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Prime Minister Janez Janša: We need to ensure the health and safety of people first

In the light of adopting measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, a meeting of the National Security Council convened by Prime Minister Janez Janša was held today. The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, ministers and the representatives of opposition parties also attended the meeting.

A meeting of the National Security Council convened by Prime Minister Janez Janša was held on Tuesday

A meeting of the National Security Council convened by Prime Minister Janez Janša was held on Tuesday | Author Nebojša Tejić, STA

All attendees were informed of the measures the Government has already introduced and of those being prepared to address the virus, the Prime Minister said after the meeting. “The situation that Slovenia, Europe and the world are currently facing cannot be compared to anything we have ever faced before. After this epidemic, Slovenia, Europe and the world will be different, many existing rules will be different, and our views on many issues will be different,” added the Prime Minister. He stressed that we were only partially prepared for the danger arising from the virus. “Indeed, some things cannot be predicted and it is good to learn from the errors made by others. However, under the circumstances in which the Government handover was completed on Friday and over the weekend, I can say that we reacted like a person jumping into an empty cabin trying to steer a lorry that is already driving along the road,” explained Janez Janša. In his words, this situation was the very reason why the Government appointed crisis staff representing the Government with key operatives in an extended format so that measures can be adopted in real time. “In the last three days, a series of measures was implemented that would usually take days, weeks and months. Some of these measures will be upgraded. We are also following the situation in our neighbouring countries, in Europe, in the world, and we are maintaining contact with their leaders as well as with domestic and foreign experts. We endeavour to harmonise the work of experts and want to be informed about developments in the field so that we can react in accordance with a comprehensive understanding of the situation,” added Prime Minister Janez Janša.

“Our priority is to protect the most vulnerable, those most exposed to infection or the effects of the disease, and to guarantee the functioning of the critical infrastructure so that, in spite of the standstill of public life, sufficient commodity and other reserves can be secured. Above all, we have invested efforts to compensate for the serious shortage of protective equipment that, plainly speaking, renders certain activities impossible,” admitted the Prime Minister and added that there would be significantly fewer delays if greater quantities of protective equipment were available, as certain measures could then be selectively adopted.

“The Government will adopt all necessary measures to preserve social security and keep the economy and public sector in a way that that normal life can be maintained. We are currently in a situation in which the fiscal rule does not apply, the framework is being extended on the European and global level, and practically every hour new proposals are put forward on how to organise ourselves in order to address these challenges as a part of Western civilisation,” noted Prime Minister Janez Janša.At the same time, he commended and thanked everyone who, in recent weeks, has been weary with exhaustion in laboratories, surgeries, homes for the elderly and at any critical points that emerged at the very beginning of the epidemic. “I would like to thank everyone who is working tirelessly in an effort to reorganise key sectors of the healthcare system. I would also like to thank the mayors of Slovenian municipalities who, over the weekend and yesterday, took care of thousands of matters that can be sorted out directly in people’s local environment," said Prime Minister Janez Janša.

He further thanked all his fellow citizens who take these measures seriously and behave responsibly towards themselves and others, "Because this is by far the most effective measure that can be taken in these circumstances."

Prime Minister Janša announced that the Government will intensify some measures. "We are studying measures already adopted in neighbouring countries and we are in favour of the effective and partially selective measures and responses. However, we must reiterate that everything cannot be regulated by decrees and that our effectiveness in slowing down the spread of the virus depends largely on the extent of our ability, as individuals, to be are aware of this danger and react accordingly," emphasised Janez Janša.

He further stated, "We promised cooperation in the adoption of measures to all the parliamentary parties who participated in the National Security Council session, especially the opposition parties. All laws planned for adoption by the Government will be equally available to all parliamentary groups, while the Government and ministries are open to proposals". He added that the first step will be to adopt the most urgent legislative measures, which should not be delayed and are needed sooner rather than later, and as a second step, a legislative package will be drawn up to deal with these challenges strategically. According to Janez Janša, the preparation of this legislative package has started as of today. "We are appealing to everyone, especially the expert community where individuals, scientists, and professors are following the global response to the crisis, to e-mail to us your proposals for the package of measures now under preparation. We will take into consideration each and every proposal and try to draft a law by the end of next week  addressing the most critical circumstances resulting from the spread of this virus," said Janša and thanked the President of the Republic, the President of the National Assembly and the President of the National Council for their participation in the National Security Council session.

The Prime Minister continued by answering questions from the press. In connection with the changes in the testing for the coronavirus, he said that it was explained at the National Security Council session when the testing is sensible to perform and when it is not, and that these changes were decided by the experts, not by the Government. “The problem is that mass testing was not being carried out at the beginning when the infection was coming from the neighbouring countries. At that time, this would have been most effective. Some measures that are effective at a certain stage are no longer effective at a later stage," said Janez Janša. In his words, all the restrictions on movement and other measures that are being adopted now are all the more drastic "because we did not adopt certain other measures in time".

When asked about the protection of workers in different industries, the Prime Minister replied that the key problem at the moment is protective equipment. “We are making many efforts to increase these capacities or the quantity of the most urgently needed protective equipment,” said Janša and added that priority in the distribution of protective equipment will be given to the critical infrastructure, which must remain operational. “What comes first are therefore hospitals, healthcare facilities and homes for the elderly, which are in fact the most critical points,” said the Prime Minister and added that the Ministry of Health will today issue instructions excluding persons most vulnerable for infection, i.e. patients with chronic diseases, from the work process. “Not everything can be promptly made into a measure or decree, so I appeal to all of you to take the instructions issued by the Ministry of Health as something that must be followed,” said Prime Minister Janez Janša.

The Prime Minister went on to thank all the media for their accurate reporting on the measures taken by the Government and the crisis staff. “As said, the first wave of measures consists of the legislation relieving Slovenia’s economy and individuals, enabling them to survive the first weeks. The second step is the drafting of an umbrella anti-crisis act that will bring many specific definitions. What measures will be covered and what measures will be possible will be clear after today’s video conference of the European Council and after much coordination of the EU Council over the next few days. The second step will be elaborated and upgraded; in the best-case scenario, it will be submitted to the procedure at the end of next week when the situation becomes clearer. These measures will be unprecedented,” added the Prime Minister.

When asked about today’s resignation of the head of the Slovene Intelligence and Security Agency (SOVA) and the fact that the head of SOVA is no longer a part of the National Security Council (SNAV), Prime Minister Janša stated, “Today’s discussions were not about the external enemy and foreign intelligence services. I doubt that intelligence services play a major role as far as fighting the virus is concerned”. He said that SOVA is technically operational while the present structure of the SNAV is the same as it was before this Government’s term of office.  

When asked whether the adopted measures are effective, the Prime Minister said, “The opinion of experts regarding the rate of the epidemic’s spread is that any restriction of contact contributes to its slowing down. All measures to this end contribute to the avoidance of exceeding the capacities of our healthcare system”.

He went on to say that there would be no difficulty acquiring protective equipment if certain measures had been taken three weeks ago. “The market situation was more favourable three weeks ago than it is now. But we will take care of everything,” said Prime Minister Janez Janša.

Asked about the Government’s measures taken to help the economy and individual entrepreneurs, the Prime Minister said that these measures would also be drafted; in the days ahead, however, the health and safety of people should come first. “The important thing is that people know that this will be done, that people with a double workload at all critical spots know that they will receive double pay for their work while those who do not work will probably receive half their pay. We are keeping this in mind and will adopt such measures,” was Prime Minister Janez Janša’s closing comment.