COVID-19 & Slovenia, Night 8 April: Numbers, Some Restrictions Easing Next Week, China Sends PPE to Maribor, PPE Supplies, Churches Aim to Be Empty this Easter

By , 08 Apr 2020, 21:21 PM Politics
COVID-19 & Slovenia, Night 8 April: Numbers, Some Restrictions Easing Next Week, China Sends PPE to Maribor, PPE Supplies, Churches Aim to Be Empty this Easter Klara Jan

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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 Klara Jan, with a poster from a series organised by Tam Tam.

Contents

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

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

Chinese twin cities rush to provide PPE to Maribor

Questions raised why not cut out intermediaries in PPE supplies

Religious leaders urge believers to stay home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chinese twin cities rush to provide PPE to Maribor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Questions raised why not cut out intermediaries in PPE supplies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Religious leaders urge believers to stay home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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