Prime Minister Janša: One of the most important measures in containing the coronavirus is self-isolation
At today’s press conference, given together with Minister of Health Tomaž Gantar and Dr Bojana Beovič, the Head of the Expert Group that provides support to Slovenia’s Crisis Staff for the containment and control of the COVID-19 epidemic, Prime Minister Janez Janša talked about how the Government had decided to change the way the spread of the new coronavirus is monitored.
People with respiratory tract infections who do not require hospital treatment will no longer be tested, and the situation will be assessed based on the number of those infected. Prime Minister Janša pointed out that the most important measure is self-isolation, and he noted that the Government is drawing up new restrictions.
“At yesterday’s first constitutive and – at the same time – crisis session, the Government set up a Crisis Staff that will attempt to slow down the spread of the epidemic,” began the Prime Minister, adding that in its wider composition the Crisis Staff is composed of all members of the Government and key heads of subordinate bodies who can contribute most to resolving difficulties, while in its core composition the Crisis Staff comprises key ministers and all the heads of subordinate operational bodies. “The Crisis Staff will also have support groups, and by far the most important factor will be the expert support group involving experts from the healthcare sector. That group, headed by Dr Bojana Beovič, had already met, and in light of what we received from her a few hours ago, the situation regarding the coronavirus is now much clearer,” said Mr Janša.
“Yesterday the Government also adopted a range of measures, some of which were already presented by ministers upon the handover of power, while we have also reassessed the situation and determined that by far the most important of all the measures is self-isolation, avoiding as much as possible large groups, and when this is unavoidable and truly necessary, the use of protective masks and keeping one’s distance,” continued Mr Janša, adding that no other measure can contribute as much to slowing down the spread of this virus and ensuring that it does not overwhelm the capacity of the country’s health system. “As for protective equipment that is needed, the Government has assessed the possibilities of increasing stocks, and the good news is that there are possibilities, and the procedures and deliveries are already in progress,” said Prime Minister Janša.
He also noted that another vital take-away from today has been the finding about the key input data that can offer us a realistic assessment of the situation regarding the spread of the virus. “It is not the number of those who have tested positive. Following today’s consultations with the expert group, it is clear that the only relevant data indicating where we are in practice, is the number of people who have become seriously ill from this disease. These are the people who need medical assistance and care,” said the Prime Minister. In Mr Janša’s words, taking the number of infected people who have become seriously ill and the number that need serious care, it is possible to calculate much more accurately what the real situation is. “This new development, a shift towards a more realistic assessment, also enables us to more realistically adopt measures and allocate resources that are available, along with the realistic planning of resources we will need in the future,” said Mr Janša, adding that at the same time this is not data “that would in any way alter our view of the seriousness of the situation facing us, this is simply information that will help us to look more realistically at what we face and what the reality is.”
The Prime Minister also reported that yesterday minsters had drawn up a wide range of potential measures. “As you have been informed, starting at 8 this morning the Government froze the prices of all protective means. For the moment this is a linear measure, and moving forward, reasonable prices will be set for specific items. To a certain extent, the priority in procurement for the most critical items has been determined,” said Mr Janša, who went on to say that the implementation of budgets has also been put on hold, thereby creating a basis for stocks to be filled up and new protective equipment procured.
As the Prime Minister noted, public transport has been drastically reduced in recent days. “Situations are being dealt with for people returning home, and the same goes for intercontinental travel, which is less of a problem for us, while a major problem for us has been freight transport, since we were late in implementing some measures and others have overtaken us,” he said, adding “in freight transport we will do everything to ensure that it flows with as little interruption as possible, while also being controlled.” Mr Janša also explained that regarding transit traffic, communication was ongoing with ministers in other countries, including within European institutions, where solutions are being found case by case. “We are not the only ones that have such issues and problems, so everyone has an interest in solving this, but our problem has been that in the past week there were no telephone numbers that our neighbours could call,” said Mr Janša.
In this regard he pointed out that one of the measures that is already being partly implemented, and partly is yet to be implemented, is the closure of international airports and ports to passenger transport, while freight transport falls under a special regime. “Today priorities in the allocation of protective means were identified on a general and partial level,” said Mr Janša.
He then addressed several appeals to the Slovenian public: “Once again we ask the mayors of Slovenian municipalities, who share responsibility for the functioning of the civil protection service, which is vital, to show self-initiative, and to commit themselves in the coming week as much as possible – not just to the tasks they are already involved in, but also to helping to organise care for children at home.”
“A lot of people, including a lot of those we urgently need in the healthcare system and other parts of our critical infrastructure, urgently need childcare, since this will not be provided in kindergartens and there will be no classes in schools. The formation of isolated kindergartens or care centres is not realistically feasible for all our needs, so the only practically feasible and functioning option is care at home,” said the Prime Minister. At this point he called on school pupils and young people who will have more time due to the closure of halls of residence for pupils and students, to help care for children. “We ask the mayors of Slovenian municipalities to help organise this. As for critical infrastructure, with healthcare in first place, we will request in the municipalities that this be the priority for everyone,” said Mr Janša, who appealed for self-initiative. “Through each such measure and the goodwill of a school pupil who can help with childcare, we will free up someone we urgently need in this situation, when we can get a lot of things done while there is still time,” he added. The Prime Minister went on to say that various civil society organisations, including Slovenian Philanthropy and others, have notified their readiness to help. “We thank them and suggest that the mayors are the ones to find ways and to set up groups to organise and distribute this, so it will be known how and what to prioritise,” noted Mr Janša.
At this point he also thanked all the Slovenian media for regularly publishing instructions on how people should act much more frequently than previously. “We ask you to keep this up,” he said, adding that with regard to fresh information, in the future everything will be done to make this information accessible online and that the media will not be dependent on the number of press conferences each day, and all information will be gathered together on one website, where at any moment it will be possible to see what is the most salient issue and what is most desirable to communicate to the Slovenian public. “All these instructions on how to act in the crisis situation are vital. Nothing can compare to us all being aware of how we should act. Unfortunately a lot of people are sending out photographs of nonchalant behaviour, and clearly we are still not giving sufficiently intense warnings, since in some parts of Slovenia this virus has not been taken seriously,” said Mr Janša. He underlined that in the future the Government is also planning administrative decisions that will tighten things up, “but there is no substitute for we ourselves knowing what is a threat and how we need to behave.”
At this point he also gave notice that in the future there would not be so many press conferences, since this too could contribute to spreading the virus. “Today all the technology is available for you to get the information you need,” noted Mr Janša. He added that in its evening session today, the Crisis Staff identified a spokesperson who would be available to take part in television broadcasts and who would relieve the burden from those who had previously been communicating and losing valuable time, “since all the members of the Crisis Staff have tasks that in practice are ongoing 24 hours a day. But where there are specific decrees issued by individual ministries, the specific substance of these measures will be communicated at the ministries, where staff will also be best placed to explain things in their fields,” said Mr Janša.
In closing, the Prime Minister thanked all citizens who are heeding the instructions, setting a good example for others and acting responsibly towards themselves and others. He also thanked those companies that on their own initiative took decisions and steps, and offered help, including Mercator, Telekom and Gorenje, which for instance donated from its own stocks 10,000 protective masks to the Civil Protection headquarters, and these masks will be provided to healthcare institutions where they are most urgently needed. “And a special thanks once more to all those who in the past few days have been working themselves to the bone in laboratories, coordination centres, clinics and even in offices, where they have received contradictory messages and used their own common sense to resolve the situation. Our thanks also go to the Slovenian police force, which has been especially burdened at this time, to all the Red Cross volunteers who worked in teams on the border, and all others who are too numerous to list,” said the Prime Minister.
In conclusion he noted that the Government is drawing up measures whereby within the means available, this additional burden will be compensated. “The law allows for additional remuneration, and within the means available we will use this possibility, since we believe that those bearing the heaviest burden should in the end be paid for this,” said the Prime Minister, adding that at this moment it is especially important for each person to do what their profession requires of them, and what is within the bounds of healthy self-assessment and initiative. “We cannot legislate for everything in a crisis situation like this, nor can everything be prescribed overnight, and all of us, including the decision-makers, must act with self-initiative and responsibility.”