COVID-19 & Slovenia, Night 29 March: Movement Restrictions, Mandatory Masks, More Aid for Individuals

By , 29 Mar 2020, 19:49 PM Politics
COVID-19 & Slovenia, Night 29 March: Movement Restrictions, Mandatory Masks, More Aid for Individuals Aleksander Sandi

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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.

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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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