner's Party (DeSUS) said that the discussion was over for today and that it would be continued on Wednesday.

The plenary session of the National Assembly, originally scheduled for Wednesday at 10am, is to be held on Thursday, "but only if the committee concludes its work on Wednesday," Polnar said.

The government's plan is that the measures apply for April and May, with the possibility of extension until the end of June.

In today's debate, support was expressed by committee members from all deputy groups, while many of them also pointed to the possibility of abuse and considerable burden on public finances, and also proposed other beneficiaries.

The opposition also warned against haste in the adoption of the legislation. "Financially-speaking, this is the most extensive law the National Assembly has ever discussed," said Luka Mesec of the Left, calling for thorough talks.

Andreja Zabret (LMŠ) also pointed to the high figure and wanted the finance minister to guarantee that the measures will be financed in a manner which will not bring "headache to citizens when everything is said and done."

Minister Andrej Šircelj said that there was enough money in the budget for now, and mentioned the possibility of additional borrowing, but would not go into details as this could trigger an increase in interest rates.

He did guarantee that the measures will not be financed by means of possible higher taxes. "The last thing I have in mind right now is raising taxes," he added.

Robert Pavšič (LMŠ) called for more time, adding that MPs had been constantly receiving calls from many associations and individuals who "are not able to find themselves in this law".

The Left demands that financial aid should be provided to all, regardless of the form of employment, including precarious workers and workers hired by temping agencies, as well as to persons who lease apartments and commercial premises.

Matjaž Han of the SD proposed that the measures be applied retroactively as of the date when the epidemic was declared in Slovenia - 13 March. "This is very important and many people would calm down if we do so."

Maša Kociper of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) called for clear criteria to be determined for who was eligible for financial aid and under what conditions, in order to prevent violations and abuse.

Since three billion euros will be distributed quickly, Kociper thinks that whether the criteria are being met should be supervised. "We need parliamentary supervision of some sorts," she added.

The committee will continue the session on Wednesday, going through the amendments filed.

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Hisense with major donation of medical equipment for Slovenia

STA, 31 March 2020 - Slovenian civil defence has received a donation of protective and medical equipment from Hisense, the Chinese owner of the Velenje-based household appliance maker Gorenje, which includes 200,000 protective masks and 2,000 hazmat suits.

Also donated by Hisense are 500 respirators, protective goggles and a medical ventilator, while the company has also mediated in an agreement to supply 46 ventilators to Slovenia, Gorenje said on Monday.

Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek has tweeted that the ventilators had already arrived in Slovenia.

Hisense Europe Group president Alex Zhu added that the company was trying to help by donating equipment and sharing good practices for preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus and protecting employees' health.

The company has also made a warehouse in China's Qingdao, where Hisense is based, available for Slovenia to collect all donations of protective equipment from China, which is then transported to the local airport.

Počivalšek said earlier that the government was "thankful to all donors which already have and will in the future help by donating protective equipment. There are many of them and I'm happy that this is so."

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31 Mar 2020, 15:11 PM

with ur 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, photographers and designers. Today it’s Katja Petrin Dornik, and Matija Primc from the design agency Grey Ljubljana, with part of a series of posters on covid-19, and you see more of them here.

Contents

Four die as number of Covid-19 persons rises by 46 to 802

Slovenia sticking to use of masks in indoor public places

Public health chief thinks latest restrictions not necessary

Seven repatriated from Austria test positive for coronavirus

Two additional border crossings opening on Slovenian-Hungarian border

Four die as number of Covid-19 persons rises by 46 to 802

STA, 31 March 2020 - Slovenia's Covid-19 death toll has risen to 15 as four people died on Monday and Tuesday, the latest government figures released on Tuesday show. The number of new coronavirus cases increased by 46 to 802 after 1,125 persons were tested on Monday.

At least one of the four persons died at the University Clinic of Respiratory and Allergic Diseases at Golnik, according to coronavirus crisis spokesperson Jelko Kacin.

As many as 119 Covid-19 patients were in hospital, of whom 28 were in intensive care, on Monday, when six patients were released from hospital.

The number of persons who have been so far been tested for the virus in Slovenia has risen to 22,474.

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Slovenia sticking to use of masks in indoor public places

STA, 31 March 2020 - Slovenia had made wearing face masks and gloves mandatory in indoor public places such as shops to contain the spread of coronavirus and although the move has been met with some opposition and the World Health Organisation (WHO) does not recommend it, the measure is likely to remain in place.

Face masks and gloves became mandatory in indoor public spaces under a decree that took effect on Monday as Slovenia followed the lead of countries such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Austria has announced a similar measure as well.

Given the lack of certified face masks, Slovenians have been told to use any other means they can, including home-made cloth masks or scarves.

The move has provoked some opposition, due to people's inability to buy masks in shops and due to the WHO's recent recommendation that people should not wear face masks unless they have been infected Covid-19 or are caring for someone who is sick.

Prime Minister Janez Janša criticised the guidance on Twitter on Monday saying that after the outbreak in China, the WHO had claimed it was unlikely coronavirus would spread to Europe and that the virus did "not cause significantly worse consequences than the flu. "This is why it declared a pandemic TOO LATE."

Appearing at a government press conference on Tuesday, paediatrician Tina Bergant stressed that countries in which wearing face masks is more common had managed to contain coronavirus much faster than countries where face masks in public are uncommon.

"We are doing everything to contain the epidemic and protect the most vulnerable population - the elderly and the chronically ill. These are measures that are not coloured by ideology, they are epidemiologically sound and have been known to medicine for decades, even centuries."

She said WHO guidance was unequivocal: those who are sick and have a runny nose should wear face masks in public, as should those taking care of persons who have been infected. And even for healthy people, use of masks is desired in a public place.

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Public health chief thinks latest restrictions not necessary

STA, 31 March 2020 - The latest government-imposed restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus appear not to have been coordinated with the National Institute for Public Health (NIJZ). Acting NIJZ head Ivan Eržen told the weekly Mladina he saw no reason for the new measures that stepped into force on Sunday and Monday.

Eržen believes that the measures, including restricting people's movement to their home municipalities and disinfecting of multi-apartment buildings, are not necessary.

"Most people honoured the previous measures in an exemplary fashion. And now because of few individuals who did not find this important the measures have been stepped up for everyone. I cannot provide any professional arguments to support this move," Eržen said in an interview with Mladina published on Tuesday.

Eržen, the epidemiologist who was appointed NIJZ acting head by the Janez Janša government on 20 March, said that the cabinet had not asked the NIJZ for an opinion before adopting the new measures.

"It was obviously concluded that people did not honour existing measures sufficiently. We were not a part of this. I am convinced that the previous measures were completely sufficient."

He also disagrees with the provisions requiring disinfection of multi-apartment buildings. "I find this extremely difficult to implement," he said. The problem is that the managers of multi-apartment buildings do not have enough disinfectant or people to conduct the disinfecting, Eržen explained.

Moreover, the disinfected surfaces are potentially contaminated again as soon as a person touches them. "I think it is much more appropriate to warn people not to touch with bare hands the surfaces that many people touch and to wash their hands frequently."

"I hope this measure will be eliminated after all the arguments have been considered," Eržen said.

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Seven repatriated from Austria test positive for coronavirus

STA, 31 March 2020 - Seven out of 27 Slovenian nationals who were evacuated from Austria on Sunday and placed in quarantine have tested positive for coronavirus, the National Institute of Public Health said.

The group returned from Tyrol, the Austrian state hardest hit by the coronavirus epidemic, on Sunday evening and had already spent 14 days in quarantine there.

Most of them worked in Austria. They were transported to an inn in Dolga Vas in north-eastern Slovenia immediately after being tested for Covid-19. They are all residents of towns in north-eastern Slovenia.

Their repatriation was coordinated by the Slovenian embassy in Vienna in cooperation with the Austrian authorities and the Croatian embassy. Along with the 27 Slovenians, 13 Croatian citizens were evacuated as well and continued their journey home.

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Two additional border crossings opening on Slovenian-Hungarian border

STA, 31 March 2020 - Foreign Minister Anže Logar and his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto agreed on Tuesday that two additional border crossings will open on the Slovenian-Hungarian border. The two crossings are Hodoš-Bajansenye and Čepinci-Verica (Ketvölgy), the Foreign Ministry said.

Logar and Szijjarto agreed over the phone today that they will respond to initiatives from both sides of the border and make life easier for the people.

The Čepinci-Verica (Ketvölgy) border crossing in particular is very important for the Slovenian community in the Hungarian region of Porabje, being its only link to Slovenia now that all other road connections with the country are closed.

The details on the regime at the two newly opened crossings are to be determined shortly, the ministry said.

Hungary closed its borders for passenger transport because of the coronavirus on 17 March. Only daily commuters and Hungarian citizens returning to their country are allowed to cross.

So far, three border crossings with Hungary have been open - Pince, the former Pince R1/232 border crossing, which is open for Slovenian and Hungarian citizens only, and Dolga Vas.

Logar and Szijjarto expressed their satisfaction today with cooperation between their countries in the repatriation of their respective nationals and agreed this cooperation will continue. They also exchanged information about measures to curb the spread of the epidemic and measures to help businesses.

Meanwhile, the Austrian security authorities notified Slovenia today that the Slovenian-Austrian border crossing Holmec will be closed from 2 April until further notice, the Celje police administration said.

This means a major detour for people driving to work to Austria from the Mežica Valley on the Slovenian side of the border.

Slovenia reintroduced border checks with Austria last week, setting up 13 checkpoints at the former border crossings Gornja Radgona, Kuzma, Holmec, Vič, Jurij, Karavanke, Ljubelj, Trate, Radlje, Gederovci, Šentilj - motorway, Šentilj - local road and Korensko Sedlo.

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31 Mar 2020, 07:20 AM

STA, 30 March 2020 - The Information Commissioner and the Human Rights Ombudsman have warned against giving police sweeping powers to control the movement of individuals as the government tries to contain the coronavirus epidemic. Both institutions say two articles from the new umbrella bill violate basic constitutional rights.

Articles 103 and 104 of the new bill designed to mitigate coronavirus epidemic ramifications for businesses and people allows the police to monitor the location of individuals who opt for self-isolation instead of mandatory quarantine, to which such individuals would have to explicitly consent.

The police would have access to face recognition, the power to erect roadblocks, enter apartments and temporarily apprehend the persons, all in order to contain the epidemic and enforce the implementation of special measures from the law on contagious diseases.

To do that, they would also get health data collected by the National Institute of Public Health, which would be stored for as long as measures to contain the epidemic remain in place and up to 30 days after the epidemic, whereupon it would be destroyed.

Issuing a response to the two articles, Commissioner Mojca Prelesnik said the articles would need to be rewritten to provide additional powers to police only for purposes deemed vitally necessary and effective by health experts.

PM Janez Janša said on Sunday the police already had some of the required powers while some were new since they had to be connected with the communicable diseases act.

"We understand the urgent need for measures in face of an extraordinary situation, but this should not serve as an excuse to suspend the constitution and basic rights guaranteed by it," Prelesnik wrote, arguing the legislators would also need to consult the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman.

The commissioner has not seen presented any concrete arguments on the part of health experts and epidemiologists that would justify the expansion of all basic police powers for such broad purposes.

"The powers in Article 103 do not only pertain to securing the observing of special measures from the communicable diseases act, for instance quarantine or isolation, but also to the very broadly stated purpose of containing and controlling the epidemic and managing the measures adopted. Each and every citizen of Slovenia is subject to them," Prelesnik said.

She feels that this article means expanding police powers to an extent that potentially covers the country's entire population and in fact leads to Slovenia becoming a police state. As for Article 104, the commissioner said it constituted a serious breach of the basic constitutional right to communication privacy and personal data protection.

"Additionally worrying is the attempt of the government to justify such an intervention with the obtaining of consent. The content of such a consent alone - de facto excluding a chance to withdraw it and involving a number of obligations and prohibitions - shows that the legal notion of consent is being abused."

Prelesnik noted the Information Commissioner Office had seen a number of cases in the past where police obtained data illegally or kept them too long, while individual files keep being accessed without a legal basis on top of that.

"All of this reveals the enormous risks entailed in the proposed measures, even to a point where the principle of the division of powers would be eradicated and theoretically allow the executive branch to monitor everybody in Slovenia at all times," she wrote.

Echoing the view of several opposition parties, Prelesnik moreover believes it is inappropriate for additional police powers to be put in the same legislative package as economic measures meant to mitigate the coronavirus crisis.

"The appeal and urgency of the economic measures limits the time and capacity for a critical response and for reaching social consensus on interventions into the rights of the citizens and inhabitants of Slovenia," Prelesnik said.

A very similar response was later issued by the Human Rights Ombudsman, which highlighted it had not been involved in drafting the intervention bill, not even the segments related to human rights.

The Ombudsman, having urged approaching the epidemic by respecting human rights and freedoms on several occasions, said it was hard to justify some of the planned measures and expressed surprise at the "changes to the police's normative framework".

It therefore expects the government to provide sound arguments for the reasons necessitating "limiting the basic elements of a democracy". It is particularly worried by the police's power to enter a person's flat, where it is unclear whether this can be done without a court order, and by mobile phone surveilence, albeit with its owner's consent.

Another institution issuing strong criticism not only of the new police powers but also of two-thirds of the intervention bill is the National Assembly's legal service, which said the powers entailed by Articles 103 and 104 could not be treated as intervention measures and encroached on constitutionally guaranteed rights. The legal service also questioned the need for giving the police a "broad access to a wide range of personal data, among them some very sensitive ones".

Interior Minister Aleš Hojs, responding to the controversy about the new police powers, said they were "intended to merely prevent unauthorised and incomprehensible movements of infected persons who should be in quarantine but are freely walking around".

The police does not want any new powers to restrict the movement and freedoms of anyone or to in any way encroach upon one's human rights, he said at the government's news conference on the coronavirus situation this afternoon.

"The purpose of giving the police these powers is to prevent and contain the epidemic," said Gantar, adding Article 103 had been coordinated among the health and interior ministries and the government's legal service.

"If anyone thinks that experts in these fields do not know enough, they should let it know to MPs, who will be deciding on this bill. But this would drastically lower the police's powers in containing the epidemic," he added.

30 Mar 2020, 20:22 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 artists in Slovenia. Today it’s Natasha Villone. You can see more of their work here.

Contents

Stricter measures to fight coronavirus in effect

Slovenians put into quarantine after returning from Austria

New stimulus package in parliament on Wednesday

Unions, businesses welcome mega stimulus bill, expect more from another

Poll finds increasing anxiety about coronavirus

Staff reinforcements and protective equipment urged for nursing homes

Stricter measures to fight coronavirus in effect

STA, 30 March 2020 - Strict new measures to contain the coronavirus epidemic entered into force on Monday, as movement has been additionally restricted and shopping rules tightened to protect the most vulnerable groups.

Starting today Slovenians will be confined to their home municipality for most daily activities except to go to work, to do farm work, provide assistance to persons in need of care, and access emergency services, pharmacies, diplomatic missions and judicial authorities.

Police will control whether a person has justifiably left own municipality, so it advises people to have a note proving the necessity of going to another municipality, although no such note is explicitly mentioned in the decree. "This should make it easier for the police and shorten the procedure for the people," it said on Twitter.

Within their municipality people will still be allowed to go to shops and access services that are provided despite the sweeping lockdown, and if such services are not available in their municipality they will be allowed to go to the nearest place where they are available.

For most people public parks have been the only nature they have been able to enjoy during the lockdown and the new decree stipulates that people may only access parks within their own municipality. Mayors may introduce additional restrictions.

A number of mayors have told the STA that they are in favour of the new measures, deeming them necessary, most notably for tourist spots in the country.

Some are planning to ramp up the measures by restricting movement at the most popular destinations if people keep flocking to them.

Janez Fajfar, the mayor of lakeside resort Bled, said that the government had acknowledged warnings and calls for stepping up measures by municipalities that saw an influx of visitors over the weekend.

"The measure, as strict as it is, has come at the right time," he told the STA, adding that police officers, security officers as well as volunteers would ensure that the restriction was heeded at Bled.

For those who do venture to shops, face masks, even ones made at home, or equivalents such as scarves that cover the mouth and nose will be mandatory along with protective gloves; the decree stipulates that masks and gloves need to be worn in indoor public spaces.

The Murska Sobota civil protection service is to provide the protective gear for the locals in cooperation with shops, banks, post offices and other public institutions. The city in the north-east has ordered 10,000 face masks from a local producer to secure the supply.

Shops are also subject to new rules. In the first two hours after opening, from 8am to 10am, shops are reserved for pensioners, the disabled and pregnant women, groups that are seen as being at particular risk. What is more, pensioners will not be allowed into shops after 10am at all.

Another new rule, which took effect on Sunday, requires the managers of all multi-apartment buildings to disinfect at least twice a day frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches and elevator buttons.

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Slovenians put into quarantine after returning from Austria

STA, 30 March 2020 - A group of Slovenians returned to Slovenia from Austria's Tyrol on Sunday evening, after having spent two weeks in quarantine in the neighbouring country due to the coronavirus outbreak. Upon their return to Slovenia, all 27 of them have been put into state-administrated quarantine in the north-east.

They are all feeling well and are being taken care of, Edith Žižek Sapač, the head of the Murska Sobota health centre has told the STA. The citizens have been tested for coronavirus infection, with the results expected presumably on Tuesday.

Most of the group is made up of persons who work in Austria. They were transported to an inn in Dolga Vas (NE) immediately after having their samples taken.

The Slovenians worked in some of the Austrian hotspots and they are all residents of towns in north-eastern Slovenia.

Lendava Mayor Janez Magyar has said that they are not patients but locals as well as taxpayers who have been on temporary work in Austria where they were already quarantined for two weeks.

Lendava stepped up so that they have been placed into 14-day quarantine close to home. One of the locals has offered his inn to serve as quarantine site, while the local civil protection service, Red Cross and the town itself helped out with providing protective gear and sustenance.

Their repatriation was coordinated by the Slovenian embassy in Vienna in cooperation with the Austrian authorities and the Croatian embassy. Along with the 27 Slovenians, 13 Croatian citizens were evacuated as well, and have continued their journey home.

Meanwhile, a group of 40 Slovenians who returned to Slovenia from Spain on Saturday and were then placed in mandatory 14-day quarantine in a hotel in Postojna were tested again today, Postojna Mayor Igor Marentič told the STA.

They are all feeling well and none had any signs of infection during the travel. They all tested negative for coronavirus while being quarantined in Spain. Right before the end of the two weeks in quarantine, their samples will be taken again.

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 New stimulus package in parliament on Wednesday

STA, 30 March 2020 - Parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič has announced that the new stimulus package, adopted by the government on Sunday to mitigate the impact of coronavirus, will be discussed and voted on in the National Assembly on Wednesday.

A day earlier, the legislation will be discussed by the Finance Committee, Zorčič said on Monday after the college of deputy group leaders meeting which determined the agenda of Wednesday's emergency session.

The measures supporting companies, self-employed, pensioners and other vulnerable groups will be fast tracked in parliament.

Estimated at EUR 3 billion, the package includes bonuses for vital staff and a pay cut for public office holders, and support measures for companies like pay compensation for temporary lay-offs, and tax and loan payment deferrals.

It also includes loan guarantees and financing of social contributions, temporary basic income for the self-employed and allowances for pensioners, large families and students.

Government secretary general Božo Predalič said ahead of today's meeting that the government was aware of the problems faced by citizens and businesses due to the epidemic, which he labelled "one of the hardest tests since WWII".

The government proposes that the package mitigating the epidemic and preventing its spreading is processed in the National Assembly in a fast-track procedure as the "measures need to be taken resolutely and immediately."

All deputy groups bar the opposition Left, which abstained, agreed that the package should be fast-tracked, while there was less consensus on when the session should be held.

The entire opposition except the National Party (SNS) said it would like to have more time to examine the legislation and file possible amendments, proposing that the session be held on Thursday.

A representative of the parliamentary legal service also said some additional time would be welcome, but added that an opinion would be nevertheless delivered in time.

Part of the opposition is of the opinion that the package should be divided into a part dealing with financial assistance to individuals and the economy and a part dealing with police powers, including regarding the enforcement of quarantine.

Zorčič said at the meeting that the package contained an article saying that it was not possible to call a referendum on it, based on the constitutional provisions which stated that referendum was not possible on certain laws.

"If the wording remains the same when the law is passed, I'm inclined to the idea of sending it immediately to the president of the republic to promulgate it," he added.

Also on the agenda of Wednesday's session will be the appointment of two replacement MPs as Jelka Godec and Franc Breznik of the senior coalition Democrats (SDS) have been given posts in the government.

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Unions, businesses welcome mega stimulus bill, expect more from another

STA, 30 March 2020 - Trade unions and businesses have welcomed the EUR 3 billion bill to help the economy and society cope with the coronavirus crisis as a step in the right direction meant to avert massive layoffs. However, the unions say certain groups have been left out and criticise the government for ignoring social dialogue in adopting it.

The intervention package the government presented yesterday brings a number of measures to avert a looming wave of layoffs, but fails to cover all affected groups. Some systemic measures are poorly worded and should be more concrete, ZSSS trade union confederation boss Lidija Jerkič told the STA on Monday.

The bill does not cover all those who lost their jobs before the law, those who due to the Covid-19 situation agreed with the termination of their contract, and many other groups of workers on various forms on non-permanent contracts. Jerkič believes this is an area calling for additional reflection.

According to a statement by confederations represented on the Economic and Social Council (ESS), a compensation for the loss of pay should be given to all workers who have lost their job for business reasons, incapacity or disability, or because their temporary contract ran out after the epidemic was declared on 12 March.

She also pointed to students, who will get only a one-off payment of EUR 150. And while the Slovenian Student Organisation (ŠOS) is happy the government has not entirely forgotten about the students, it considers the amount by far too low, noting an average monthly cost of a student is around EUR 500.

The ŠOS said almost half of all students are forced to work to be able to afford studying, and now they faced months-long loss of income. It also criticised the bill for not covering students who do not have permanent residence in Slovenia, but welcomed the fact they will not have to pay dormitory rent.

Jerkič is happy with the government's coverage of pay for those who have been temporarily laid off and the state's payment of all pension contributions. She also welcomed the special crisis bonus for those who continue to work, but noted a big difference between the private and public sectors.

The head of the largest confederation of trade unions is meanwhile apprehensive about the labour inspection services' ability to control the implementation of the measures, given its understaffing even before the epidemic.

The trade unions understand the bill had to be adopted in a rush, but nevertheless pointed to its being adopted in the absence of social dialogue.

The KSJS confederation of public sector trade unions believes the rush does not warrant neglecting the fundamental democratic processes, and the ZSSS urged the government to appoint its members of the ESS as soon as possible.

The KSJS, although it supports the majority of the measures, believes some of them radically encroach upon workers' rights, including reassigning a public worker without their consent, ordering enormous overtime without securing adequate rest time, or hiring top office holders without calls for applications.

Worried the government might save on the backs of the public sector like during the financial crisis, the KSJS wants the government to publicly say how Slovenia will service its increased public debt resulting from the adopted measures, especially since a recession is expected to hit after the coronavirus crisis.

It moreover highlighted "an enormous burden and responsibility carried by public sector workers, with many exposed to infection on a daily basis", so it expects the government to bear this in mind in the future.

Another confederation of trade unions, KS 90, said the special bonus for those working in a crisis situation should be received by all public sector workers who are working, not just those in the most risky lines of business such as healthcare.

A different view on the monthly crisis bonus - EUR 200 for those who continue to work and whose last monthly pay was below three minimum wages - is held by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), saying it should rather depend on the extent of risk and stress a worker is exposed to.

The GZS has welcomed the bill noting it primarily focussed on social issues and keeping the jobs, which is also important for businesses, but it should bring clearer criteria for aid.

In a video statement, GZS director general Sonja Šmuc said the GZS was happy the government would cover the costs of temporarily laid-off workers, sick leave and pension contributions of employees and employers.

The stakeholders will try to influence the final working of the bill before it is passed in parliament later this week.

The GZS moreover has great expectations from another intervention bill the government is about to draft and which should focus on liquidity matters.

Šmuc believes it should contain two key measures: a multi-billion euro fund to provide fresh loans for operating currents assets and for investment and a fund for the purchase of liabilities, to prevent payment default and the crisis being used to the detriment of companies.

The unions taking part in the ESS also highlighted the fact that the bill does not contain the announced cut in fees for members of supervisory boards and for non-executive directors of companies in direct or indirect state ownership.

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Poll finds increasing anxiety about coronavirus

STA, 30 March 2020 - A poll commissioned by the newspapers Dnevnik and Večer suggests that Slovenians are getting increasingly anxious about the coronavirus pandemic with almost 60% worried they will catch the virus.

As many as 86.5% of those questioned in the Vox Populi poll said they were concerned about the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, against 13.3% who were not worried.

The proportion of those concerned increased considerably compared with the situation two weeks ago when the same poll found nearly seven out of ten did not feel threatened by the novel virus.

Asked whether they were worried about getting infected, 56.8% of those questioned answered in the affirmative, against 35.3% who answered in the negative.

Still, a majority (50.5%) have not yet changed their holiday plans because of the pandemic, while 41.8% have, writes Dnevnik in its Monday edition.

Just over 70% deem the government measures aimed at curbing the epidemic proportionate and as many as 86.4% said they fully complied with the measures, with a further 13.2% partly complying.

Based on a cross-examination of data, the paper finds that protective measures are being observed to a smaller extent by male respondents up to the age of 30.

The poll also suggests a radical change in people's lifestyles; 67% reported going to a grocery shop occasionally, and 72% reported not visiting their friends or relatives, while a quarter said they did.

However, 43.4% said that they had taken a walk out in nature quite often in the past week and a further 42.8% did that occasionally.

Six out of ten respondents also reported following news programmes on TV or radio more than usual, and more than half (55.6%) browsing the net more often than they did before the pandemic.

The survey was conducted online among 1,300 people on 25 and 26 March by Ninamedia.

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Staff reinforcements and protective equipment urged for nursing homes

STA, 30 March 2020 - Two associations specialising in elderly care urged the government on Monday to provide sufficient staff and protective equipment in Slovenian nursing homes, some of which have become coronavirus hotspots.

Official data puts the number of elderly persons diagnosed with Covid-19 in nursing homes so far at 109 and the number of staff affected at 24.

The total number of all confirmed coronavirus cases across Slovenia stood at 756 on Sunday.

The Srebrna Nit (Silver Lining) association campaigning for dignified old age asked the government and the Human Rights Ombudsman to activate competent volunteers and notably all precious experts who have been relegated to their homes with the closure of spas, private health institutions etc.

Along with the Association of Nursing Homes, Srebrna Nit has moreover warned about the lack of protective equipment and the need for the costs of equipment to be covered by the state.

The Association of Nursing Homes confirmed for the STA that reinforcements were needed in particular in nursery homes with confirmed coronavirus cases. The homes will start notifying regional coordinators of the shortage and have doctors and other health staff reallocated and coordinated.

Srebrna Nit sees the root of the problem in elderly homes being classified as social institutions even though the nature of their users would seem to render them closer to healthcare institutions that should be given priority considered their vulnerability.

On the other hand, Srebrna Nit also stressed nursing homes must not turn into hospitals. "We cannot accept a small number of employees to focus only on urgent services needed to preserve the health and lives of the users as recommended by the Labour Ministry," it wrote.

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30 Mar 2020, 14:20 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. You can see more of their work here.

STA, 30 March 2020 - Slovenia's tally of confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 26 on Sunday to 756, but there have been no new deaths, so the death toll remains at 11, Health Minister Tomaž Gantar told reporters on Monday.

"The data I'm getting make me partly optimistic," the minister said, as the curve of new cases slowed down. But he said the slow, which he attributed to stringent lockdown measures, should not lull anyone to sleep.

Out of 21,349 tests conducted by Sunday midnight, 756 had come back positive, 26 more than the day before after much higher increases in the previous days.

Gantar said that 115 Covid-19 patients were currently in hospital, 28 of them in intensive treatment units.

He said the health system was managing the situation for the time being. "All the measures taken are aimed at allowing the health system to provide care for those in need," he said.

More than 500 beds are currently available for Covid-19 patients, with about 50 intensive care beds, both of which Gantar said could be expanded in case of an escalation.

Extra equipment is also being made available, including ventilators and the situation is improving with respect to personal protective equipment, so that urgent needs are met, said the minister.

As many as 108 of those who tested positive are heath workers, 24 of them at care homes.

As lockdown measures were stepped up from today, Gantar said the government was aware those interfered in people's lives, but were "the only way if we want to manage the epidemic".

He said the measures to contain the epidemic would change with respect to the findings of the countries that had fought the new virus earlier.

The government has already proposed several additional measures in the extensive legislative package to be passed by parliament on Wednesday, including giving other institutions aside from the health inspectorate extra powers to enforce lockdown measures, and increasing fines for those who flout them.

Commenting on the coronavirus hotspot at the Šmarje nursing come, Gantar said this was from the time before the restrictions. He also projected that more residents might get infected.

As of Friday 83 residents of care homes across the country were infected, but the figures keep rising.

29 Mar 2020, 19:49 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. You can see more of his work here.

Contents

Two deaths and 46 new Covid-19 cases confirmed on Saturday, putting totals at 11 and 730

Lockdown restrictions tightened as most movement restricted to home municipality

Govt puts forward EUR 3bn stimulus package, expands aid to individuals

Two deaths and 46 new Covid-19 cases confirmed on Saturday, putting totals at 11 and 730

STA, 29 March 2020 - Two more persons died in Slovenia as a result of Covid-19 on Saturday, putting the total number at 11. The number of confirmed cases rose by 46 to 730, with the increase comparing to 52 on Friday and 70 on Thursday.

While strict lockdown rules have been in place since 20 March, the government decided on Sunday to step up the restrictions in the aftermath of reports of people continuing to visit popular weekend destinations despite being advised to stay home.

For most daily activities, Slovenians will thus be confined to their home municipalities except to go to work, to do farm work, provide assistance to persons in need of care, and access emergency services, pharmacies, diplomatic missions and judicial authorities.

Within their municipality people will still be allowed to go to shops and access services that are provided despite the sweeping lockdown, and if such services are not available in their municipality they will be allowed to go to the nearest place where they are available.

For most people public parks have been the only nature they have been able to enjoy during the lockdown and the new decree stipulates that people may only access parks within their own municipality. Mayors may introduce additional restrictions.

But for those who do venture to shops, face masks, even ones made at home, or equivalents such as scarves that cover the mouth and nose will be mandatory along with protective gloves; the decree stipulates that masks and gloves need to be worn in indoor public spaces.

Interior Minister Aleš Hojs said that after a "touristy Saturday" the government had been forced to tighten the measures. "We are concerned looking at the next six to ten days, when yesterday's frolicking by many will lead to an increase in infections across Slovenia."

He said the government would introduce even stricter measures if necessary. "We have to fight this epidemic seriously, responsibly as a mature nation."

The new decree marks a significant stepping-up of restrictions and had been widely expected given the measures taken by some other countries and considering widespread reports of some people not taking the previous restrictions seriously.

And oversight of people's movement beyond the immediate restrictions on movement may become even more strict soon as the umbrella law to fight the coronavirus epidemic, presented on Sunday, contains provisions giving police sweeping powers to control the movement of individuals.

Under the proposal, police would be able to monitor the location of individuals who opt for self-isolation instead of mandatory quarantine, to which such individuals would have to explicitly consent.

Moreover, in order to contain epidemics police would have access to face recognition, the power to erect roadblocks, enter apartments, and temporarily apprehend persons.

To do that, they would also get health data collected by the National Institute of Public Health.

The data would be stored for as long as measures to contain the epidemic remain in place and up to 30 days after the epidemic ends, whereupon it would be destroyed.

Prime Minister Janez Janša told the press today that the police already had some of the required powers while some were new since they had to be connected with the provisions of the communicable diseases act.

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Govt puts forward EUR 3bn stimulus package, expands aid to individuals

STA, 29 March 2020 - The government has adopted a new stimulus package meant mitigate the impact of coronavirus. It upgraded some of the initial measures supporting companies and expanded them to the self-employed, pensioners and other vulnerable groups. Estimated at EUR 3 billion, the package includes bonuses for vital staff and a pay cut for public office holders.

While upgrading support measures for companies like pay compensation for temporary lay-offs, tax and loan payment deferrals and adding things like loan guarantees and financing of social contributions, the scheme has been expanded to also include temporary basic income for the self-employed and allowances for pensioners, large families and students.

A notable upgrade of the support scheme for companies, originally adopted on 20 March, is the decision that the state cover the entire pay compensation, meaning 80% of the wage, secured to temporary redundant workers. The original measure had employers covering 60% of this sum and the state 40%.

Moreover, for two months the state will cover all social contributions for workers who continue working, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek told the press on Sunday.

Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj elaborated on the loan guarantees scheme, explaining the total amount to be provided for companies affected by the crisis is EUR 200 million, a figure he said also took into account the fact banks' loan portfolios had been cleaned up a few years ago.

"We expect banks will get actively involved in the salvaging of the economy and of the population, especially when it comes to lending," he added.

Meanwhile, the temporary basic income scheme provides the self-employed with EUR 350 for March if they prove at least a 25% drop in income over February and EUR 700 in April and May if their income is down at least 50%. The state will moreover cover all social contributions, also an upgrade of what was initially conceived as a deferral.

What is more, a one-off allowance of EUR 150 will be secured for all students, families with three children will get an additional one-off allowance of EUR 100 and those with four or more EUR 200.

Pensioners getting less than EUR 700 can expect a one-off bonus of between 130 and 300 euros, while an extra EUR 150 will also be secured once to welfare recipients.

Pay bonuses of up to EUR 200 are envisaged for workers in the private sector who are disproportionately exposed and are working overtime during the epidemic. The funds will be provided by employers, who will however be exempt from pension contribution payments.

Moreover, sick pay of all those who fall ill during the crisis will be fully covered by the public health insurance rather than employers having to cover the first 30 working days of absence. Unemployment benefits will automatically kick in on the first day of unemployment.

The package moreover envisages a special set of measures dedicated to farmers, with financial aid, direct transfers and cancelled contributions planned for farmers who may contract coronavirus. The three-month temporary basic income aid also applies for farmers.

The list of measures, which are presently meant to be in place until 31 May, involves some saving efforts as well, including a 30% pay cut for holders of public office and a 30% cut in fees for members of supervisory boards in state-owned companies.

While the judiciary will be exempted under a Constitutional Court ruling on the matter, Prime Minister Janez Janša has called on decision-makers there to voluntarily join the effort.

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29 Mar 2020, 14:19 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 Ciku Peppe. You can see more of his work here.

Contents

Two deaths and 46 new Covid-19 cases confirmed on Saturday, putting totals at 11 and 730

Passenger flight ban extended

Group evacuated from Spain quarantined in Postojna

Two deaths and 46 new Covid-19 cases confirmed on Saturday, putting totals at 11 and 730

STA, 29 March 2020 - Two more persons died in Slovenia as a result of Covid-19 on Saturday, putting the total number at 11. The number of confirmed cases rose by 46 to 730, with the increase comparing to 52 on Friday and 70 on Thursday.

A total of 997 persons were tested on Saturday, down from 1,387 on Friday and 1,075 on Thursday.

The number of hospitalised patients increased by 11 to 101 on Saturday, 23 of which need intensive care, the Government Communication Office said on Sunday.

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Passenger flight ban extended

STA, 29 March 2020 - Slovenian air traffic will remain severely restricted as the government has extended a ban on passenger flights that had originally been put in place on 17 March.

Flights to and from non-EU countries are banned until further notice while flights to and from EU destinations will remain suspended until 13 April, according to a decree published in the Official Gazette on Saturday.

The reason why a two-week suspension applies to EU destinations is because EU rules require member states to apply such bans only for 14 days and then extend them if necessary.

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.

Any other exemptions must by approved by the infrastructure or foreign ministries.

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

Individual flights have landed in Ljubljana since the ban took effect, but most were evacuation flights bringing home Slovenians and other EU nationals.

The Jože Pučnik Ljubljana Airport had already been hammered by last year's bankruptcy of Adria Airways, the biggest operator of flights into Slovenia, and the ban will only add to its woes.

Airport operator Fraport Slovenija says it is impossible to assess the damage to the aviation industry due to the airport closures and aircraft grounding, but it will be "enormous".

"It is unclear how fast and to what extent air traffic will recover," the company told the STA.

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Group evacuated from Spain quarantined in Postojna

STA, 29 March 2020 - A group of 40 Slovenian nationals was flown in from Spain Saturday night on the latest evacuation flight organised by the Foreign Ministry. They have been placed in mandatory 14-day quarantine in a hotel in Postojna.

The individuals had been in quarantine in Spain and none of them has tested positive for coronavirus. They will however be tested again, either on Sunday or next week, Postojna Mayor Igor Marentič told the STA.

The group will spend the next two weeks at Epic Hotel, which its owner had recently made available for quarantine purposes. They will be looked after by members of the civil protection force and the Red Cross, with a security guard stationed in front of the hotel.

This is the second group of Slovenians evacuated from Spain, one of the European countries with the highest number of Covid-19 cases, that has been placed in mandatory quarantine. The first group, numbering 42 people, was quarantined in Velenje on Thursday.

While persons who had been in high-risk areas had previously been told to self-isolate, the government has recently decreed that all those coming from coronavirus hotspots must be quarantined for two weeks. They will be put up in hotels and similar facilities around the country.

Several hundred nationals have been airlifted to Slovenia in recent days and Foreign Ministry information suggests several hundred more are abroad seeking to return home.

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