Politics

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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28 Mar 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’s Igor Andjelić. You can see more of their work here.

Contents

Nursing homes hit by infections

Survey says most respondents trust government

Over 80 residents in six nursing homes infected

STA, 28 March 2020 - Eighty-three residents of nursing homes and 23 staff were infected with Covid-19 in Slovenia as of Friday, data from the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities show.

Infections have been confirmed in six nursing homes around the country, apart from Metlika and Šmarje pri Jelšah also in Ljubljana, Naklo, Horjul and Ljutomer.

One of the nursing homes in Postojna could also become a hotspot after an employee tested positive for the virus yesterday. All residents - there are some 40 - and staff are being tested today.

Nine infected persons have so far died in Slovenia, all of them elderly persons with underlaying conditions. Several of them were residents of nursing homes.

The government's spokesperson for the coronavirus crisis Jelko Kacin told the press today that a special body bringing together directors of hospitals, community health centres and nursing homes would be set up in the coming days to see what else could be done to prevent the virus from spreading to nursing homes.

"We would like to protect nursing home residents from the virus at all cost," he said.

Strict measures to prevent the spreading of the virus to nursing homes are already in place, including a ban on visits, but State Secretary at the Labour Ministry Mateja Ribič again urged everyone today to stick to them to the benefit of all.

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Poll shows 58% trust government on coronavirus action

STA, 28 March 2020 - More than 58% of those polled trust the government it is doing the right thing amid the coronavirus epidemic, with 22% not trusting it, a poll released by the newspapers Dnevnik and Večer on Saturday shows.

Votes of all four coalition parties trust the Janez Janša government the most as well as some voters of the opposition National Party, non-parliamentary People's Party (SLS) and the opposition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB).

Less supportive of the government's action are voters of the opposition Social Democrats (SD), Left and Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ).

The least thrilled with the government's mode of coping with the epidemic are younger voters, the unemployed and voters from south-western Slovenia.

Over 55% meanwhile believe that the planned measures to help business, sole proprietors and the self-employed are sufficient.

Around a quarter consider them inadequate and 20% said they were not familiar well enough with them.

A vast majority of 78.5% are against the government's decision to move ministers and state secretaries to the highest public sector pay bracket. Not even the voters of the ruling Democrats (SDS) support the measure. Almost 17% however agrees with it.

However, more than 80% welcome the government's subsequent decision to cut public office holders' pay by 30% for the duration of the epidemic, with over 11% against it.

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

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28 Mar 2020, 13:56 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 Gordana Grlič, who owns the best photo store on Ljubljana's Trubarjeva cesta - Photo Pauli

STA, 28 March 2020 - Fifty-two new Covid-19 cases were confirmed but no new deaths recorded in Slovenia on Friday, putting the national total of infected persons at 684 and death toll at nine. The daily rise in new cases is below Thursday's record 70. A total of 1,387 people were tested for the virus on Friday, the Government Communication Office said on Saturday.

By Friday, 90 infected persons were admitted to hospital, of whom 25 are in intensive care and the majority need a ventilator, the government's spokesperson for the coronavirus crisis Jelko Kacin told the press today.

Related: How Many Hospital Beds Are There In Slovenia?

Answering a question from the press, he also said that no cabinet member was infected, while they all stick to very strict safety measures.

Kacin moreover announced that due to the complexity of the matter, the government is unlikely to adopt the EUR 2 billion economic stimulus package today but tomorrow.

The Government Communication Office said later in the day that the government will meet today at 4pm to continue debating the bill. It is however not clear whether it will complete the debate today.

Infected are however three employees of the national Agency Commodity Reserves, including its director, but they all feel fine and are working from home.

A special body bringing together hospital, community health centre and nursing home directors will be set up in the coming days to see what else could be done to prevent the virus from spreading to nursing homes, announced Kacin.

Related: How Many Cases of Covid-19 Are in My Municipality?

Several Covid-19 fatalities were residents of nursing homes, with the Šmarje pri Jelšah nursing home one of the hotspots of the epidemic in the country.

While visits to nursing homes are not allowed, State Secretary at the Labour, Family and Social Affairs Ministry Mateja Ribič said the elderly there are well taken care of despite the situation.

She said a number of measures have been taken to protect the staff and residents and urged everyone to stick to them to the benefit of all.

An employee of a nursing home in Postojna tested positive for the virus last evening so extensive testing of all staff and a total of some 40 residents is under way in Postojna today, according to the local Civil Protection unit.

As for personal protective equipment at nursing homes, Ribič said all those who need it, get it. She expects the shortage to ease as new shipments are coming to the country daily.

The country's Civil Protection head Srečko Šestan meanwhile told the STA that Slovenia had enough protective equipment for at least another week.

He said the biggest shortage is for the protection class FFP2 and FFP3 respirator masks, which provide the best protection and are intended primarily for medical staff.

"We'll have to use them sparingly, giving them to nobody else but medical staff," Šestan said.

He said most of the protective equipment coming in goes to healthcare organisations, including hospitals, community health centres, nursing homes, pharmacies and dentists.

The Health Ministry confirmed that two younger persons in quarantine at the Paka Hotel in the town of Velenje tested positive for the virus, but feel fine.

As many as 42 Slovenians who returned from Spain on a plane on Friday were quarantined there for two weeks.

More Slovenians are planned to return home amid the pandemic, with a plane bringing 45 Slovenians from Madrid planned to land at Ljubljana airport around midnight.

The same plane, which will also carry Croatian, Austrian and Hungarian citizens, will then fly on to Croatia's Zagreb to pick 80 Spaniards back home.

Andrej Šter of the Foreign Ministry explained for TV Slovenija that Slovenia will only have to organise the transit of Austrians to their home country.

Another ten Slovenians are expected to arrive in Slovenia from Skopje and Prishtina today.

28 Mar 2020, 09:04 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 27 March 2020. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: Beware surveillance capitalism

STA, 27 March 2020 - In the times that are coming, democracy will be more important than we could ever imagine and the countries that do not have people fully committed to human rights and democracy in power now will have it hard, the editor-in-chief of the left-wing weekly Mladina, Grega Repovž, argues in Friday's editorial.

"In the coming weeks (!) so much will happen that we will indeed wake up to a different world, a different world order", Repovž says, pointing to restrictive measures and electronic surveillance devices that Asian countries are using to prevent the spread of coronavirus among their citizens.

"The use of such applications is undoubtedly controversial, because they severely encroach on personal privacy. But as long as health arguments are used we are somehow trying to understand them," Repovž says.

However, the world today trembles before another fear: the fear of a great economic collapse. "This fear is getting worse, because for healthy people quarantined today it is much more tangible and known than some unknown diseases. One of the reasons for this is that only a decade has passed since the last major crisis."

It was only a matter of time before those who are primarily concerned about the state of the economy realised that these applications and surveillance of infected persons can actually enable them to allow citizens to return to their jobs early in the name of the economy and assume their role of consumers again.

The technology enabling surveillance of infected persons is sending the message that capitalism can function even before the pandemic is completely contained.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn revealed for Die Zeit this Wednesday that the German government was already working on a plan to revive public life before the end of the epidemic, so that life could return to normal for most people right after Easter, except for the older and the most vulnerable, who would be asked to remain in quarantine.

He argued that in a liberal society it is not possible to restrict contacts between people in the long-term, which Repovž says is a seemingly acceptable view for any liberal. But his next sentence was that digital tracking of people's contacts, meaning tracing people's mobiles, will be inevitable in this scenario.

"And so it has happened. The wall has been penetrated. The one thing we feared has happened: the argument of liberal values has been used to violate those exact values only to let capitalism start its engines again."

The question now is whether we will give up our freedom and privacy to enable life to start again despite the virus that is among us. Will we even have a chance to be against? "Is this the world we want to live in? And primarily: Can you trust your authorities - for example in Slovenia - that they will not abuse the situation?"

But what if this experiment causes the disease to spread even more, and bring even more deaths, Repovž wonders under the headline Surveillance Capitalism Is Coming.

Demokracija: Mainstream media should not attack government

STA, 26 March 2020 - The right-wing magazine Demokracija endorses government restrictions aimed at slowing down the spread of coronavirus in its latest edition, berating mainstream media for accusing the government of censorship.

In the piece headlined What the World Will Be Like After the End of the Outbreak, Jože Biščak, the editor-in-chief, writes that everyone should abide by the restrictions and behave as if they were contagious, including journalists.

"In particular the ladies who are reporting on the ground in front of cameras without protective masks (great example for the viewers indeed), and then when the government cancels live press conferences, go crying that they cannot do their job, complaining about censorship, talking about dictatorship, curbs on the freedom of speech.

"Dear readers, we are at war, at war against a virus we do not know well enough and do not know what consequences it will have on people's health."

Biščak says that no one is denying anyone's right to express their opinion, or hindering journalist work and that no one will be any less informed if the government responds to questions remotely.

He accuses the media mainstream of using the state of emergency to attack the centre-right government, arguing that people are not interested in who has been replaced at the helm of the army or police force at the moment, but rather if and how they will survive the epidemic.

"Things that are completely irrelevant to health at the moment are only of interest to socio-political workers, a phalanx of NGOs and ideological parasites as they are helplessly watching how they are losing their influence and how ordinary people are welcoming government measures."

Biščak says that restrictions will pass and that the current government has no desire to extend the state of emergency beyond what necessary, as mainstream media commentators claim.

"However, this is a time for a rethink what world we want to live in after the end of the outbreak. A globalised one where international elites take decisions that affect us and decide the quality of our lives, or a world where the power would be decentralised, people freer and regions more independent?"

All our posts in this series are here

27 Mar 2020, 20:39 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 Gordana Grlič.

Contents

Covid-19 death toll rises to nine as two more deaths reported Friday

Infectologist says Covid-19 numbers do not show whole picture

Quarantine protocol to apply to all Slovenians returning from hotspots

Covid-19 death toll rises to nine as two more deaths reported Friday

STA, 27 March 2020 - The coronavirus death toll in Slovenia rose to nine on Friday as two persons died, the second day in a row that more than one fatality has been confirmed. By Thursday midnight the total number of confirmed infections rose to 632, up by a record seventy cases in a day, the latest government data show.

Two patients who died on Friday had been hospitalised at the Golnik hospital near Kranj and the Celje General Hospital, the Health Ministry said.

Similar to other deaths, the persons who died yesterday and today were elderly with underlying conditions, the government Communication Office told the STA.

Among the nine dead are four residents of the Metlika retirement home, while another three were allegedly residents of the retirement home in Šmarje pri Jelšah. Both towns have a high rate of confirmed cases.

The National Institute for Public Health (NIJZ) meanwhile said that the new infections stemmed from clusters that had formed around the first detected cases, which had been imported.

Commenting on the increase in positive cases, NIJZ said that these were expected, as most were related infections in the retirement homes in Metlika and Šmarje pri Jelšah. It expects the growth in cases to slow down because of the lockdown measures imposed in Slovenia nearly two weeks ago.

The first case of Covid-19 has also been confirmed in the ranks of the Slovenian Armed Forces. All who were in contact with the person have been traced down and tested negative. In a press release the military also said it had set up a mobile lab to help test the Slovenians returning from abroad upon arrival.

In the evening, public broadcaster TV Slovenija reported that the first case has also been discovered in the police ranks. The police officer was reportedly working at a cooperation centre for security bodies in Dolga Vas, near Lendava (NE), where police officers from Austria, Croatia and Hungary work together.

Apart from the Slovenian police officer, a Croatian and an Austrian officer have also been infected, TV Slovenija reported.

A total of 90 patients were hospitalised as of Thursday, of which 22 were in intensive care. More than 18,000 tests were carried out by midnight on Thursday, over a thousand yesterday alone.

Meanwhile, reports from hospitals suggest 101 patients were in hospital today. Covid-19 patients are currently being treated in four hospitals, apart from Golnik and Celje, also at UKC Maribor and the UKC Ljubljana's Clinic for Infectious Diseases.

The latter is treating 50 patients, the highest number among all hospitals. UKC Ljubljana is also monitoring 30 patients with mild symptoms remotely.

UKC Maribor has meanwhile announced stricter measures as of Monday, shutting down all activities bar emergency assistance because the number of patients in need of intensive therapy is growing very fast.

The hospital is also concerned because it had admitted a patient who tested negative for Covid-19 and was hospitalised for a different illness but was positive several days later, after already having been in contact with other patients who tested negative.

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Infectologist says Covid-19 numbers do not show whole picture

STA, 27 March 2020 - Infectologist Janez Tomažič believes that the number of cases of Covid-19 in Slovenia does not show the whole picture. Commenting on the highest increase in confirmed cases so far, he said that "if the increase is among the vulnerable groups, then I'm worried, but if the increase is among... the middle aged, then the problem is not so bad".

Speaking for the STA, the expert in infectious diseases who works at the UKC Ljubljana hospital, said it was key that Slovenia does not see an increase in positive cases among people over 60 with underlying conditions and persons with immune deficiencies.

The most recent data from the National Institute for Public Health (NIJZ) shows that the share of the disease is highest among people over 85 (88 per 100,000) followed by the 25-34 age group (42 per 100,000).

Covid-19 is especially problematic for retirement homes, where there are many elderly people in close proximity and the infection can spread rapidly. "All preventative measures must be followed, such as complete ban on visits and sick employees staying at home."

"We know the course of the illness quite good. Usually it develops slowly with mild symptoms in the early days, even in vulnerable groups. It starts to worsen around day seven and around day ten it becomes clear whether the patient will have a severe course of the illness."

The key thing is to avoid a rapid increase in hospitalisations. "We're worried it might come to random hospitalisations of patients who would not benefit from this or see the quality of life improved."

Tomažič illustrated that in Italy, decisions were sometimes made in panic, sending to hospital people for whom this was far from beneficial, as the hospitalisation only decreased the quality of their remaining life.

"The transportation alone, intubation, needles... and all for nothing. That is why these decisions are so incredibly important. But because they are very sensitive, the discussions with families need to be done expertly, humanely and with dignity."

Now is the time to discuss this, because the situation is relatively calm and this could be talked through without haste, in peace, humanely and with dignity. These patients need to receive expert and ethical care, he underlined.

"It is essential that these decisions and talks with the patient's family involve not only the GP... but also experts from secondary and tertiary institutions, a psychologist and, when at all possible, a palliative care specialist." Thus a task force has been established to assist retirement homes.

He believes good response and organisation within retirement homes is key, saying that the two homes that have seen the most positive cases, in Šmarje pri Jelšah and Metlika, have learnt a lot and became very well organised.

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Quarantine protocol to apply to all Slovenians returning from hotspots

STA, 27 March 2020 - The government announced on Friday that all Slovenians returning to Slovenia from coronavirus hotspots will be put into state-administrated quarantine. The measure has so far affected 445 persons, Jelko Kacin, the government's spokesman for the coronavirus crisis, told the press.

The announced was made after 41 Slovenian nationals who were flown in from Madrid late on Thursday were not sent into self-isolation but quarantined in a hotel in Velenje for a 14-day period.

It was said that the same quarantine protocol would be used for a second plane from Spain, to be organised on Saturday, but Kacin confirmed today it would apply to all Slovenians returning from coronavirus hotspots.

However, he singled out Spain again, saying that quite a few Slovenians remained there and that these flights would continue almost on a daily basis.

In an effort to assuage locals in Velenje, where the Paka Hotel was made available free of charge by Hisense, the Chinese-based owner of household appliances maker Gorenje, Kacin said this would not be the only town with a quarantine unit.

"There are many more Slovenians abroad and this is a good example of solidarity that is crucial in these difficult times. I hope this will serve as an inspiration to other companies with vacant accommodation facilities," he said. Railways operator Slovenske Železnice has announced it has made available the holiday accommodation facilities it owns for quarantine purposes.

There has been some resistance in Velenje, with Deputy Mayor Peter Dermol expressing indignation that the local community learnt about the Paka Hotel quarantine from the media and the fact that the local civil protection and health authorities had not been informed about the government's decision.

In the afternoon, the situation calmed down, with Andrej Šter, the head of the Foreign Ministry's consular service, apologising publicly for failure to inform the community and Dermol accepting his apology.

What is more, the care for those in quarantine has been taken over by the Velenje municipality. The Civil Protection has also said that 42 people are being quarantined at the Paka Hotel, among them two minors.

All of the people in quarantine will be tested again this evening, then again in six days and once more in a fortnight. Among them is also basketball player Zoran Dragić, who told the press press he believes two weeks' quarantine was too long and that nobody from the plane was infected.

One of the quarantined persons expressed worry to the STA over not having protective gear and over the danger of legionnaires disease because the hotel had been out of order. "Nobody warned us that tap water wasn't safe, we only received bottled water in the course of the day."

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27 Mar 2020, 20:01 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, 20 March
        LJUBLJANA - Sweeping lockdown measures came into effect in Slovenia with the movement and gathering of people in public places banned until further notice with exemptions that allow society to function. This was as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 341.
        LJUBLJANA - Parliament passed the first package of laws aimed at mitigating the impact of the coronavirus crisis, including subsidised pay for temporarily laid-off workers, credit payment and tax duty deferrals for companies, as well as trade restrictions for agriculture and food products. One act gives the government complete discretion in the use of budget funds approved for purposes not deemed part of legally binding tasks.
        LJUBLJANA - Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec assured the public that there was enough basic foodstuffs in Slovenia for a few months with backup plans in place in case of disruption to existing food supply chains. She indicated the possibility of occasional problems in supply of imported fresh fruit and vegetables.
        LJUBLJANA - Facing a strike threat in protest against an emergency decree forcing grocery stores to be open from 8am to 8pm, the government pushed the closing time to 6pm, as demanded by the trade union of shop assistants. The restrictions do not apply to smaller retailers.
        LJUBLJANA - To ease the impact of the coronavirus fallout, the government issued a decree suspending certain contributions on electricity bills that will result in about 20% lower cost of power for households and small businesses until 31 May.
        LJUBLJANA - The governing council of the National Public Health Institute appointed Ivan Eržen acting director after the government relieved Nina Pirnat of her duties and moved her to the Health Ministry's Healthcare Directorate, unofficially due to her handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
        LJUBLJANA - Only days after being appointed, Miro Petek was dismissed as acting director of the Government Communication Office and replaced by Uroš Urbanija, a former STA home desk editor, who also worked as editor at the public broadcaster's news web portal MMC RTV Slovenija and commercial broadcaster Planet TV.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Centre of Excellence for Biosensors, Instrumentation and Process Control joined efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine in cooperation with Slovenian and international companies, research institutes and universities. Its head Matjaž Peterko said development could take between less than a year and a few years.

SATURDAY, 21 March
        LJUBLJANA/ŠMARJE PRI JELŠAH - The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country rose by 42 to 383 with a total of 12,162 tests performed. Prime Minister Janez Janša visited the town of Šmarje pri Jelšah, the site of the second largest outbreak in the country, where the nursing home became a major hotspot.
        LJUBLJANA - Jelko Kacin, the spokesman for the government coronavirus crisis response unit, threatened that a ban would be imposed restricting people's movement to their municipality, a plan later shelved because of a low number of violations of existing lockdown measures.
        LJUBLJANA - Public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, the Journalists' Association (DNS) and the Journalists' Trade Union condemned a Twitter post by Prime Minister Janez Janša in which he accused TV Slovenija of lying after running an interview with a trade unionist who expressed indignation about the pay rise for ministers and state secretaries. The government later announced a 30% cut in public office holders' pay during the epidemic.
        LJUBLJANA - After the first week of school closure due to the Covid-19 epidemic, Education Minister Simona Kustec found that remote schooling was going very well while problems of some 700 students without access to computer or internet were being addressed.

SUNDAY, 22 March
        LJUBLJANA/METLIKA - Slovenia recorded a second coronavirus fatality as the number of confirmed cases rose by 31 in the past day to 414. Health Minister Tomaž Gantar said that both patients who had died were in their 90s and had underlying health issues. The latest fatality was an elderly woman from the Metlika nursing home, like the man who died just over a week earlier. Visiting the facility, PM Janez Janša pledged an all out effort to supply enough protective equipment.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia sent emergency relief aid to Croatia in response to the neighbouring country's appeal for help via the European civil protection mechanism after a magnitude 5.3 earthquake hit the capital of Zagreb in the morning. Slovenia dispatched ten tents equipped to accommodate up to 80 people with 60 beds and 60 sleeping bags and 20 heating devices, valued at EUR 107,000.
        KLAGENFURT/GRAZ, Austria, KRŠKO - The Krško Nuclear Power Station (NEK) reported that a preventive examination of systems and equipment had not detected any damage or impact on operations caused by a severe earthquake in Zagreb that was felt in Slovenia as well. The Nuclear Safety Administration said the power station, situated near the border with Croatia and hence close to the earthquake's epicentre, operated normally. Meanwhile, several Austrian politicians reiterated their calls for the closure of Slovenia's sole nuclear power plant.

MONDAY, 23 March
        LJUBLJANA - A 67-year-old man with multiple underlying conditions died at the infectious diseases department at the UKC Ljubljana hospital in the third coronavirus-related death in the country as the number of confirmed cases rose by 28 in a day to 442. As many as 13,812 tests were conducted, as rules changed to expand testing to persons older than 60, those with other risk conditions and those with immunodeficiency disorders even if they only have mild symptoms.
        LJUBLJANA - After halving its economic growth forecast for Slovenia for 2020 to 1.5% less than a fortnight ago, the government economic think-tank IMAD projected a 6-8% contraction in the country's GDP due the worsening coronavirus crisis.
        LJUBLJANA - A survey by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) found 93% of the companies surveyed had serious difficulties due to the coronavirus pandemic and its ramifications, with 40% expecting a more than 70% drop in revenue in March, a further 18% expect to halve their revenue and as many project a fall of at least 30%. The chamber estimated a stimulus package of between EUR 2-4 billion was needed to avert an economic and social crisis.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar revealed following a videoconference with his EU counterparts that more than 1,000 Slovenians were still looking to get repatriated amid the travel restrictions across the globe prompted by the pandemic.
        LJUBLJANA - A public opinion poll conducted for the commercial broadcaster POP TV before the lockdown measures, put the voter approval rating for the government at 45.4% and the ruling Democrats (SDS) in the lead among parties on 20%.
        LJUBLJANA - Jernej Pintar, director of the Ljubljana Technology Park, told the newspaper Finance that several groups of engineers were developing various types of ventilators to meet the demand among a growing number of Covid-19 patients; the first prototypes were turned on the day before after development of several versions started over a week ago.
        LJUBLJANA - The opposition Social Democrats (SD) announced that MP Franc Trček, who left the opposition Left after the National Assembly appointed the Janez Janša cabinet, was joining their deputy faction, which hence members eleven deputies in the 90-strong lower chamber.

TUESDAY, 24 March
        LJUBLJANA - The government presented a package of economic stimulus measures worth roughly EUR 2 billion designed to protect jobs and keep society in general functioning through the crisis. The measures, yet to be hashed out in the form of legislation, include loan guarantees for companies, purchase of claims to companies, co-financing of social contributions, temporary basic income for the self-employed and a one-off allowance for pensioners. Matej Lahovnik, the economist who heads a special task force of economists and executives advising the government on the measures, said this was the biggest stimulus ever in Slovenian history. PM Janez Janša and Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj assured the public that the funds to finance the package were sufficient, with reliable sources available to tap into. Both the opposition and businesses welcomed the package.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia recorded the fourth coronavirus-related death as an elderly woman died at the Šmarje pri Jelšah nursing home, one of the hotspots of the coronavirus epidemic in the country. The woman had multiple underlying chronic conditions and died "at a very advanced age". The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Slovenia was up by 38 in a day to 480.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia issued EUR 850 million worth of three-year bonds and increased by EUR 250 million the existing 10-year bond issue due in March 2029. The newspaper Finance reported that the required yield on the three-year bond is 0.253% and 0.695% on the nine-year debt.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Ministry State Secretary Gašper Dovžan welcomed the decision of EU European affairs ministers who agreed via videoconference to let Albania and North Macedonia begin accession talks after a series of setbacks. Dovžan said the step was a vital political signal for the region indicating a path to EU membership. He also stressed the importance of the EU's practical approach in tackling other open issues in the Western Balkans.
        LJUBLJANA - The Agency for Public Legal Records (AJPES) said that 779 sole proprietors had closed shop due to coronavirus-related measures between 1 and 20 March, which is 44% more than in the same period last year, 48% more than had been the case for 1-20 February and 29% more than in the 1-20 January period.
        LJUBLJANA - Fresh police data showed an increase in the flow of illegal migrants across the Slovenian border despite the coronavirus pandemic, a trend attributed to warmer weather. Last week alone, 234 migrants were recorded, but no one tested positive for the novel virus. Slovenian police recorded 1,165 cases of people crossing the border illegally in the first two months of the year, an increase of 80% compared with the same period a year ago.
        LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Večer reported that former Istrabenz CEO Igor Bavčar and former Laško CEO Boško Šrot were allegedly among some 130 prisoners who were released early as a result of efforts to stem the coronavirus spread.
        LJUBLJANA - Due to plummeting of global oil prices amid the Russia-Saudi price war and the coronavirus turmoil, administered fuel prices in Slovenia slumped to a multi-year low. The price of regular sold at service stations outside the motorway network fell 17.6 cents to EUR 1.029 per litre, the lowest since May 2009, and diesel was down 12.9 cents to EUR 1.017, the lowest since March 2016.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian Olympic Committee (OKS) chairman Bogdan Gabrovec welcomed the decision to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, saying that common sense had prevailed. The OKS called on the government to include sport in its measures to mitigate the crisis.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian basketball player Luka Dončić, one of the key players of the Dallas Mavericks and former member of Real Madrid, was named to the EuroLeague's 2010-2020 All-Decade Team, as a third pick after Spanish Juan Carlos Navarro and American Kyle Hines.

WEDNESDAY, 25 March
        VIENNA, Austria - Drago Jančar, arguably Slovenia's leading contemporary writer, won the Austrian State Prize for European Literature 2020. The life-time achievement award, handed out each year, comes with a check of EUR 25,000. "Taking an individual to penetratingly render understandable the delusions of our history: this is one of the big strengths of his literature," the jury wrote about the 71-year-old.
        LJUBLJANA - A fifth coronavirus-related death in Slovenia was confirmed as another resident died in the Šmarje pri Jelšah nursing home, one of the hotspots of the epidemic in the country. The number of people infected rose by 48, the largest daily increase, to 526, 73 of whom healthcare workers.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia reintroduced border checks with Austria at 13 checkpoints to restrict access to the country because of the coronavirus epidemic. The same rules already apply on the Italian border.
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided to wait before it formally proposes the activation of a legislative provision that gives the military limited police powers in controlling the border, saying it plans to consult parliamentary groups as a two-third majority is needed in parliament. The article's invocation had been endorsed by President Borut Pahor in his capacity of commander-in-chief of the Slovenian Armed Forces.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Nine EU leaders, including Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Janša, called for eurozone countries to jointly issue debt, a coronabond, in order to fight the devastating impact of coronavirus on the European economies, in a letter to President of the European Council Charles Michel.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor endorsed the government action to contain the coronavirus outbreak in Slovenia as well as the EUR 2 billion stimulus package. In an interview broadcast on TV Slovenija, Pahor said the composition of the group of experts advising the government on the crisis measures inspired great confidence, and the measures themselves were a step in the right direction.
        LJUBLJANA - The first of two convoys designed to repatriate Serbian citizens stranded in Slovenia due to Serbia closing its borders to curb the coronavirus epidemic, including to its own citizens, headed for the country after the Slovenian government reached an agreement with Serbia to organise transport for around 400 Serbian citizens returning from other European countries. The other convoy left for Serbia on 26 March.
        LJUBLJANA - A major shipment of much needed personal protective equipment arrived in Slovenia from the Czech Republic as an increasing number of businesses were joining the effort to meet the needs. A plane carrying 25,700 surgical masks and 5,000 protective suits landed at Ljubljana airport. This was following the 23 March shipment of 125,000 surgical masks, 93,000 pairs of gloves, 856 Tyvek suits, 20,000 head covers and 2,550 shoe covers. Two companies in Slovenia launched protective face mask production.
        LJUBLJANA - The government's emergency response unit, set up on 13 March to help manage the response to the coronavirus crisis, was dissolved after all capacities attached to the unit had been taken over by the relevant ministries and their departments.
        LJUBLJANA - The government formally submitted to UNESCO the multi-national bid for placing the Lipizzan horse breeding and related practices on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Slovenian-led bid to include the tradition in the longer of the two UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists also includes Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Slovakia.

THURSDAY, 26 March
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor, Prime Minister Janez Janša, National Assembly Speaker Igor Zorčič and National Council President Alojz Kovšca met to discuss the functioning of political institutions and joint action during the coronavirus crisis. They said action must be effective but also democratic so as to prevent a decline of trust in democratic institutions.
        LJUBLJANA - A resident of the Metlika nursing home died of complications caused by the new coronavirus, bringing the total number of Covid-19-related deaths in Slovenia to six. Total number of Covid-19 cases confirmed so far is 562, with a A total of 17,294 tests having been conducted.
        LJUBLJANA - The central bank said in its latest report that the banking system remained strong capital- and liquidity-wise but should now brace for a fast drop in profitability. A total of EUR 15.4 million in pre-tax profit for banks in Slovenia was reported for January, a 61% decrease year-on-year.
        LJUBLJANA - A survey showed that Slovenians are still worried about the coronavirus epidemic, but an increasing number (57%) believe the situation is improving. Only a week ago, over 50% of those polled said the situation was getting worse.
        LJUBLJANA - The Manager Association said it had elected Medeja Lončar, the director of Siemens Slovenija and CEO of Siemens Hrvatska, its new president. Lončar, who is succeeding Aleksander Zalaznik after he served two three-year terms, has been among the leading entrepreneurs in Slovenia and Croatia and already served as the association's vice-president in the previous term.

All our posts in this series are here

26 Mar 2020, 20:43 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 Aleksandra Jereb. You can see more of her work here.

Contents

Sixth Covid-19-related death in Slovenia confirmed

Survey: Slovenians quite optimistic about coronavirus situation

Slovenia's stock of protective gear sufficient for at least a week

Top officials pledge effective and democratic action

Pahor endorses govt coronavirus action

Slovenians returning from Spain to be put in strict quarantine

Coronavirus crisis particularly hard on Roma without access to drinking water

Sixth Covid-19-related death in Slovenia confirmed

STA, 26 March 2020 - An resident of the Metlika nursing home died last night of complications caused by the new coronavirus, bringing the total number of Covid-19-related deaths in Slovenia to six. The person had several underlying conditions, the head of UKC Ljubljana's infectious disease clinic Tatjana Lejko Zupanc announced on Thursday.

There are currently 41 persons at the infectious disease clinic treated for Covid-19, of which 11 are in intensive care. One of the patients from the intensive therapy unit no longer needs artificial ventilation, UKC Ljubljana said on Twitter.

"This is exceptionally good news, which we had awaited eagerly," said Lejko Zupanc, adding that additional beds were being prepared at the orthopaedic clinic. A total of 20 beds have been prepared, and the capacity will be further expanded, if necessary.

She said that it was hard to predict how things would develop and that more would be known next week. "The next week will be critical, and then it will be easier to assess the situation," but "the end will not come over night."

Lejko Zupanc noted that all patients undergoing intensive therapy needed several weeks to be unplugged from artificial ventilation. Patients in other wards also need oxygen and hospitalisation takes a long time, which is why the number of patients in increasing.

She added that doctors at UKC Ljubljana spent a lot of time on duty and that they were under immense stress, but that they remained very optimistic for now.

The UKC Maribor hospital reported that 19 patients were being treated there, including four persons in intensive care, who are connected to ventilators. Two patients are also in intensive care in the Golnik Clinic for Respiratory and Allergic Diseases.

Nine Covid-19 patients are currently hospitalised in Celje, with one in intensive care, the Celje general hospital said on Twitter.

A total of 36 new Covid-19 cases were confirmed on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 562. A total of 17,294 tests have been conducted so far.

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Survey: Slovenians quite optimistic about coronavirus situation

STA, 26 March 2020 - Slovenians are still worried about the coronavirus epidemic, but an increasing number (57%) believe the situation is improving, a survey carried out by pollster Valicon between 23 and 25 March shows. Only a week ago, over 50% of those polled said the situation was getting worse.

While 3% even think the situation is improving considerably, the number of those who believe it is much worse than it was has dropped from 8% last week to only 3%.

And while 84% of the 566 polled respondents are worried, two points up from last week, only 25% are very worried, a drop of two points.

Almost 50% of those polled perceive the situation as rather negative, labelling it as "unpleasant or tiresome", but over 50% gave more positive answers such as "acceptable or manageable".

The respondents are still most worried about their families (74% as opposed to 81% a week ago), followed by being worried how long the epidemic will last (54%) and the consequences it will have for the economy (46%).

The majority (51%) approve of anti-coronavirus measures taken by the government, 46% said they were partly adequate or partly inadequate, with 3% seeing them as outright inadequate.

The number of those who believe the measures are not strict enough has fallen from over 50% to 40% in a week, with 53% describing them as appropriate.

Forty-three percent of Slovenians believes schools and kindergartens will be closed and public life at a standstill for another two months, whereas around 30% believe this will change in a month.

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Slovenia's stock of protective gear sufficient for at least a week

STA, 26 March 2020 - After Slovenia received several shipments of protective gear in the past few days, its current stock should suffice at least for a week, chief of the civil protection service Srečko Šestan told the press. New orders have also been placed, so there should be enough protective gear in the future as well, said Aleš Cantarutti of the Economy Ministry.

Slovenia currently has over 7,500 protective suits, 26,000 FFP3/N95 masks, 790,000 surgical masks, 100,000 IIR surgical masks and 7.7 million pairs of gloves. Provided that the gear is used up at a similar pace as it was in the past week, this will suffice for at least one week, Šestan said, noting that additional shipments were expected.

He said health institutions - hospitals, community health centres, retirement homes, pharmacies and dentists - had priority in the distribution of protective gear. Some 30% of the gear is intended for other providers of crucial services such as funeral services, taxi drivers, security guards, prisons etc.

The Civil Protection and Disaster Relief Administration has between 2,000 and 5,000 people working in the field every day, including helping with border checks and distributing aid to people's homes. Šestan said they were also ready for a potential increase in demand for their services.

Some 100 employees of the Financial Administration (FURS) and FURS vehicles were also helping with the distribution of the gear, the chief of the civil protection services said.

According to Economy Ministry State Secretary Aleš Cantarutti, the first Slovenian-made masks have already been delivered as well. Given the number of companies making face masks in Slovenia now, Cantarutti believes the country will eventually reach a certain degree of self-sufficiency in this respect.

Nevertheless, the Commodity Reserves Institute has made several new orders in the past days, and the delivery of those items, including 326 additional ventilators, is expected in the next 60 days.

Additional ventilators have also been ordered by the UKC ljubljana and Celje hospitals, and together with a donation by the power utility HSE, the health system should get an additional 472 ventilators shortly.

But since it is not clear what the demand for these devices will be, another 100 will be ordered. They should be in Slovenia in the next four to six weeks.

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Top officials pledge effective and democratic action

STA, 26 March 2020 - Slovenia's top officials met on Thursday to discuss the functioning of political institutions and joint action during the coronavirus crisis. They said action must be effective but also democratic so as to prevent a decline of trust in democratic institutions.

"The way we survive the crisis will determine how we live after the crisis," President Borut Pahor said after talks with Prime Minister Janez Janša and the heads of both chambers of parliament, National Assembly Speaker Igor Zorčič and National Council President Alojz Kovšca.

Pahor said the intention of the meeting was to determine whether adjustments may be needed so that all decisions are taken fast and in line with the constitution and the law.

"It is of utmost importance that this crisis - health and social crisis - be tackled in a democratic manner with due respect for all standards," he said.

He said the government was doing a good job while the general atmosphere in politics was favourable with differences in views reconciled without hampering the efficiency of measures.

Janša said the government was working efficiently and lawfully, with the measures realistic and feasible, adding that it was "fighting a battle against time".

Zorčič mentioned the possibility of shortening the time frame after which new bills and legislative changes that may not be challenged in referendum take effect, with Pahor saying that the currently valid period of eight days remained in place.

If there is a need to change this so as to allow more effective decision-making, the rule may be changed in line with the rules of procedure by means of democratic procedures, Pahor said.

Zorčič said that some legal experts believed solutions to this could be found within the existing legislation, "but I believe nobody has said that this could already be done today and without risk. And when it comes to emergency laws we really do not want to risk having them declared unconstitutional because they had taken effect to quickly."

The upper chamber president said that the councillors would make an effort to make decisions as fast as possible, noting that the National Council had already waived the right to veto the most recent package of emergency measures drafted by the government.

Talking to the STA after the joint statement, Kovšca said that in the future he would inquire with councillors whether they were thinking about vetoing any bill discussed in parliament and in case of a critical number of affirmative answers, inform the speaker and the president about this.

"Democracy, its standards and norms do not make effectiveness impossible. But in such extraordinary situations they do require more coordination, foresight, cooperation and understanding," Pahor said.

Zorčič said that one of the main challenges was to "prepare for MPs falling ill and get everything ready so that at least a part of their work could be done from home". This is not allowed in the rules of procedure, but the speaker believes that there is political will to change that. The National Council has meanwhile already video-conferenced its sessions, said Kovšca.

Janša and Pahor also expressed hope that EU countries will learn from this epidemic. Pointing to the migration crisis, Pahor said that the global pandemic had shown for a second time in a short time that the EU was unable to fight together. He hopes the bloc will draw a lesson from the situation so as to strengthen the trust of the people.

The prime minister echoed this. His government is "making a list of things that need to be prepared if Slovenia is faced with another epidemic in the future. As far as we're concerned, we'll be a hundred times better prepared that we were now."

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Pahor endorses govt coronavirus action

STA, 26 March 2020 - President Borut Pahor has endorsed the government action to contain the coronavirus outbreak in Slovenia as well as the EUR 2 billion stimulus package it set out on Tuesday. In a televised interview last night, he commended citizens and the opposition for responsible conduct.

In an interview broadcast on the late night Odmevi news show on TV Slovenija, Pahor said the composition of the group of experts advising the government on the crisis measures inspired great confidence, and the measures themselves were a step in the right direction.

"I'm not saying they are ideal or that they won't need amendments and adjustments on the go, but I feel they are being taken on time and are such that no one will be left behind," he said about a legislative package to aid businesses and people, to be adopted by the government on Friday.

The president finds action to contain the epidemic appropriate. He praised in particular health staff and the health system as a whole. "They've managed to flatten the curve of infections and the sick to an extent the system can manage."

He in particular noted a "responsible attitude" by the opposition: "They have their opinion, criticism, but they are doing it in a responsible way."

He also lavished praise on the citizens for "exemplary" abiding by the measures imposed. "I'm proud of our homeland and our people, how we've responded in this serious situation to the recommendations and instructions of the competent services."

Asked whether the lockdown measures were taken on time, he said neither South Korea nor Singapore claimed they had taken all the necessary measures on time.

"No country in the world, not even China, has reacted right away. There's no rule book for such a situation. It's an unprecedented situation. Perhaps Slovenia should have taken some steps sooner or differently as well, but we'll be all wise after the event.

"Fact is we've caught the last train for those radical, partly excessive measures that I've welcomed so that we've flattened the curve. While we cannot project the peak, we may be optimistic that due to the right action Slovenia is on top of the situation."

Pahor expects the health crisis to be followed by a recession where it would be important to take measures that would not generate inequality. "I find it important that there won't be differences at the level of countries or between countries that could provoke disappointments, even anger, which would then reduce politics' potential to manage the situation."

The latter issue would be the topic of the four leaders' meeting today, as Pahor hosts PM Janez Janša and the speakers of both houses of parliament. "I find it important not to focus only on measures aimed at reducing the number of infected and sick, we must also take on the consequences so that everyone gets the feeling they were not left behind in this crisis."

Pahor reiterated his support for invoking a special clause of the defence act to give the army limited police powers, so that it could alleviate the burden on the police on the south border.

However, he finds it important that deputy factions are consulted. "It's essential to keep the sense of democracy, democratic standards despite the state of emergency (...) We must convince the needed majority in parliament with arguments that this is a necessary measure."

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Slovenians returning from Spain to be put in strict quarantine

STA, 26 March 2020 - Some 100 Slovenians will return home on Thursday on evacuation flights arranged by the Foreign Ministry. About 50 have already been flown in from Warsaw and Prague, while 50 are to return on a flight from Madrid this evening. Coming from a high-risk area, the latter will not go into self-isolation but will be quarantined in a hotel.

Apart from the Slovenian passengers - among them is reportedly also basketball player Zoran Dragić - the flight from Madrid will also carry a handful of Austrian citizens.

The Slovenian citizens have been informed by the embassy in Spain that they would not be self-isolating at home. The decision to place them at a separate location was made by health experts because Spain is a high-risk country, the Foreign Ministry said.

They will be placed in Paka Hotel in Velenje, which has been made available to the state free of charge by Hisense, the Chinese-based owner of household appliances maker Gorenje.

The Foreign Ministry is currently organising a second flight from Madrid, with take-off expected on Saturday. The ministry also called on those who want to return to get in touch with the Slovenian embassy in Madrid as soon as possible.

This flight from Spain will follow the same quarantine protocol, the Foreign Ministry said, adding that the Health Ministry and the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) are in charge of quarantine.

The previous night 50 Slovenians returned on a flight from Warsaw that made a layover in Prague, where the plane was also boarded by a group of seven retuning from Vietnam. Meanwhile, the flight from Ljubljana to Warsaw carried 12 Poles and two Czech citizens.

Moreover, there is also a possibility of an evacuation flight from Helsinki next week, sometime between Monday and Wednesday. The flight may make layovers in other Nordic countries, the Slovenian embassy in Denmark has said on its website.

The embassy in Brasilia is meanwhile getting everything ready to get Slovenians out of Ecuador. Three flights have been planned: one on Friday from Quito to Frankfurt with a layover in Guayaquil, and two on Monday, both from Quito to Madrid with layovers in Guayaquil.

These will be special flights and ticket bookings will only be possible through embassies.

A crisis team at the Foreign Ministry has been working tirelessly for days on end to ensure Slovenians abroad can return home, as global passenger transport has been gradually shutting down. Slovenia has suspended regular air passenger traffic last week, however, evacuation flights may land and take off.

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Coronavirus crisis particularly hard on Roma without access to drinking water

STA, 26 March 2020 - Several informal Roma settlements in Slovenia remain without drinking water and are thus struggling particularly hard in the face of the coronavirus crisis. Efforts are under way to equip them with emergency water tanks, while solutions are also being sought to include more Roma children in distance learning.

The Forum of Slovenian Roma Councillors, comprising Roma municipal councillors, has warned that the tough living conditions for the Roma mean this population is paying an even higher toll due to the epidemic and social distancing measures.

While it is particularly hard to stay at home when living conditions are inappropriate, the key problem is that individual settlements remain without drinking water, the councillors wrote.

The head of the forum Darko Rudaš has told the STA that a fresh appeal had been made to secure water access, an appeal that is this time "not based on the Slovenian constitution that secures drinking water to all citizens or on the protection of human rights, but on the threat of an infection that would be impossible to control in a settlement without drinking water".

"It would not be realistic to demand systemic solutions and we are not doing that, since it could take too long," Rudaš said, while explaining the idea was to install water tanks. "We are not demanding that this be free of charge, only that is financially accessible for these people," he added.

Rudaš explained talks on this had been under way with the Government Office for National Minorities and that water tanks could be arranged within a week.

The office's head Stane Baluh confirmed efforts had been started with several Roma organisations and that a call to protect the Roma had been sent in recent days to several institutions.

Rudaš said that no cases of Covid-19 had been confirmed yet in Roma settlements in Slovenia, that the community had been informed about the needed protective measures via a TV report in the Roma language and was behaving responsibly.

He also highlighted problems with the inclusion of Roma children into distance learning schemes set up by schools as a result of the crisis.

"The schools have made a huge effort and are establishing contact with Roma children and their parents. The importance of Roma assistants became particularly clear in this situation," he said, but stressed that, in particular in the south-east of the country, lack of computers and limited internet access was an issue.

Rudaš pointed out that distance learning was tougher for children living at close quarters and that some of the parents were too poorly educated to help them. Serious efforts will need to be invested to help them catch up after the crisis.

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26 Mar 2020, 10:46 AM

STA, 25 March 2020 - Nine EU leaders, including Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Janša, have called for eurozone countries to jointly issue debt in order to fight the devastating impact of coronavirus on the European economies. The leaders presented their idea in a four-page letter addressed to President of the European Council Charles Michel.

The leaders of Belgium, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain and Slovenia propose in the letter "a common debt instrument issued by a European institution to raise funds on the market on the same basis and to the benefits of all member states".

They believe this is necessary for "ensuring stable long term financing for the policies required to counter the damages caused by this pandemic."

"The case for such a common instrument is strong, since we are all facing a symmetric external shock, for which no country bears responsibility, but whose negative consequences are endured by all. And we are collectively accountable for an effective and united European response."

The common debt instrument should have sufficient size and long maturity to be fully efficient and avoid roll-over risks now as in the future, the leaders argue.

The idea of a mutualised debt is a frequent request of heavily indebted EU nations and is championed by the European Central Bank, but Germany and other rich northern members, which usually carry the biggest part of the burden in such projects, oppose it.

France, Spain and Italy have long called for some kind of eurobond, that is in effect joint borrowing by the 19 members of the euro single currency.

They say it could serve as the bedrock of a safer and more unified European economy and would become a globally respected asset on par with the US Treasury bills that help make the dollar the world's reference currency.

EU leaders discussed the possibility of an EU "corona bond" to finance urgent measures and help deal with the consequences of the epidemic at a videoconference last week.

In today's letter, EU leaders say the coronavirus pandemics "is an unprecedented shock and it requires exceptional measures".

All European countries have taken or are taking containment measures to stem the spread of the virus, but the success of these measures will depend on the timing, the extent and the coordination of sanitary measures implemented by different governments, they say.

They urge "an alignment of practices across Europe, based on past successful experiences, on experts' analysis, on thorough exchange of information".

"This is necessary now, during the peak phase of the epidemic... It will also be necessary tomorrow when we will roll-back the extreme measures taken today, both to avoid too hasty a return to normality and to prevent re-importing the virus from other countries."

The leaders are calling on the European Commission to "come out with agreed guidelines, a common base for the collection and sharing of medical and epidemiological information, and a strategy to deal in the near future with the staggered evolution of the epidemic".

Preserving the functioning of the single market is essential to give all European citizens the best possible care and the strongest guarantee that there will be no shortage of any kind, the letter reads.

"We need to recognize the severity of the situation and the necessity for further action to buttress our economies today, in order to put them in the best condition for a rapid recovery tomorrow. This requires the activation of all existing common fiscal instruments to support national efforts and ensure financial solidarity, especially within the eurozone."

EU leaders are expected to hold a video conference on Thursday, where they are expected to greenlight a pandemic crisis instrument to help European countries with precautionary loans from the European Stability Mechanism.

25 Mar 2020, 21:23 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

Fifth Slovenian Covid-19 victim confirmed

Major shipment of protective equipment in Slovenia

Slovenia requests tax and tariff exemption for medical gear imports

Fifth Slovenian Covid-19 victim confirmed

STA, 25 March 2020 - A fifth coronavirus-related death in Slovenia was confirmed Wednesday as another person died in the Šmarje pri Jelšah nursing home, one of the hotspots of the epidemic in the country, Health Minister Tomaž Gantar announced.

Gantar said that fifty new cases of Covid-19 infection had been confirmed since yesterday, bringing the total number to 528. According to him, 73 of the infected persons are healthcare workers.

This is the largest daily increase in the number of infected persons in Slovenia, surpassing the previous record of 45 on 13 March.

However, a direct comparison is not possible since the methodology has changed: the cases used to be counted by 10am, now they are counted from midnight to midnight. The latest daily increase thus refers to the entire Tuesday.

The National Public Health Institute later said that 528 positive tests had been recorded by midnight on Tuesday, but that the number of positive persons was actually 526, as some of the tests had been repeated.

"We expect a growth in the number of patients in the coming days. At this point we cannot project when the epidemic will peak," Gantar said.

He added that the situation could deteriorate very quickly if citizens failed to respect all the instructions and restrictive measures.

The minister also said that it was hard to project possible additional measures in the healthcare system, as these would depend mainly on the trends in patient numbers.

A total of 16,113 persons have been tested, with 1,243 being tested on Tuesday alone.

A total of 72 patients have so far been hospitalised, of whom 14 are in intensive care. Nationwide there are 539 beds available for coronavirus patients, of which 56 in intensive care, and the number could be increased to up to 1,000 if other health services are scaled back.

Gantar said that the government would reorganise the healthcare system as needed to adapt it to the growing number of Covid-19 patients.

The number of regular services has been reduced because of the limited staff capacity, equipment and premises, he said, adding that the ministry wanted to connect hospitals around the country when it came to the most important fields.

Coordinators for individual fields will be appointed in individual hospitals to gain a comprehensive insight into the developments and capacities in the country.

Intensive care will be organised as a single hospital. "This way we will know at any moment where enough staff, equipment and room is available for potential new Covid-19 patients," the minister explained.

Asked how many patients had recovered, Gantar said that there was no clear definition of recovery, while noting that dozens of persons had been discharged from hospital.

Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj added that nursing homes around the country remained the hot spots, but added that the operators had been well prepared for the situation, which was under control.

Both ministers noted that protective gear remained one of the main challenges both in nursing homes and medical institutions.

More about this topic is expected to be known on Thursday, with Gantar saying that small shipments continued to arrive on an ongoing basis.

The system has a sufficient quantity of medication for the next 30 days, and procedures are under way to purchase additional quantities, he added.

The minister noted that foreign countries had started to restrict exports of medications, adding that Slovenia had contacted Japan in relation to a medication which was expected to be used for treatment of Covid-19.

"There are many experimental studies, but there is not enough scientific evidence for us to go for quick imports of some of other medications," he said.

Back to the contents

Major shipment of protective equipment in Slovenia

STA, 25 March 2020- A major shipment of much needed personal protective equipment arrived in Slovenia from the Czech Republic on Wednesday as an increasing number of business are joining the effort to meet the needs.

A plane carrying 25,200 N95 surgical masks, 500,000 other surgical masks and 5,000 protective suits landed at Ljubljana airport, the Civil Protection and Disaster Relief Administration said.

Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec, who was present upon the landing, tweeted that the flight form Pardubice had been organised as a matter of urgency overnight.

"This and other shipments expected in Slovenia these days will significantly improve the material situation at Slovenian hospitals, which also means better and safer working conditions for doctors and other health staff," the ministry stated on its Facebook profile.

Prime Minister Janez Janša has thanked the Czech Republic for the equipment via Twitter.

Defence Minister Matej Tonin, also communicating via Twitter, has said that distribution of the equipment to health institutions and nursing homes has already begun.

The Commodity Reserves Institute has also supplied an additional 3.36 million pairs of latex gloves and 920 washable masks.

A total of 526 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Slovenia, including 73 health staff. Four of the patients who have died have been residents of nursing homes, which have proved major virus hotspots in the country.

Medical organisations and trade unions urged the government today to supply health staff with suitable personal protective equipment on time, pointing to a dire lack thereof.

"What had been unacceptable [in terms of safety standards] only a week ago, has become a daily practice due to a lack of protective equipment," the organisations said in a joint appeal.

They say the equipment is needed urgently to contain the spread of the infection in health institutions, which they say were a ticking bomb.

The organisations also called for health staff that could get infected while treating Covid-19 patients to be provided accommodation outside their home.

The call comes as a growing number of Slovenian businesses are shifting production to make protective masks, with one of the companies starting to 3D print masks.

Having manufactured industrial protective garments and goggles for thirty years, the Ptuj-based company Zaščita had already developed an ergonomic reusable mask even before the coronavirus outbreak.

"We first offered masks to our business partners for their employees. Due to huge demand, we implemented strict hygienic measures for the safety of our employees and expanded production," company official Žiga Tement said.

The 40 employees are now working two shifts to put out between 3,000 and 4,000 masks a day in cooperation with external partners. They put most of them on the market, but have offered part of them to health institutions.

The dental lab of the Križaj Clinic in Muljava in central Slovenia has designed a reusable mask to be made on 3D printers that also includes a filter that keeps away 99.95% of 0.3 micron particles.

Before use the masks will be tested at the high-tech company Bia Separations.

Masks are also being made by individuals as well as several other companies, including Supreme, the Izola-based family business manufacturing sails. Employing only two people, they make 100 masks a day and could increase the output to 150 a day.

Several companies are donating equipment, including the Chinese-owned household appliances manufacturer Gorenje, which donated 1,000 masks to the Velenje municipality.

Back to the contents

Slovenia requests tax and tariff exemption for medical gear imports

STA, 25 March 2020 - As part of the measures to tackle the coronavirus epidemic ramifications, the Finance Ministry called on the European Commission on Wednesday to enable Slovenia imports of protective gear, medical devices and other commodities needed to contain the spread of the virus in Slovenia without VAT and customs duties.

EU regulations allow such an exemption in case of disasters and under certain conditions, reads the ministry's press release.

The relevant provision can be activated at the request of a member state or a number of them following a discussion between all EU countries.

The imported equipment or devices exempted from VAT and customs duties must be then distributed among the victims of the epidemic free of charge, with the commodities remaining in the ownership of the organisations that have imported them.

Italy has been the first member state to address such a request to the EU Commission.

Back to the contents

25 Mar 2020, 14:52 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 Alexander Sandi. You can see more of their work here.

Contents

Fifth Slovenian Covid-19 victim confirmed

No hold-ups at Austria border checkpoints

Proposal to give army limited police powers on hold for now

Tourism not yet affected in February, but drastic drop to follow

Ljubljana animal shelter preparing to admit animals of Covid-19 patients

Fifth Slovenian Covid-19 victim confirmed

STA, 25 March 2020 - A fifth coronavirus-related death in Slovenia was confirmed Wednesday as another person died in the Šmarje pri Jelšah nursing home, one of the hotspots of the epidemic in the country, Health Minister Tomaž Gantar announced.

Fifty new cases of Covid-19 infection have been confirmed since yesterday, bringing the total number to 528. According to Gantar, 73 of the infected persons are healthcare workers.

This is the largest daily increase in the number of infected persons in Slovenia, surpassing the previous record of 45 on 13 March.

However, a direct comparison is not possible since the methodology has changed: the cases used to be counted by 10am, now they are counted from midnight to midnight. The latest daily increase thus refers to the entire Tuesday.

"We expect a growth in the number of patients in the coming days. At this point we cannot project when the epidemic will peak," Gantar said.

He added that the situation could deteriorate very quickly if citizens failed to respect all the instructions and restrictive measures.

The minister also said that it was hard to project possible additional measures in the healthcare system, as these would depend mainly on the trends in patient numbers.

A total of 16,113 persons have been tested, with 1,243 being tested on Tuesday alone.

A total of 72 patients have so far been hospitalised, of whom 14 are in intensive care. Nationwide there are 539 beds available for coronavirus patients, of which 56 in intensive care, and the number could be increased to up to 1,000 if other health services are scaled back.

Gantar said that the government would reorganise the healthcare system as needed to adapt it to the growing number of Covid-19 patients.

The number of regular services has been reduced because of the limited staff capacity, equipment and premises, he said, adding that the ministry wanted to connect hospitals around the country when it came to the most important fields.

Coordinators for individual fields will be appointed in individual hospitals to gain a comprehensive insight into the developments and capacities in the country.

Intensive care will be organised as a single hospital. "This way we will know at any moment where enough staff, equipment and room is available for potential new Covid-19 patients," the minister explained.

Asked how many patients had recovered, Gantar said that there was no clear definition of recovery, while noting that ten persons had been released from hospital.

Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj added that nursing homes around the country remained the hot spots, but added that the operators had been well prepared for the situation, which was under control.

Both ministers noted that protective gear remained one of the main challenges both in nursing homes and medical institutions.

More about this topic is expected to be known on Thursday, with Gantar saying that small shipments continued to arrive on an ongoing basis.

The system has a sufficient quantity of medication for the next 30 days, and procedures are under way to purchase additional quantities, he added.

The minister noted that foreign countries had started to restrict exports of medications, adding that Slovenia had contacted Japan in relation to a medication which was expected to be used for treatment of Covid-19.

"There are many experimental studies, but there is not enough scientific evidence for us to go for quick imports of some of other medications," he said.

Back to contents

No hold-ups at Austria border checkpoints

STA, 25 March 2020 - Traffic at the border with Austria is running smoothly after Slovenia introduced border checks at 13 points as of midnight to contain the coranavirus epidemic. Maribor police, who control four check points, said no foreign citizens had been denied entry to the country in the first twelve hours.

"We did not deny entry to any passenger in the period when the checks were introduced and midday," the Maribor Police Department, which controls Jurij, Šentilj and Trate border crossings, told the STA on Wednesday.

"There are no tailbacks," the police said, but added traffic could become a bit more dense at times at the Šentilj motorway border crossing, which is the busiest one.

Similarly, Slovenian workers commuting daily to Austria, who are not subject to the checks, have not experienced any major delays on their way to work, according to head of their trade union Mario Fekonja.

The same regime of checks of foreign citizens applies on the Slovenian border with Italy, with passengers being checked their body temperature.

They need to produce a medical certificate showing they tested negative for the coronavirus no more than three days ago.

Should they not have it, medical staff assesses their health condition; they are allowed entry if their body temperature is below 37.5 degrees Celsius and they show no symptoms of infection such as coughing, sneezing and difficulty breathing.

The restrictions do not apply to Slovenian citizens or to persons with permanent or temporary residence in Slovenia.

While rail transport with Austria has also been suspended, transit is allowed only in agreement with the neighbouring country.

Cargo transport and humanitarian convoys are excluded from the restrictions.

Slovenian citizens are meanwhile also checked by Austria. The new regime on the Austrian side was introduced on Friday.

Back to contents

Proposal to give army limited police powers on hold for now

STA, 25 March 2020 - The government has decided to wait before it formally proposes the activation of a legislative provision that gives the military limited police powers in controlling the border. Before a formal proposal to that effect is made, parliamentary factions will be consulted, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs said on Wednesday.

 "We decided yesterday that I withdraw the proposal from the government's agenda for now... I will first conduct talks with all deputy groups. We want deputy groups to contribute their ideas and their thoughts, but most of all we want to include all deputy groups in relevant decision-making as to the appropriateness of this measure," he said.

A two-thirds majority in parliament is needed to give the military police powers and the majority of leftist parties have been apprehensive about the plan. Some have said it is unnecessary at this point, others have expressed fear about the potential for abuse. Hojs has already talked to some of the deputy groups, the remaining meetings are scheduled until Friday.

The minister stressed 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" with Croatia.

This is because a portion of the police force had to be deployed to the border with Austria, where police checks were introduced at midnight, while a segment of the force had been put on standby to step in if some officers become ill. Soldiers would fill any remaining gaps.

The checks on the border with Austria have been put in place to prevent Slovenia from becoming a pocket for stranded foreigners, Hojs said.

"We've restricted access for those who cannot continue from Slovenia to their homeland. We're talking about nationals from Southeast Europe: Serbs, Bulgarians and Romanians. Slovenia cannot become a pocket."

In recent days several hundred Serb nationals have converged on Slovenia. They had wanted to return home to Serbia from across Europe but were turned away on the Serbian border and dozens had been seen camping out in front of the Serbian embassy in Ljubljana.

Many were put up in a sports hall Tuesday night and will be evacuated to Serbia in special convoys today and tomorrow.

Back to contents

Tourism not yet affected in February, but drastic drop to follow

STA, 25 March 2020 - Before an expected dive in March due to coronavirus, the tourism sector in Slovenia continued to do well in February, recording an only 4% year-on-year drop in arrivals to 302,000 and a 1% decrease in overnight stays to 853,000, show data released by the Statistics Office on Wednesday.

February in a fact saw an increase in the number of arrivals by foreign tourists, by almost 3% to 173,000. Italians accounted for 13% of all foreign visitors. Tourists from Serbian and Austria followed with 12% each, while Croatians accounted for 11% of the total.

The capital was doing particularly well, recording an 8% rise in the number of overnight stays compared to February 2019.

The figures are expected to change drastically over coronavirus in March. All tourist accommodation had to close in mid-March, air traffic has ground to a halt, and borders have been closed.

The government has responded to the expected woes of business and vulnerable groups with a EUR 2 billion stimulus package that is expected to be finalised by the end of the week.

Back to contents

Ljubljana animal shelter preparing to admit animals of Covid-19 patients

STA, 25 March 2020 - The Ljubljana animal shelter has limited the admission of animals to urgent cases and is making preparations to take in the animals of potential Covid-19 patients who have nobody to look after their pet during their illness.

While the animals will be subjected to a 10-day quarantine, which is standard procedure at the shelter, a special protocol has been put in place for the handover.

Owners are urged not to bring the animals to the shelter but instead notify it via phone or get a healthy person with an authorisation notice to deliver it.

The head of the shelter, which has the capacity to admit about 50 animals, Marko Oman has told Delo that the staff is already used to working in protective gear, which is why protocols did not need to be changed much.

Omar is urging caution even if there has been no evidence so far that pets can also contract the novel coronavirus.

"It is recommended to avoid petting the animals, since we don't know as much about the disease as we would like to," he said.

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