Ljubljana related

20 Mar 2020, 16:55 PM

STA, 20 March 2020 - With tourism grinding to a halt as the country fights the coronavirus outbreak, Slovenia could learn some lessons regarding housing policy, including that the market should not be trusted just about everything, Dnevnik says in Friday's commentary.

The commentary notes that people who lease their apartments via Airbnb have quickly realised that they will have no turnover whatsoever as tourist visits to Ljubljana steeply dropped with the arrival of coronavirus.

They have started advertising one- to two-month leases, and then also for longer periods, but of course, in the time of quarantine and self-isolation, this did not help either.

Real estate agencies are closed, people are locked in at home and no one is looking for an apartment if this is not really necessary. Completely unrealistic expectations of owners are another problem.

No one knows when the situation will normalise, and when it does, much time will need to pass before tourists fill up Ljubljana again, Dnevnik adds in Airbnb Apartments Are Now Good for Locals.

As for many people renting apartments to tourists is the principal activity, and not only a side business, these individuals, as well as many others in the tourism and hospitality industry, are in a difficult situation.

It seems that a majority of people feel no empathy towards real estate owners who earned money via Airbnb, and there are even calls that they should show their social responsibility by renting out their empty apartments to medical staff for free.

"The people's reaction is understandable, but it would be wrong to succumb to anger at this moment. Reason tells us that if we learned something from this crisis, it is that not all bets should be placed on the market."

For this reason, the state needs to regulate apartment renting via Airbnb, create conditions for an orderly rental market, and build public rental apartments as a priority. This would be a precious measure during the recovery period.

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia are here

20 Mar 2020, 15:25 PM

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 Marusa Stibelj. You can see more of her work here and on Instagram

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

Slovenia registered 341 confirmed coronavirus cases by 2pm on Friday, up by 22 in the last 24 hours. Almost 11,000 tests have so far been carried out, an increase of more than a thousand compared to the day before, show figures released by the National Institute of Public Health.

Contents

Slovenia enters lockdown mode

Minister assures public there is enough food for months

Parliament passes package of laws to mitigate fallout of coronavirus crisis

Slovenia enters lockdown mode

STA, 20 March 2020 - Slovenia entered lockdown mode at midnight as the government issued decree temporarily prohibiting public gatherings in public places to contain the coronavirus epidemic. The decree prohibits the movement and gathering of people in public places until further notice, but there are exemptions to ensure that society can function.

Individuals may leave their homes for a public place mindful of keeping a safe distance and only for work-related activities, to eliminate immediate threats to health, life and property, to care for people in need of support, and to access shops that remain open (grocery stores, pharmacies, petrol stations, banks, post offices, cleaning services, car repair shops and the like).

Importantly, people may access public parks and other areas for walking, again mindful of the safety distance. But they are not allowed to go for a stroll in the city. Cycling is allowed.

The lockdown has also opened some dilemmas, as a person is for example allowed to take a dog for a walk to a near-by park but not go for a walk with a partner they do not live in the same household with.

At present there also seems to be no restrictions for family trips to secluded places, even if they are on the other side of the country, but Interior Minister Aleš Hojs indicated today that in the future the government decree could be amended.

"Whatever will be changed will be changed with the sole purpose of guaranteeing additional safety," he said, announcing it may be necessary to restrict people to their municipality.

Local communities may make more detailed rules depending on the needs of the community. In that case, mayors must post public notices.

Hojs said that individual municipalities might need to introduce further restrictions to the movement of people, to for example keep people within the municipality, but that would depend on how the lockdown would be respected in its present form.

For now movement, access to and stay in a public place is also allowed for groups of persons who are close family members or share the same household, provided they keep a safe distance from other similar groups.

Groups of up to five co-workers who share the same personal vehicle to get to work or who have been called up to perform tasks within the Civil Protection Service are also exempted.

The lockdown is being policed and the fines for violations are around 400 euro.

The lockdown was also announced via an SMS sent to all phones in the country notifying the people of the prohibition of public gatherings.

Police have told the STA that they are already patrolling public spaces, warning potential violators and ordering them to abide by law such as by urging them to stand apart and keep a safe distance.

Those who do not follow the officers' instructions face a notice for violating the protection of public order act, or referral to the health inspectorate, which issues fines for lockdown violations.

The police force does not have data on measures taken against potential violators, but it says that people are mostly following officers' warnings and instructions.

"Police are implementing measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases as a priority through joint tightened checks with health inspectors or independently," said the police.

In Ljubljana and many other cities around the country, traffic wardens have been deployed to check whether residents are observing lockdown measures.

Mayor Zoran Janković urged residents to follow the instructions for the sake of their health and the health of their loved ones. He is not planning to propose any additional measures because he believes most of the 292,000 Ljubljana residents behave in a very responsible way.

Meanwhile, Kranj Mayor Matjaž Rakovec was much more critical of the situation in Slovenia's fourth city where groups of people had been spotted in recent days acting irresponsibly.

To illustrate just one example he said that a shop assistant reported being jeered and sworn at for trying to keep shoppers apart.

"It's hard to believe my colleagues having to deal with those who don't understand or won't understand how serious the epidemic is," said Rakovec, who hopes the latest decree will improve the situation.

Many towns had locked or cordoned off playgrounds and sport grounds and facilities even before the decree stepped into force, while traffic wardens are patrolling areas that could not have been physically restricted.

Officials in Novo Mesto in the south-east and Nova Gorica on the border with Italy say that the residents were obeying the ban on gatherings.

Some towns, such as Nova Gorica and Izola have disinfected public spaces where there has been a large concentration of people, while Janković said Ljubljana would not do that because health authorities deemed the measure ineffective.

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Minister assures public there is enough food for months

STA, 20 March 2020 - Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec assured the public that there is enough basic foodstuffs in Slovenia for a few months, assuaging fears that the country might run out of food as the measures are imposed world-wide to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. Food producers also said that operations ran without disruption for the time being.

 Pivec, who is also in charge of food, told the press on Friday that the situation was constantly monitored, and that backup plans were in place in case of disruption in the food supply channels.

Procedures have also been launched to supply products from other countries, if necessary, the minister said, adding that problems could first start in the supply of fresh fruit, such as citrus and tropical fruit, and certain vegetables.

Italy is a major supplier of these products to Slovenia and, if the supply of goods from there gets disrupted, Hungary could serve as a backup for the supply of fruit and vegetables.

Pivec also summarised the government measures in agriculture, including the option that a temporary manager of a farm is appointed if the owners or workers at the farm are incapacitated due to coronavirus.

The temporary manager would have the same rights and obligations as the owner, including the right to monthly pay, but will not hold the ownership right. Farm management and sales need to be conducted with the owner's consent.

No measures to prevent potential dumping have been adopted, but Pivec said that it was possible to restrict or ban the sale of a certain groups of products, individual products, foodstuffs or animals to other EU member states or third countries.

The minister added that the decree on the conditions for the entry to Slovenia from Italy did not apply to owners whose land used for agricultural work laid on both sides of the border.

Pivec noted that the good news was that the European Commission had approved an increase in de minimis aid to companies in the fisheries from EUR 15,000 to EUR 120,000 and in agriculture from EUR 20,000 to 100,000.

The ministry has also stepped up the promotion of Slovenian products and established a 24/7 call centre for questions related to the access to food.

Pivec stressed that the sale of food at produce markets and farms had not been prohibited, and that the ministry was in talks with the Economy Ministry about the possibility to re-open shops with pet food.

For the time being, there are no indications that the country may run out of pesticides, she added.

Companies in the food production and processing industry are coping with the increased demand, with production being either increased or reduced in different segments due to the changed circumstances.

The country's largest bread and pasta maker Žito said that the operations ran without disruptions, with employees regularly coming to work in production plants, bakeries and shops.

Demand for basic and durable foodstuffs, such as flour, pasta, rice, yeast, cornmeal and canned and baby food, has increased, but this is not problematic for the time being, the company added.

The dairy Mlekarna Celeia said that milk continued to be purchased from more than 900 Slovenian farms, with the daily quantity reaching 270,000 litres.

"In recent days we have noticed an increase in orders of fresh and long-life milk, cheese and yoghurt in large packages, and we have adjusted the production to the situation," director Vinko But said.

The company currently supplies around 1,000 outlets in the country, and the production and delivery of products is not disrupted despite the strict safety measures, the company added in a press release.

The Pekarna Grosuplje bakery has meanwhile reduced the workload in production for safety reasons, but said that the supply was not a problem because the raw material used was mostly of Slovenian origin.

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Parliament passes package of laws to mitigate fallout of coronavirus crisis

STA, 20 March 2020 - Parliament passed on Thursday a package of laws aimed at mitigating the impact of the coronavirus crisis. Measures include pay compensation for temporary lay-offs, credit payment and tax duty deferrals for companies, as well as trade restrictions for agriculture and food products. One act also gives the government direct control over the budget.

A major part of the package is the act providing state aid in pay compensation for temporary lay-offs at companies that will need to temporarily lay off at least 30% of their workforce due to disruptions in supply or a drop in demand.

The act, whose costs are estimated at EUR 50 million, stipulates temporarily laid-off workers will be entitled to 80% of their wage average from the past three months, with the employers having to cover 60% of this sum and the state 40%.

The maximum temporary lay-off period will be three months and employers using the aid will have to commit to having the temporarily redundant workers employed for at least six month after sending them home.

Aid will also be provided in cases of workers unable to work as a result of self-isolation, but the state will cover the full 80% for such instances.

In line with amendments adopted at the committee level, the scheme was extended to self-employed workers, however the only aid will be the possibility to defer social contribution payments for the coming three months by up to two years.

While government representatives stressed the measure was about preserving jobs and avoiding people ending up on the shoulders of the Employment Service, the left-leaning opposition parties argued too little was being done for the self-employed, actually the most vulnerable group.

"100,000 sole proprietors is a number we should not ignore," said Soniboj Knežak of the SocDems, but an amendment by the Left to write off these social contribution payments was rejected.

The pressure on business will meanwhile also be mitigated with an act that reduces the administrative and tax burdens on companies, pushing back the deadlines for tax documentation filings and allowing companies to ask for a tax deferral of up to two years or for paying tax in up to 24 instalments.

The same law notably gives the government full discretion in the use of budget funds approved for purposes not deemed part of legally binding tasks.

The government will be able to reallocate funds without a supplementary budget, or more precisely on the basis of a supplementary budget that need not be submitted to parliament until up to 90 days after the crisis ends.

"The situation will not occur in this country where funding would not be available for equipment to save lies," Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj defended the measure as a number of MPs expressed misgivings about it, including from the ranks of the coalition.

"The government is getting powers that are unmatched in Slovenia's independence era and by far exceed those the government had during the financial crisis," noted Robert Polnar of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS).

The opposition Left's Luka Mesec expressed "fear these measure will be used for an illegitimate consolidation of power" and argued it could be unconstitutional, given that parliament's role as the guardian of the budget is being suspended even though a state of emergency had not been declared.

Šircelj responded by saying the government would report to parliament about the reallocations regularly, a provision inserted in the bill in an amendment.

Meanwhile, another emergency act adopted will allow banks to defer liabilities of companies, co-operatives, self-employed and farmers by 12 months. Banks will be compelled to do so for those whose operation has been thwarted under government measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak. The act will also apply for loans taken out during the epidemic.

Also passed were emergency measures that restrict trade with agricultural produce, food products and livestock and poultry to ensure sufficient food supplies in the country.

The act allows the minister, in consent with the economy minister, to impose restrictions or bans on exports or imports of individual products or groups of products to or from other countries. It also gives the minister the power to cap prices of certain foodstuffs.

Meanwhile, one of the measures also involves a one-month suspension of prison sentences in cases without safety risks as well the option of early release from prison.

20 Mar 2020, 13:37 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 20 March 2020

Mladina: Populists will abuse COVID-19

STA, 20 March 2020 - In its latest commentary, the left-wing weekly Mladina labels as very unusual several moves made by the new government in order to contain the coronavirus outbreak, and notes that some of them are actually about populists wanting to consolidate their power by abusing the crisis situation.

In the commentary headlined Unusual, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says that some things done in recent days have remained unexplained, including the formation of a crisis management team which does not belong under the auspices of the Health Ministry.

In all comparable countries, the coronavirus is being fought within the civilian sphere, under civilian legislation, while the military performs only support activities.

"In Slovenia, as the government is being taken over by the Democrats (SDS), the management and communication of the situation has been stripped away from public health experts," with the matters being formally transferred to the defence department.

"It is a different way of governance, of thinking. The civilian sphere, the healthcare sector in this case, has been formally subjugated to the defence sector."

What is even more unusual is that all healthcare institutions have been instructed not to communicate with the public about the epidemic without permission. "There is no good reason for this whatsoever," Repovž says.

"Basically all key people appearing in the public on behalf of the government are party members first and foremost, even the only health expert. This is very strange for a European country in 2020."

Repovž notes that the Guardian had already written about European populists trying to abuse the coronavirus, and that they can be stopped. He points to the "latest attempt to abuse the crisis situation to make social changes" not so long ago.

This was done by the Janša government in 2012, which faced protests because he tried to use people's distress because of a difficult financial situation to carry out social subversion.

"The committed behaviour and solidarity expressed by people at the time when an invisible virus is roaming the country shows us very clearly how people love this country - but only as a free, fair and open society."

Demokracija: No time for ideological, political disputes

STA, 19 March 2020 - The coronavirus epidemic is a war-like situation and this is no time to engage in ideological or political settling of scores, the right-wing weekly Demokracija comments in its editorial on Thursday.

"We must all act as if we are infected. Only responsible individuals can contain the spread of the virus. No decree can stop the virus, no government can abolish it, all it can do is take some unpopular measures that (temporarily) restrict personal and economic freedom," editor-in-chief Jože Biščak writes in the commentary Covid-19, Liberty and the Free Market.

"Believe me, it pains me (as a sworn classical liberal of the Hayek Café mould in the economic sense) to see the restrictions. But the arrival of Covid-19 is like war, where logic often fails and drastic measures must be resorted to.

"Notwithstanding the political and economic situation in Slovenia (and the world), it will therefore take a lot to get through this challenge. And the fear (or ruthless insinuations by the political opponents of the new government) that Janša may exploit this difficult time to revive old methods of operation of leftist governments at the expense of liberties is unfounded."

All our posts in this series are here

19 Mar 2020, 22:13 PM

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 Sašo Vrabič, in front of Raj-a-nje (work in progress), 2020, oil on convas, 100 x 150 cm. You can see more of his work here.

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

Contents

Number of confirmed coronavirus cases at 319 by 2pm, up by 33 in a day

Govt announces lockdown, starts at midnight

Police and border officials from region discuss emergency supply

Calls to suspend construction work, hop growers face staff shortage

Number of confirmed coronavirus cases at 319 by 2pm, up by 33 in a day

STA, 19 March 2020 - The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Slovenia stood at 319 at 2pm on Thursday, up by 33 in the last 24 hours. A total of 9,860 persons have been tested so far, up by 1,130 from Wednesday, meaning the number of people tested daily remains at slightly above 1,000. Hospitals are reportedly presently looking after around 40 Covid-19 patients.

While no new deaths have been reported since the first confirmed casualty on the weekend, the latest increase is slightly higher than on Tuesday and Wednesday, when it stood at 20 and 13 respectively.

With testing restricted to health and emergency workers, the elderly, those in hospital and people exhibiting more severe symptoms, the government has warned that the number of actually infected people is probably several times higher and strict social distancing measures remain in place.

Bojana Beović, the infectious disease expert affiliated with the government coronavirus crisis response team, told Radio Slovenija today that reports about infections were coming from around the country. The number of patients in hospital care was at around 40 today, an increase compared to previous days, as people whose symptoms have gotten worse are seeking hospitalisation.

Beović said "this is the start of something we will need to control with all our forces and we're getting ready for this very intensively now".

The country's leading hospital UKC Ljubljana told the STA today that it was looking after 21 Covid-19 patients this morning, five of which in intensive care. UKC Maribor has 14, two of which in intensive care.

Beović said hospitals were ready, but some had not yet been admitting patients. The plan is to first fill the capacities at UKC Ljubljana, UKC Maribor and Klinika Golnik to only then gradually include other hospitals.

"Special isolated rooms, equipment and some experience is needed to work with such patients and it would not be wise to disperse this too much," she explained.

Beović again defended the testing policy, saying Slovenia was among countries with the highest number of tests conducted per capita. "Our recommendations are entirely in line with those of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the draft recommendations of the European Commission," she said.

"We are of course testing, but not those with the mildest symptoms, who can stay home, bar specific situations when we expect an aggravation," she explained. She added the disease can also run its course feeling like a common cold and it was not feasible and even risky for everybody to immediately go to the doctor.

"We are actually testing more, but we've changed the focus of the testing," Beović concluded.

Meanwhile, a group dubbed Young Doctors of Slovenia issued today a warning that the present measures for containing the virus in Slovenia were possibly not effective enough.

Presenting a simulation model that projects the potential spread of the virus in line with two scenarios, the group said around 500 hospital beds, of which 120 in intensive care, would be needed at what would be the peak of the outbreak in the first week of April if the current measures work.

If they don't but are upgraded at the end of March to produce successful results, 18,000 patients would need hospitalisation in mid-April, of which almost 500 in intensive care, suggests the simulation, made by physicist Luka Medic in cooperation with medical doctor Sanja Zupanič.

The young doctors, who published the call on Facebook to stress every day matters, said that according to their knowledge Slovenian has 200 intensive care beds, with most already occupied without crisis conditions.

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Govt announces lockdown, starts at midnight

STA, 19 March 2020 - The government adopted a decree on Thursday banning gatherings and movement of people in public areas, albeit with a number of exceptions. The measure enters into force at midnight.

Despite the stepped up restrictions, people will be allowed to leave home to go to work, the pharmacy and to buy groceries at their closest shop, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs told the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija.

In line with the government decree, people will also be allowed to go outdoors and to parks, but only alone or with people living in the same household. They will also be able to run errants related to their household or agricultural activities.

Local communities will be able to determine exemptions to the ban in more detail with a public municipal decree.

Fines for violations will be about EUR 400, according to Hojs.

Addressing the citizens via a videoconference tonight, Prime Minister Janez Janša said people must become aware that even the strictest measures would have no effect unless "we realise that every one of us is a part of both the problem and solution".

The period of this crisis cannot be assessed yet, he said, noting that "we are definitely not talking about days but rather of at least weeks and months".

He said that Slovenia had never been in a more difficult situation and that the danger was worse than in a typical war except in those that involve the use of biological weapons.

He also announced an expansion of the military reserve force, calling all those with military skills to join in.

Janša added that certain measures such as the ban of passenger flights and restrictions for some other activities would be toned down in the coming weeks when additional protective equipment arrived and safety procedures were laid down.

He asserted additional protective gear would arrive in Europe and Slovenia shortly, and that food reserves were sufficient and would be further supplemented.

Hojs also commented today on calls by the trade union of shop assistants to change a government decree saying that grocery stores must be open from 8am to at least 8pm. The union demands the closing time at 6pm.

It demands the change within 24 hours, and is threatening with a strike.

Hojs said now was not the time to threaten with strike, adding that Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek would check the decree again to determine if the working time should be cut any further.

According to the minister, the government would like to set a time frame for individual groups of population to go to shops so as to prevent the most vulnerable groups from being exposed to a potential infection.

Commenting on the proposal to give the army police powers, he said this would not mean that the army would have unlimited powers within the country but that the army could be activated to exercise additional control of the EU's external borders, as police would be required inland.

Until 2pm today, 319 cases of coronavirus infection were recorded in Slovenia, while 9,860 tests were conducted.

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Police and border officials from region discuss emergency supply

STA, 19 March 2020 - Top police and border services officials from Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Croatia and Serbia highlighted in a videoconference on Thursday the importance of uninterrupted supply of essential goods in the region and agreed that providing medical supply without any difficulties must be top priority.

The discussion, held at the initiative of the Slovenian police, aimed to coordinate a supply of emergency commodities to avoid disruptions amid the coronavirus epidemic, said the General Police Administration.

Measures could include cargo convoys or special routes.

Medical supply should take priority, they all agreed, adding that police could escort such precious cargo if need be.

The police officials also concurred that cracking down on profiteering from the coronavirus crisis must be top priority as well and highlighted the role of international cooperation in such cases.

They agreed to exchange information on measures and their coordination and stressed the importance of rapid responses and collaboration to mitigate the crisis and protect public health. The next videoconference is scheduled for Monday.

The epidemic has not halted the Western Balkan migration flows and efforts to deal with the migration issue must continue as usual, the officials also said.

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Calls to suspend construction work, hop growers face staff shortage

STA, 19 March 2020 - Employers in the construction sector and related industries were called by the relevant trade union to suspend work on construction sites and production of building materials for the duration of the new coronavirus epidemic. Hop growers meanwhile pointed to the shortage of seasonal workers as borders are being closed.

The Trade Union of Construction Workers of Slovenia said in Thursday's statement that workers on construction sites mostly had no appropriate protective equipment.

There are difficulties in organising the arrival of workers at construction sites, and for those who are coming in a group. It is not ensured that there is a safety distance between them and they are not protected, it added.

The union also said that sanitary conditions at construction sites did not allow for proper hygiene to be maintained, and added that construction work was not essential for the functioning of the state during the crisis.

"What we would like to stress in particular is that migrant workers, whose share is the highest in construction, usually have no accommodation which would enable self-isolation in case a worker gets infected."

The union thus called for measures to be adopted to secure organised self-isolation for workers who get sick but do not need hospitalisation.

While the public life and most of commercial activities have ground to a halt in recent days, the construction sector is facing criticism as many construction sites remain open and work is conducted as usual.

The Economy Ministry said that the temporary ban on the direct provision and sales of goods and services did not apply to construction sites.

"The decree does not encroach upon employment relationships, and workers may continue with works on an unfinished building under the condition that other persons are not present at the site," the ministry said.

As the decree does not regulate transactions between companies, construction material shops are allowed to sell their products, while it does temporarily ban the sale of construction material to individual consumers.

Hop growers, who mostly hire foreign seasonal workers and who have already started with work on hop fields, meanwhile noted that the arrivals of foreigners have stopped and said they expected assistance from the state.

They need between 800 and 1,000 seasonal workers in the spring, and most of them come from Romania, while only around 250 have arrived in Slovenia so far, Janez Oset, the head of the relevant association, told the STA.

"We are in touch with the Agriculture Ministry," he said, adding that the state was expected to make sure that workers got tested before their arrival in Slovenia and that they got documents which would enable them to cross the border.

Oset is worried because work on hop fields needs to be done in the coming weeks, otherwise the crop will be in peril.

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19 Mar 2020, 12:03 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

Contents

New rules for shops in place

Only four crossings with Italy open as of midnight

Minister considering police powers for the army

Stranded Slovenians returning home

Half a million face masks delivered to civil defence today

New rules for shops in place

STA, 19 March 2020 - New rules for grocery shops took effect on Thursday. They must be open from 8am to 8pm, and for the first two hours, until 10am, groups particularly vulnerable to infections - the elderly, pregnant women and disabled persons - must be given priority. All shops bar petrol stations and pharmacies must be closed on Sunday and holidays.

This follows from a government decree adopted late on Wednesday as part of ongoing efforts to contain coronavirus by imposing strict social distancing rules.

The vast majority of shops, all bars and restaurants, hotels, and services establishments such as hair salons were shut down by decree on Sunday.

The establishments that remain open - groceries, pharmacies, service stations, shops for farmers, banks and post offices - had originally been unrestricted in how they restructured their opening hours and most had opted for shorter hours and stepped up online deliveries.

Public life in Slovenia has ground to a near halt since the start of this week due to the coronavirus measures and new rules are expected, including a ban on public gatherings of more than five people and police powers for the army.

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Only four crossings with Italy open as of midnight

STA, 18 March 2020 - Only four points along the border with Italy will be open as of midnight Wednesday, down from six so far, under a new decree that the Slovenian government adopted Wednesday evening.

The only points that will remain open at all times are the crossings Vrtojba, Fernetiči and Škofije, which are on the main transit routes to Italy. The smaller crossing Krvavi Potok will be open from 5am to 11pm.

On all other road connection with Italy, road-blocks will be erected. Train and bus transport remain suspended as well.

While reducing the number of entry points, the decree will nevertheless make life easier for farmers who have land on both sides of the border and have complained that the border closure is causing them serious difficulties since they had to take long detours.

Slovenian citizens who have land in Italy will be allowed passage on all roads for farm work.

Cargo traffic will remain restricted. Lorries bound for Slovenia will have free passage, as will lorries in transit which neighbouring countries agree to let cross.

All other cargo except mail, medicines, protective equipment, medical devices and humanitarian aid will be turned away at the border.

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Minister considering police powers for the army

STA, 19 March 2020 - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs is considering an activation of legislation that would give the army police powers, a move that would need to be endorsed by a two-thirds majority in parliament.

Speaking for public broadcaster TV Slovenija on Wednesday evening, Hojs said "I will propose the activation of article 37.a [of the defence act] as the competent minister." He did not specify when he may formally make the proposal.

The article in question was adopted at the peak of the migration crisis, in October 2015, and once activated by a two-thirds majority vote at the proposal of the government it allows the army to help the police in "broader protection of the state border".

It allows soldiers to carry out tasks such as temporarily restricting the movement of persons and taking part in crowd control.

The powers are granted for three months with the possibility of extension. The article has been invoked once before, in February 2016, to help police patrol the border.

The legislation faced heavy criticism when it was passed with leftist activist groups and NGOs concerned about its potential implications for civil rights.

Radio Študent, a student radio station, even initiated a referendum to stop the bill, but the National Assembly thwarted the attempt invoking constitutional provisions that ban referenda "on laws on urgent measures to ensure the defence of the state, security, or the elimination of the consequences of natural disasters".

The legislation was subsequently challenged at the Constitutional Court but it passed muster.

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Stranded Slovenians returning home

STA, 19 March 2020 - Slovenians are gradually returning to their homeland from Morocco, the Czech Republic and Serbia after being stranded abroad due to suspended flights and border restrictions in response to the coronavirus epidemic. Several groups of travellers are currently en route, the Foreign Ministry told the STA on Thursday.

A bus full of Slovenians left Prague this morning, while another one has recently headed towards Belgrade to pick up Slovenians there. A group of Slovenians are also on a repatriation flight from Marrakesh to Budapest.

A total of 16 Slovenians have asked for consular help in getting back home from Morocco. All of them are on today's flight to Budapest.

The ministry said that the group would then be transported to Slovenia. The repatriation mission was coordinated with the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, Slovenian embassy in Paris and Hungarian embassy in Morocco.

The bus from the Czech Republic left Prague airport early this morning carrying twelve Slovenian tourists who had experienced problems returning back home from the Canary Islands due to border closures. The ministry coordinated their return with their Czech colleagues as well as with the Slovenian embassies in Madrid and Prague.

Meanwhile, the bus headed to Serbia, carrying stranded Serbian citizens, is expected to return to Slovenia with twelve Slovenians and two Slovaks who have been stuck there after restrictive measures were imposed.

The ministry has pointed out that one of the few European airports that is still operating is the one in Croatia's Zagreb but Croatia Airlines might suspend their links at any moment due to the emergency situation. Passengers are thus advised to check their flight statuses directly with the airline.

Slovenians left abroad amid the epidemic were urged to contact the ministry earlier this week, particularly if they needed help with repatriation. More than 650 Slovenians have checked in: almost a half of them are stranded in EU countries and almost a third in Russia, Asian countries and in the Middle East.

So far, none of them have reported any issues, all of them are safe and have access to a special consular emergency unit at the ministry.

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Half a million face masks delivered to civil defence today

STA, 19 March 2020 - Around half a million face masks were delivered to the civil defence warehouse on Thursday morning, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said, adding that the most urgent needs for the protective equipment to contain the coronavirus outbreak were now covered.

A total of 400,000 disposable three-layer masks have been delivered by the medical equipment supplier Sanolabor, and the railway operator Slovenske Železnice delivered an additional 100,000 masks.

Speaking to the press at the civil defence warehouse in Roje on the outskirts of Ljubljana, Počivalšek said that the government would try to pull off the planned supply of 1.5 million type FFB2 masks by the end of the week.

The same quantity of the more effective type FFP3 masks is expected to be delivered at the beginning of next week, he added.

The minister said that the government was checking what had happened with a shipment of 1.5 million masks which had been expected to arrive at an airport in Germany's Hamburg on Wednesday.

Slovenia's diplomatic service in Berlin has been involved in the inquiry, Počivalšek said, adding that the efforts included Slovenian Ambassador Franc But.

Počivalšek expects that, despite some logistics problems, protective equipment will be provided to all healthcare workers and later to other public services whose employees are in contact with infected persons, and to companies.

The minister noted that the market was flooded with suppliers and that talks were under way to supply around 11 million three-layer masks. "I want ... everybody to get access to all the protective gear as they need."

Defence Minister Matej Tonin, whose ministry is in charge of distribution, said on Wednesday that the equipment would be distributed first to the healthcare sector and social institutions, and then to critical infrastructure and companies.

Slovenia is also awaiting another 300,000 face masks secured by the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba via personal connections between Slovenian lawyer Aleksander Čeferin, the president of UEFA, and Alibaba owner Jack Ma.

The shipment arrived on Wednesday at the Liege airport in Belgium, and is expected to be in Slovenia this evening or on Friday morning.

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18 Mar 2020, 21:06 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

Contents

Number of confirmed coronavirus cases at 286 by 2pm, up by 13 in a day

More than 650 Slovenians still away abroad

Pahor urges Von der Leyen to facilitate purchase of medical equipment

Businesses urged to follow example of Chinese-owned Gorenje over coronavirus

UEFA boss and Alibaba founder secure face masks for Slovenia

Number of confirmed coronavirus cases at 286 by 2pm, up by 13 in a day

STA, 18 March 2020 - The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Slovenia rose to 286 by 2pm on Wednesday, up by 13 in the last 24 hours. A total of 8,730 persons have so far been tested, up almost 1,200 compared to yesterday, the government said on Twitter. No new deaths have been reported since the first confirmed casualty on the weekend.

The rate of increase in the number of confirmed cases has been slowing down in recent days, probably due to the decision to restrict testing to health and emergency workers, the elderly, those in hospital and people exhibiting more severe symptoms.

The government has warned that the number of actually infected people is probably several times higher and strict social distancing measures remain in place.

The Ljubljana UKC hospital is currently treating 18 Covid-19 patients, five of them in an intensive care unit. Two new patients were admitted and four discharged today, the hospital said on its Twitter account.

Central Slovenia has registered most of the coronavirus cases so far confirmed, 103.

Meanwhile, 13 coronavirus patients are hospitalised at UKC Maribor in Slovenia's second city (NE), one of them is in intensive care but no longer needs a ventilator, while one of the 12 others does.

In addition, 95 UKC Maribor employees are self-isolating. Preventive measures are in course after an office employee of the transfusion medicine centre has tested positive, although the person has not been in contact with patients or staff that have contacts with patients.

Government information shows that the highest infection rate has been in the age group of 30-49-year-olds, at 99, and the lowest among kids up to the age of 15, at 20. Forty-five are 60 or older.

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More than 650 Slovenians still away abroad

STA, 18 March 2020 - More than 650 Slovenians are still away abroad amid world-wide cancellations of flights and other public transport links due to the coronavirus crisis, Foreign Ministry data show.

The Foreign Ministry said that almost half of those who responded to its call to get in touch were currently in EU countries, and a third in the Middle East, Asia and Russia.

The figure includes both individuals and groups of tourists, so that the actual number of those still away abroad is likely higher than 650.

They are mostly tourists and travellers rather than those living, working or studying abroad, the ministry said.

Almost 300 of those who are still in some other EU country should not have major problems returning home.

Meanwhile, the ministry pledged to make its best effort to help get home some 200 Slovenians still in the Middle East, Asia or Russia.

None of those who have got in touch is in trouble for the time being and all are safe.

A special "consular crisis cell" comprising 15 to 20 employees is working daily to help anyone in need of assistance.

Talks have also been under way to evacuate Slovenian tourists in cooperation with other EU countries.

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Pahor urges Von der Leyen to facilitate purchase of medical equipment

STA, 18 March 2020 - President Borut Pahor spoke with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday, calling for procedures of public procurement of medical equipment for fighting the coronavirus pandemic to be facilitated. Pahor, who also spoke with EU High Representative Josep Borrell, said this was of extreme importance to Slovenia.

The talks had been planned to take place in person, but were instead held via videoconference, the president's office said, adding that Pahor had also spoken to European Parliament President David Sassoli over the phone.

Speaking with Von der Leyen, the president called for public procurement of medical equipment to be finalised as soon as possible. Von der Leyen said that the shortest deadline for applications was six days, adding that the problem was on the supply side.

Currently under way are three joint public orders for protective masks, ventilators and laboratory equipment, with Slovenia participating in all three. The procedures are in different phases, and the European Commission refuses to speak about the ordered quantities.

The president's office added that the officials had agreed that the new coronavirus pandemic would slow down economic growth, to which member states needed to be prepared.

Von der Leyen presented key measures regarding state aid and the Stability and Growth Pact with which member states can take measures of their own to protect small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular.

The officials agreed that other important issues must not be overlooked during the coronavirus crisis, including illegal migration, negotiations on the next multi-year EU budget, climate change, digitalisation and EU enlargement.

Pahor acquainted Von der Leyen with the joint letter of the countries of the Brdo-Brijuni Process of cooperation in the Western Balkans, signed by seven leaders.

The letter calls on the European Council to set a date for the start of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania and continue talks with other candidate countries.

Pahor said that Kosovo President Hashim Thaci had informed him that while he supported the call, he would not sign it because the remaining leaders focused on North Macedonia and Albania, while Thaci had insisted that visa liberalisation for Kosovo was also added.

The president, who invited the European Commission president to take part in one of the future meetings of the initiative, also acquainted the EU foreign policy chief Borrell with the letter in a separate videoconference.

Borrell meanwhile acquainted Pahor with the measures at the EU level to contain the spread of coronavirus, including the efforts to return EU citizens from third countries home, the president's office said.

They also discussed the migration crisis, EU-Turkey relations in the wake of the developments on the Greek-Turkish border, and the situation in the Western Balkans.

Pahor and Borrell agreed that Turkey was facing a great challenge and that the EU should help. The EU is doing this based on the 2016 agreement, and it is unjustifiable to use migrants to exert pressure on the EU, they added.

Exchange of views on fighting the pandemic also topped the agenda as Pahor spoke with Sassoli, who told the Slovenian president that the next session of the European Parliament in Brussels would be almost fully dedicated to the topic.

Pahor and Sassoli also called for the most efficient and unified response from the EU, the president's office said.

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Businesses urged to follow example of Chinese-owned Gorenje over coronavirus

STA, 18 March 2020 - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek has appealed to manufacturers to organise work in such a way as to protect their staff's health to the greatest possible extent in order to remain functioning despite the coronavirus epidemic, offering the Chinese-owned household appliances maker Hisense Gorenje as a good example to follow.

"Production processes must not stop, lest closure of production facilities should jeopardise the supply of the population," the minister said in the appeal, posted on the government web site.

The post also features a video showing how health safety measures were being applied in Hisense's Gorenje factory in Velenje, which employs 3,500 people.

The ministry says that the company introduced measures on time to protect the health of all its employees and prevent the spread of the virus.

The company introduced first preventive measures as early as end of January when the virus only started spreading out of China, including banning all business trips to or from China.

They upgraded the measures in February, stepping them up at the beginning of March. On top of earlier instructions to employees to follow self-protective measures and availability of sanitisers, the company reduced the number of entrances and has been temperature scanning all employees entering the building.

Inside the Gorenje complex everyone is required to wear face masks with special measures in place at the canteen and a special regime imposed on the lorry drivers and visitors entering, although they are advising against visits to the company premises.

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UEFA boss and Alibaba founder secure face masks for Slovenia

STA, 18 March 2020 - Slovenia is to receive 300,000 protective face masks from two foundations of the Chinese multinational technology company Alibaba and its founder Jack Ma. The donation, which is expected to arrive in Slovenia on Thursday evening or Friday morning, is reportedly a result of a friendship between Ma and UEFA boss Aleksander Čeferin.

According to the media, the Slovenian lawyer who heads the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has been involved in this project since he is a friend of Ma and has thus contributed to the efforts to raise such an amount of coveted protective gear.

Čeferin has confirmed the reports for the newspaper Delo, saying that he had called his good friend Jack Ma and asked him for help. "Jack responded immediately and a donation of 300,000 protective masks is coming to Slovenia and is to be followed later by other gear."

The UEFA head expressed gratitude for this step, saying that world-wide solidarity was key for survival in such times.

The Defence Ministry communication office told the STA that the masks would be transported from Belgium, where they had already landed, by the Administration for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief.

The Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Foundation have donated 1.5 million masks altogether to France, Belgium and Slovenia to help fight the coronavirus epidemic in these countries.

Meanwhile, another arrival of much needed masks is expected on Thursday - after a slight delay, Slovenia is to get 1.5 million masks, mostly intended for healthcare workers, social institutions, but also for workforce in infrastructure and industry.

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18 Mar 2020, 16:55 PM

A foreign climber, with no details yet as to their name or nationality, fell to his death this morning while climbing Little Triglav, one of the peaks on the mountain’s ridge, with the body being recovered by a helicopter team. The Kranj Police Department noted that the man was well-equipped, and stressed that during the ongoing epidemic it’s better that people avoid all outdoor pursuits that could lead to significant injury, since rescue teams, health workers and other emergency services are already overwhelmed.

This echoed a recent call by the Slovenian Mountain Association (Planinska zveza Slovenije) that people should stick to easier walks and hikes near their homes during this period, stating: "To prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, we will do the most we can to stay home - the mountains will wait for us, and the mountain huts have closed their doors until further notice. Let's not stress ourselves unnecessarily in the mountains, so that this will not cause accidents and the additional burden on the rescue and medical staff. "

18 Mar 2020, 14:30 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

Contents

Slovenia to ban public gatherings of more than five persons

Hospitals making room for potential new coronavirus patients

PM says people's safety, health come first in fight against coronavirus

Slovenia to ban public gatherings of more than five persons

STA, 18 March 2020 - The Slovenian government will ban public gatherings of more than five persons in order to fight the coronavirus epidemic. The relevant decree is expected to be adopted on Wednesday, Defence Minister Aleš Hojs said after the government session.

He said the ban would be modelled on Austria's. It will be policed and fines will be put in place for violators.

Austria banned public gatherings of more than five persons starting on Monday.

People are allowed to leave home for work that cannot not be postponed, to buy groceries and to help others. They may go outdoors, but only alone or with people living in the same household.

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Hospitals making room for potential new coronavirus patients

STA, 18 March 2020 - Hospitals around Slovenia are preparing for an expected increase in the number of coronavirus patients who will need intensive treatment, with additional rooms being reserved and transitional units established for those suspected of being infected.

UKC Ljubljana, the country's largest hospital, where 14 coronavirus patients are hospitalised, and a further four undergoing intensive care, is gearing up to receive more patients as people around the country are being tested for the new virus.

The number of beds for intensive care has been increased, and the orthopaedic and dermatology wards are also ready to admit coronavirus patients.

UKC Ljubljana general manager Janez Poklukar has said that the two wards were expected to admit first patients in the coming days.

Transitional units have also been opened in the hospital for patients who are suspected of being infected with the new coronavirus, so that potential infection is not spread during the treatment.

In Ljubljana, the four patients in intensive care are in critical condition, while between five and 15 patients are hospitalised in the transitional units at any given moment, Poklukar said.

As the non-urgent programmes have been suspended, the hospital has around 30% of the total staff on hold, who are waiting to be called in in the case of an arrival of a large number of coronavirus patients.

Some employees have also been reassigned to wards where such patients are being treated, said Poklukar, adding that for the time being, there were no major problems with workload or burnout.

Community health centres are also restructuring.

The community health centre in Sevnica, for example, is gearing up to accept potential infected persons, director Vladimira Tomšič told the STA.

In addition to two isolation rooms, basement premises with a total of 12 "boxes" have been added to the mix.

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PM says people's safety, health come first in fight against coronavirus

STA, 18 March 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša has called on the EU to put people's safety and health first in its response to the coronavirus pandemic. "Measures for the economy are important of course, after all in the long term this is the flip side of the same coin, but for us the immediate priority is people's safety and health," he said.

Speaking at a videoconference Tuesday evening convened by EU Council president Charles Michel, Janša also said that the EU should immediately create stocks of emergency medical and protective equipment.

That way it could immediately help any member state which may soon find itself in a similar situation as Italy several weeks ago, Janša was quoted as saying by his office.

The EU Commission notified the leaders that several public procurement procedures were under way to secure emergency medical and protective equipment. Slovenia is involved in all of them.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen endorsed a proposal to form a central EU registry on the emergency purchasing and distribution of emergency equipment and medicines. The Commission will draw up an appropriate legal framework by the end of the week.

The EU leaders also discussed the introduction of a "coronabond" to finance emergency measures and to address the consequences of the epidemic.

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17 Mar 2020, 18:55 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

Contents

Everybody should behave as if they are contagious

Govt will step up measures to contain coronavirus, PM says

Police overwhelmed by calls amid epidemic

Govt pushing back tax duties for companies, taking direct control of budget

Army field hospital erected in Ljubljana, ready to admit Covid-19 patients

Shops advised to secure enough room between customers

Everybody should behave as if they are contagious

STA, 17 March 2020 - Health Minister Tomaž Gantar warned Slovenians on Tuesday that everyone should behave as if they were contagious as he said that the number of those infected with the novel coronavirus was likely five-fold the official number of confirmed cases, at 275, including five in intensive care.

The minister, addressing reporters in Ljubljana, said that not everyone who had symptoms of respiratory ailments was being tested, as there was no point in doing that.

"The sensible thing is to follow expert advice in which cases this should be done. The population would not be any safer if we had everyone tested."

The minister said the health system was not adapted to the problems faced during this epidemic, but also said that the situation was still under control.

The authorities are hoping the rate of increase in those infected and ill with Covid-19 will stabilise so the system will be able to cope, as gravely ill patients are spread over a longer period of time.

"Organisational measures are required," Gantar said, mentioning the possibility of mobile testing units that could swab people at their homes or at nursing facilities.

Special attention is being dedicated to nursing homes and chronically ill patients with the idea being to pull all persons at risk out of work process.

"The situation had been underestimated from the get go, it was an error of judgement not only in Slovenia but also elsewhere to treat this as a slightly aggravated flu," said the minister.

Gantar pointed his finger at the National Public Health Institute (NIJZ) arguing that Slovenia lost precious time to act because of its misjudgement. "We're a week or ten days late taking right measures."

Just today the government replaced its representative on the NIJZ council, which appoints or dismisses the NIJZ director, but Gantar would not say whether he would seek the dismissal of director Nina Pirnat.

Meanwhile, Bojana Beović, the infectious disease expert affiliated with the government coronavirus crisis response team, said that despite organisational changes pertaining to testing, the number of those had not been reduced.

On the contrary, she said that about a thousand tests were being taken daily.

Swabs are being taken from everyone in need of a check-up for potential admission to hospital.

Also tested are nursing home residents with respiratory infections and patients that may have been admitted to hospital due to some other diagnosis and also have a respiratory infection, or patients already in hospital that develop such symptoms.

However, those with only mild symptoms that may have caught a cold anywhere or caused by some other virus, are not being tested because they are best put at home, she said.

"People with a cold should not go anywhere, neither to work or into the health system. They must stay at home to prevent passing on the infection," she said.

Commenting on calls by experts and officials, including European Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič and the WHO, for wide testing, Beović said that Slovenia had a high rate of tests per capita.

Commenting on Slovenia's changed approach to testing, Prime Minister Janez Janša said the decision on that was taken by experts rather than the government.

"Mass testing was not being conducted when the infection was imported from the neighbourhood. The problem was capacities and other delays. Some measures work at a certain stage, but no longer later," he said.

The Health Ministry later said it had issued a new rule under which lab tests would be performed in patients who will be or have already been admitted to hospital, as well as in health workers and residents of nursing homes or social care institutions with an acute respiratory infection with or without a fever, regardless of whether they need hospitalisation or not.

NIJZ data show that a total of 7,587 tests have been taken, 257 turning positive, 145 of them in men and 130 in women.

Most of those infected, 102, are in central Slovenia, 48 from south-eastern Slovenia, 38 from the Savinjska region in the north, 25 from Podravje in north-east, 17 from Gorenjska in north-west.

Other regions have recorded ten or fewer cases.

Six of those who tested positive for coronavirus are foreign citizens.

Most of the infected, 96, are between 30 and 49 years of age, 60 are between 16 and 29, and 56 are aged between 50 and 59, while 44 are above 60. Only 19 are children or youths.

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Govt will step up measures to contain coronavirus, PM says

STA, 17 March 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša said after Tuesday's session of the National Security Council that the government would step up measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. The first step will be the most urgent legislative measures, expected to be adopted on Thursday, and the second will be a crisis package.

 The first legislative measures will be discussed by the National Assembly at Thursday's emergency session.

These include an emergency bill on pay compensation for temporary lay-offs, and a bill on emergency measures for agriculture and food products, meat and wood products, aimed at offsetting the problems caused by the epidemic.

The National Assembly will also decide on a bill introducing temporary measures concerning judicial, administrative or other public affairs. One of the measures is suspension of a prison sentence if there are no safety reservations.

Janša said that an umbrella crisis law would be subsequently adopted, adding that it would feature a lot of measures, which he could not announce just yet. They will depend on what will be agreed at the EU level later today and in the coming days.

The law is expected to be ready by the end of next week, as the government is preparing new measures to address the situation that has changed significantly since it took over on Friday.

"These will be measures you have never seen before, because the situation is strategically different," Janša said.

The government is also dealing with how to secure enough protective gear to the most exposed and vulnerable institutions - community health centres and nursing homes.

Statements from other participants of the council meeting in the broadest ever format suggest that politicians are united in the belief that measures needed to be stepped up.

Defence Minister Matej Tonin said that the most critical nursing homes and community health centres would be equipped with protective masks today, and that millions of masks would be supplied on Wednesday.

Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, who himself wore a face mask while speaking to the press, added that a sufficient quantity of protective gear would be soon secured not only for the healthcare system, but also for key companies.

In the coming two to three days, more than three million surgical masks will be supplied. "The supply will make it possible for key institutions as well as key industrial and production facilities to continue to operate," said Počivalšek.

Once the protective equipment is supplied, some of the existing measures could be toned down, and perhaps some planned measures not adopted, added Janša.

Počivalšek said that measures aimed at alleviating the crisis for companies and entrepreneurs were being expanded with measures for self-employed persons. The relevant bill is expected to be passed this week, he added.

"These are efforts to secure liquidity, with which we will try to service sole proprietors, SMEs and large companies through SID Banka and the Slovenian Enterprise Fund."

At the same time, the ministry is in talks with the Finance Ministry, commercial banks and the central bank on the possibility to defer all obligations of companies, and perhaps even individuals, for a longer period of time, he added. The Finance Ministry said earlier it was drawing up such measures.

As for commodity reserves, the minister said that there was enough food, and that managers of shopping centres had assured him that they had enough stocks.

President Borut Pahor pointed to the seriousness of the epidemic, saying that while the medical issue would be solved, its consequences could be a problem.

"This crisis is unprecedented. For now, all of us are equal, no one is privileged," Pahor said, stressing that everybody should be taken care of to the same extent, so that there was no feeling of inequality as the crisis was being fought.

The president also said that countries needed to act in unison, otherwise there was a risk of increased inequality, which could seriously affect the sentiment for solidarity after the health crisis ends.

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Police overwhelmed by calls amid epidemic

STA, 17 March 2020 - Slovenian police officers continue to carry out all their duties and tasks even during the coronavirus epidemic, however they have decided to restrict visits to police stations to protect the health of its workforce as well as citizens. Moreover, they ask the public to use email or phone for reporting in case of non-urgent matters.

Telephones have been ringing off the hook at police headquarters across Slovenia since the first confirmed case of an infection with the coronavirus. More than 10,700 calls have dialled the emergency telephone number 113 since 10 March, the General Police Administration has reported.

Police departments have processed more than 3,200 interventions, including 118 emergency interventions.

To keep performing their work effectively, including in the field, the police have decided to limit visits to police stations. Citizens are thus urged to reserve in-person services only for urgent matters.

If a citizen is faced with a dilemma whether or not to head to the nearest police station, they should call first and make inquiries.

The restriction measure aims to limit physical contact and protect the health of police officers as well as the public.

Meanwhile, the police have reiterated that the emergency number is only meant for emergency calls.

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Govt pushing back tax duties for companies, taking direct control of budget

STA, 17 March 2020 - The government adopted on Tuesday a set of emergency measures that reduce the administrative and tax burdens on companies affected by the coronavirus epidemic. The bill on emergency measures in the field of public finances also gives the government greater discretion in the use of budget funds.

The measures, filed to parliament in fast-track procedure, push back the deadlines for tax documentation filings for businesses until 31 May.

Moreover, companies will be able to ask for a tax deferral of up to two years or for paying tax in up to 24 instalments within two years. A deferral is already possible now, but conditions will be softened and simplified.

As the government adopted the bill, the Finance Ministry also announced a bill that would allow business to ask banks for a 12-month deferral of credit payments in case these were not already due before the epidemic set in. The government is expected to discuss the bill on Wednesday.

The bill adopted today also pushes back the due date for the Financial Administration's income tax slips for 2019. While the Tax Administration has been sending out its tax return calculations to those it has data for by the end on May, the new deadline is 15 July. Those who do not receive one by then, will have to file their own tax return by 31 August.

Meanwhile, to secure additional and swift funding for crisis measures, the bill also gives the government full discretion in the use budget funds approved for purposes not deemed part of legally binding tasks.

The government will be able to redirect funds without a supplementary budget, or more precisely on the basis of a supplementary budget that need not be submitted to parliament until up to 90 days after the crisis ends. The supplementary budget is meant to include all expenditure related to the epidemic.

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Army field hospital erected in Ljubljana, ready to admit Covid-19 patients

STA, 17 March 2020 - The field hospital at the Edvard Peperko Barracks on the outskirts of Ljubljana that was announced by authorities three days ago is ready and can start admitting Covid-19 patients if necessary.

The basis for the new unit, which can serve as an isolation centre for up to 140 patients, was the main field hospital of the Slovenian Armed Forces, Role 2, which was relocated from Maribor.

Defence Minister Matej Tonin paid a visit today, saying the hospital was ready as backup, but he expressed hope it would actually end up being used for other purposes.

Projections based on the current growth of coronavirus cases suggest the field hospital will be needed within two weeks, but Tonin is hopeful the measures adopted by the government will contain the spread.

One alternative option being considered for the field hospital is reserving it for blood donors, as these have been avoiding healthcare institutions in fear of contracting the virus.

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Shops advised to secure enough room between customers

STA, 17 March 2020 - The health authorities have issued recommendations for shops and other commercial premises to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, saying that 20 m2 should be secured per each customer if more persons are present in the same room, and that people waiting in a queue should keep a distance of at least two metres.

Issuing the recommendations on Tuesday, the National Public Health Institute (NIJZ) said that auxiliary rooms, such as warehouses, bathrooms and locker rooms, did not count as the area used to determine the capacity under the recommendations.

The NIJZ added that, while it was possible to avoid close contact in rooms larger than 100 m2, businesses and institutions are recommended not to bring the recommended area reserved for one customer below 15 m2.

Distance between people waiting in a queue in front of a counter should be at least two metres, and owners of business premises are urged to determine the largest possible number of customers relative to the outlay and capacity of the room.

They are also recommended to perform all work that could be performed outside the opening hours when customers are not present in the room, which also need to be properly and regularly ventilated.

Shopping trolleys and baskets and other items which get in contact with customers should be regularly cleaned and sanitized. Customers are meanwhile advised to use disposable gloves when shopping.

The NIJZ said that there was no evidence that infection with the new coronavirus was transferred by pets, livestock or food, adding that there were no reports about risks when handling or consuming raw food.

It also advised consumers to resort to alternative methods, such as on-line shopping and delivery, as much as possible.

17 Mar 2020, 15:51 PM

With most of the public institutions shut because of the COVID-19 epidemic, some of the cultural activities are now moving online, while others have relaxed their copyright protection a little.

Ljubljana Puppet Theatre

Since theatres closed their doors for the time being, Ljubljana Puppet Theatre decided to make videos of four of its most popular shows available online. Vihar v glavi and Romeo & Julija are appropriate for teens, Ti loviš! and Štiri črne mravljice for everyone from the age of 2 or 3 respectively. Videos are accessible from here.

Biblos e-library

There are several thousand e-books at Biblos available to borrow free of charge for anyone in possession of e-reader and a Slovenian library card. A total of 826 of them are in languages other than Slovene. Sign in using your library acronym and registration number (e.g. Mestna knjižnica Ljubljana: MKL123456) along with your library password.

Home schooling materials

The publisher Mladinska knjiga opened access to its electronic study materials for educators (ucimte.com) and students (ucimse.com). Register to use the portal.

Slovenian Film

The Slovenian Film Centre has made available a selection of Slovenian films, which will stay online for a week while the programme will change every Monday and Thursday. Films are not necessarily equipped with Slovenian or English subtitles, but can be found on this website with a click on the title of a movie.

Many Slovenian movies have also recently also appeared on YouTube, including popular family films such as Kekec, Sreča na Vrvici, Ne joči, Peter and more recent ones Gremo mi po svoje and Gajin svet.

Galleries and Museums

If you’d like to visit National Gallery, this is now possible with a virtual walk through its current exhibitions at the virtual gallery website.

For anyone interested in news related to February’s meteorite and other interesting natural science related stuff, you can follow Natural History Museum’s Facebook site.

TV- RTV SLO

National broadcaster has adapted its programmes to the fact that most people, children included, spend time in self-isolation at home. Programme can be viewed live from here, and the show’s archive is available here.

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