COVID-19 & Slovenia, Night 31 March: Numbers, Quarantine, Threat to Deny Care to Govt Critics, Health Secretary Resigns, Stimulus Vote, Hisense Donate Equipment

By , 31 Mar 2020, 20:32 PM Politics
COVID-19 & Slovenia, Night 31 March: Numbers, Quarantine, Threat to Deny Care to Govt Critics, Health Secretary Resigns, Stimulus Vote, Hisense Donate Equipment Anja Koroše

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

We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists. Today it’s Anja Korošec, with her contribution to Tam Tam's series on our current situation. You can see more of these posters here.

Contents

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

Quarantine to be extended for infected persons

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

Two weeks on the job, Health Ministry state secretary resigns

Stimulus package in parliament no earlier than Thursday

Hisense with major donation of medical equipment for Slovenia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Quarantine to be extended for infected persons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Two weeks on the job, Health Ministry state secretary resigns

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

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

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

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Stimulus package in parliament no earlier than Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hisense with major donation of medical equipment for Slovenia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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