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Janez Janša: We need effective, legitimate, and concerted action in the fight against coronavirus

A special meeting of four presidents, including the President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor, Prime Minister Janez Janša, President of the National Assembly Igor Zorčič, and the President of the National Council Alojz Kovšca, was held today. The four presidents discussed the operation of political institutions during the coronavirus crisis, their cooperation, and their joint efforts to achieve political unity in order to take concerted action. In their discussions, they focused especially on making various decisions that need to be effective, democratic, and protected by all democratic standards.

A special meeting of four presidents, including the President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor, Prime Minister Janez Janša, President of the National Assembly Igor Zorčič, and the President of the National Council Alojz Kovšca.

A special meeting of four presidents, including the President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor, Prime Minister Janez Janša, President of the National Assembly Igor Zorčič, and the President of the National Council Alojz Kovšca. | Author Daniel Novakovič, STA

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After the meeting, Prime Minister Janša said that “we are currently fighting a battle against time.” “Anything we can do to stop the spread of the virus or the epidemic is something that will save lives and give the strength to the healthcare staff which is playing the vital role in this context,” stressed the Prime Minister and continued that the Government is taking every possible action which is backed by real measures that can be practically implemented. “This action is effective, legitimate, and concerted. From this point of view, today’s meeting was useful, because even during the epidemic, the capacity to act should be maintained by all the institutions that are expected to make the necessary decisions, and the National Assembly is definitely a crucially important institution,” said the Prime Minister. He added that all the existing preparations that have not yet been completed in order to ensure the functionality of this institution in the coming weeks should be finalized as soon as possible.

The Prime Minister then highlighted that in times like this the greatest thanks goes to the healthcare staff. “Our thanks are well-deserved by all those in the frontlines, those working with patients who have tested positive for coronavirus, those preparing the facilities for the coming weeks, and also those who are taking care of the most vulnerable groups. Currently, these groups are concentrated in homes for the elderly. We are talking about 10,000 people who need special attention, great care by a large number of healthcare staff, and our solidarity, meaning that we should not do anything that includes making contact with them or anything unnecessary to put this population under additional risk,” emphasised Mr Janez Janša, adding that no measure, law or decree can substitute the awareness of our duty to protect our own health and the health of others.

Taking the questions from the press, the Prime Minister clearly stressed that it is obvious to everyone why Article 37a should be invoked. “The resources of Slovenian police are being seriously tested. As of yesterday, new checkpoints on the Austrian border were established and this new situation created a series of conditions rendering the presence of police urgently required for the purpose of the general security of the residents. For this reason, the police has fewer capacities available on the southern border where needs are growing, which is why the help from Slovenian Armed Forces is the only capacity we have available,” explained the Prime Minister. “We do not need Slovenian Armed Forces on the streets, but we do need them on the southern border, because given the information that are currently being published in the media, the needs are growing and I hope that the National Assembly will show enough common sense to invoke this article,” said the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Janša continued by saying that there are weeks ahead of us when many things will be put to test, especially the capability to maintain the vital capacities of our healthcare in order to manage the growing number of infected people. “The number of infected and positively tested people is growing. However, there are also some good news that some of the first infected people have already recovered. The first patient requiring artificial lungs was disconnected today, because their health improved to the stage where they could breathe by themselves, meaning that this disease is manageable and that merely being positive for coronavirus does not mean that you will end up in the intensive care,” commented the Prime Minister. He also cautioned that limited capacity does not only apply to the Slovenian healthcare system, but to all healthcare systems worldwide that cannot meet the needs if the number of sick people requiring intensive care exceeds these limitations. “Thus, reducing the number of infections as much as possible can actually save lives,” added the Prime Minister. He highlighted the situation in Italy and Spain and pointed out that especially in Spain, a high percentage of medical staff is infected, which will create additional problems. "In our country as well there are several dozens of medical staff among those who have tested positive for the coronavirus but whose services are needed urgently. Accordingly, both good and bad news must be taken into account,” said the Prime Minister.

"Again, we cannot stress enough that the key weeks are those before us and that no decree, ordinance or law can substitute our awareness of what we alone can do”, said Mr Janša.

He further noted that in recent days, a number of practical instructions were provided by medical professionals regarding the use of protective gear. "Such instructions should also be observed, for example, regarding the wearing, manufacture and effectiveness of protective face masks, considering that for some time now, the situation will not be such as to allow us to provide professionally manufactured protective gear for each of us. No country in the world is currently capable of doing this," said the Prime Minister. He added that one million face masks for Slovenia equals 600 million masks for India, one billion for China and 300 million for the USA: "There are no production capacities in the world that can provide such quantities. In six months, the situation is likely to differ significantly, but at present we must be pragmatic and rely on our own initiative, "said Mr Janez Janša. According to him, the Government is currently trying to provide protective gear especially to those who directly fight the disease, and to those who need such gear for their work, particularly in the healthcare sector.

"We have also launched our own production. I wish to thank Slovenian entrepreneurs who planned ahead and purchased supplies on time. There is much that can be done. Many people have started sewing face masks themselves and we thank them because for the protection of us who do not work in the healthcare system, a face mask manufactured in China is not really needed. Any protection is better than no protection", stressed the Prime Minister, noting that the correct use of protective face masks is also important, and called again to observe and act in compliance with the guidelines issued by health professionals.

At the same time, the Prime Minister thanked the countries that are helping us. "No country has enough protective equipment and at this moment, it's all about lending and assistance. There is currently no one in Europe who has enough of these supplies even to cover the most urgent needs for more than a few days, so the situation is being addressed on a daily basis," said Mr Janez Janša. According to him, Slovenia is setting up its own production that will also be needed in the future, in every possible way. "And let the lesson of this epidemic, with virtually all protective gear factories concentrated at a single spot of the Earth, be sufficient to prevent such a situation from ever happening again," noted the Prime Minister.

Furthermore, Mr Janez Janša said that the day before, he had a long consultation with different health structures, discussing primarily the use of protective gear. "Besides having the protective gear, it is equally important to use such gear correctly,” said Mr Janša, reiterating the need to follow the advice given by healthcare professionals.

Last but not least, Mr Janez Janša spoke about the anti-coronavirus package, saying that it was a “financial cushion” intended to enable us to resume normal operations once the epidemic had ended. He pointed out that the ministries have a deadline for submitting statutory articles by 23:00 today and that the proposals made by parliamentary parties and other stakeholders will also be included in the package. "There are several proposals that we will try to include in the first package or in the second package that is also being prepared and will be discussed at the end of the next week,” said the Prime Minister. He added that the aforementioned package tackled very complex issues and that the discussion of the package in the National Assembly was really important. "However, it would be ideal if the law was adopted by 1 April this year,” added Mr Janša.

As to when schools and kindergartens will be re-opened, the Prime Minister said that these institutions would be closed until further notice and did not speculate on the dates. He also thanked the teachers for making the distance learning possible.

Regarding the issue of employee remuneration, the Prime Minister said that this issue was defined in the guidelines and that, more specifically, decisions on the remuneration of employees will be taken by their superiors. "Many people who work do not work for money, but it is only right that those who make additional sacrifices should also receive extra payment,” said Prime Minister Janez Janša.