Wednesday’s Strict COVID Pass Rule Seen as Way to Keep Economy, Society Open

By , 13 Sep 2021, 14:17 PM Politics
Wednesday’s Strict COVID Pass Rule Seen as Way to Keep Economy, Society Open JL Flanner

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STA, 13 September 2021 - Employees and users of services in nearly all sectors will have to comply with the vaccinated-recovered-tested rule from Wednesday, a decision that government officials say is designed to offer the best possible protection while keeping the economy and society open.

"The epidemic is a dynamic process that requires a lot of adaptation from everyone. I realise these changes are not pleasant for anybody, but unfortunately we have run out of other options," Health Ministry State Secretary Franc Vindišar told the press on Monday.

Under the new regulation adopted by the government on Saturday, all workers and even the self-employed will have to be vaccinated, have proof of recovery no more than 180 days old, or test at least once a week, whereby PCR tests, rapid tests and self-testing are allowed.

For employees, the cost of testing will be covered by employers, who are allowed to sanction those who do not comply in accordance with regulations governing safety at work or employment relationships.

The wide-reaching provision, which takes effect on Wednesday, has been met with resistance by business owners, who say it is unfair that employers should shoulder the cost.

"Employers do not consent to paying for testing, we think the cost should be borne by individuals. Everyone has the chance to get vaccinated, but if they have concern about that, they should pay for the testing themselves," Branko Meh, the president of the OZS chamber of small business, told the STA today.

Similar points were also raised by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) and the Chamber of Commerce (TZS).

The requirement applies to all users of services as well, only they will have to pay tests out of their pocket. Users of health services will have to show a Covid pass too, but Vindišar stressed that this does not apply to emergency services.

For service users, the weekly self-tests for job purposes will not suffice, so they will have to get a testing certificate from a licenced providers, according to Economy Ministry State Secretary Simon Zajc.

There are a handful of exemptions, including for children up to 12, persons who bring children up to grade three to school, those accompanying children up to 15 to the doctor's, and students on public transportation.

The only shops in which a Covid pass is not needed are grocery stores and chemist's, unless they are located in shopping malls, in which case the rule applies to them as well. Compliance will be checked by the businesses individual.

The Social Chamber of Slovenia urged the government to exempt from the rule persons who need care at home, or else at least 30% of them will end up without it. It argues that staff visiting these persons has no authority to check compliance as they enter a private rather rather a public space.

Business owners have long campaigned against having to check their customers' Covid passes, arguing that they have neither the staff nor the authority to do so.

And with the Covid pass mandate expanded to cover virtually all services, mall operators now complain that the new rules are discriminatory.

Toni Pugelj, the director of mall operator SES Slovenija, said the new rules were unacceptable. Business owners will organise and hire additional staff if necessary, but it would make more sense if the PCT rule was universal, which would cause less confusion.

"Or perhaps the government should institute a radical measure such as vaccination," he told the STA.

Zajc said the Covid pass checking should not be a problem: if consumers do not show a Covid pass, businesses may not serve them.

"This is the precondition to keeping the economy open. With a bit of effort this can be controlled. Our neighbours have proved that this is possible and we are no worse than them," he said.

Public Administration Minister Boštjan Koritnik held a meeting with representatives of various inspection services today and told them that inspectors should focus on prevention and issuing warnings rather than fines.

"That way, there will be less non-compliance and it will be easier for everyone to accept and comply with the regulation," he was quoted as saying in a press release by the ministry.

Stern criticism of what they see as "rapidly changing government regulations to contain the spread of the coronavirus" was made by the centre-left opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) and Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB).

The LMŠ said such "measures are unrealistic and full of unclarities" and the SAB said the government was not aware of the damage it had caused.

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