Prime Minister Janez Janša: Slovenia is showing the world what it is made of
- Former Prime Minister Janez Janša (2020 - 2022)
In his statement to the press today, Prime Minister Janez Janša spoke about the situation in Slovenia at the time of the COVID-19 epidemic and the gradual resumption of economic activities.
The Prime Minister is pleased to note that Slovenia had not had any major virus outbreak in the industrial sector. He thanked all the businesses and employees who, by following the protective measures in place, made it possible for at least some parts of the economy to function. The Prime Minister also thanked teachers, parents and pupils for their good results in distance teaching and learning, farmers, grocery workers and grocery stores for maintaining the food supply, administrative workers for processing urgent applications, mail carriers and logistics operators for deliveries, janitors, cleaners and utility workers for extra care in maintaining hygiene and a healthy environment.
"All the positive experiences allow the Ministry of Health and the Government to examine and plan for the lifting of some restrictive measures, perhaps as early as next Tuesday and onwards, provided that some necessary preconditions have been met," said Mr Janša. He further added that the Government was examining the possibility of a gradual resumption of all those activities in manufacture, the services sector, trade and transport that could be carried out by implementing the measures of adequate distance between people, disinfection of hands and the use of protective masks. "It will also be possible to gradually ease some movement restrictions, subject to the additional slowing down of the epidemic, wide-scale testing at critical locations such as nursing homes, and better control of the virus spreading," said Mr Janša, adding that we must be aware of the undeniable fact that an alternative to the lenient control of the source of the infection can only be stringent social distancing measures. Or vice versa. The more accurately we are able to detect, limit and control the sources of infection, the fewer restrictions are required for the majority of the population."
The Prime Minister added that "we should not call to lift restrictive measures for everyone at the same time while opposing even the proposal for voluntary control of the sources of infection. Let's try to understand the fact that we cannot ease certain measures as quickly as the countries that reacted to the epidemic days or even weeks ahead of us, while they were also institutionally ready, unlike us."
The Prime Minister's full address reads:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
To date, there have been over 1000 identified cases of coronavirus infection in Slovenia. Almost a fifth of them are healthcare workers. A total of 111 people are being treated in hospital, 31 of whom are in intensive care. As yet, 36 people have died. On behalf of the Government, I extend my sincerest condolences to all their loved ones.
The curve of infections is no longer rising steeply, it has flattened, but it is not falling yet. Hotspots of infections throughout Slovenia are a cause of concern. This means that without controlling the movements of infected people and additional testing of the people they have come into contact with, the current movement restrictions cannot be scaled down to only a few areas. Restricting movement to the home municipality and following this measure has significantly reduced the possibility of new infections and the occurrence of new hotspots last week. Thank you all for following the measures and for your understanding.
It is encouraging news that the industrial sector has not been significantly hit by a virus outbreak so far. I am grateful to all the business people and employees who, by following the protective measures in place, made it possible for at least some parts of the economy to function. Thank you to all students and pupils for the good results achieved through distance learning. Thank you to farmers, grocery workers and grocery stores for maintaining the food supply. Thank you to administrative workers for processing urgent applications. My gratitude also go to mail carriers and logistics operators for deliveries; to janitors, cleaners and utility workers for extra care in maintaining hygiene and a healthy environment.
All the positive experiences gained so far allow the Ministry of Health and the Government to examine and plan for lifting some restrictive measures, perhaps as early as next Tuesday and onwards, provided that some necessary preconditions have been met.
The Government is looking into the possibility of a gradual relaunching of all those activities in manufacture, services, trade and transport that can be carried out taking into account adequate distance between people, disinfection of hands and the use of protective masks.
Provided that the epidemic eases further, that testing is expanded at critical points such as homes for the elderly, and that infections are better controlled, some restrictions of movement could also be gradually eased.
However, we must be aware of the undeniable fact that an alternative to lenient supervision of the source of the infection can only be the drastic social distancing measures. Or vice versa. The more accurately we are able to identify, limit and control the sources of infection, the fewer restrictions are required for the majority of the population.
Therefore, we should call for the lifting of restrictive measures for everyone and at the same time oppose even the proposal for voluntary control of the sources of infection. Let us try to understand the fact that we cannot ease certain measures as quickly as the countries that reacted to the epidemic days or even weeks ahead of us, while they were also institutionally ready, unlike us.
The Government, along with many experts, worked hard day and night so that the first package of measures to mitigate the impact of the epidemic would be submitted to the legislative procedure in time and that all urgent payments to the most vulnerable and other beneficiaries could be made already at the beginning of April together with regular payments. Sufficient funds have been provided for this purpose in a timely manner. We had the assurances of the competent authorities and the signature that, subject to the advance waiver of the right to veto by the National Assembly, the law could enter into force on the first day of its publication. Given the large number of conflicting legal opinions, they later changed their mind, so today, the law is not yet in force and unnecessary delays are occurring. However, the law will be enforced and payments will be made, even retroactively.
Today, the National Assembly also very responsibly adopted two very important acts. By amending the Rules of Procedure, we provided for teleworking, whereas the amendment to the Referendum Act eliminated ambiguities in the rapid implementation of emergency laws. This opens a real possibility for the second corona package to be enforced before the end of the month.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Slovenia declared epidemic on 13 March. By the way, Lithuania, which is considerably farther from the hotspot in Italy, declared it already on 28 February. Did you know? Of course not, because Slovenian media did not report on it. Those of us who called for measures in due time were, on the other hand, accused of raising panic. The irresponsible, in fact criminal act of ignoring and even spreading the danger was, however, not limited to Slovenia. From concerts and football matches in Italy and Spain, the virus rapidly spread all over Europe, causing tens of thousands of deaths. Due to the greed for money, some concerts and football matches were not cancelled even after the delayed declaration of the pandemic by the World Health Organization. Sweden, for instance, which long ridiculed the danger of the coronavirus, has now ten times higher death rate per million than Slovenia.
The consequences are dramatic in all other areas, too. Europe was at a complete standstill for a few weeks. Practically all internal borders are still closed for passengers. A European solidarity dependent on EU institutions does not exist in practice. All this time since the beginning of the epidemic, the EU has not sent us a single mask, a single piece of protective equipment, a single ventilator. Not a single order made through the so-called EU Joint Procurement has resulted in a delivery. We can rely primarily on ourselves and our friends in the region. The orders of protective equipment are subject to several complications because of market disintegration, numerous cases of profiteering and rushing. Many such complications can be avoided in advance by making all tenders and contracts public.
Much better and faster than in the last financial crisis was the reaction of the European Central Bank that expanded borrowing options, and of the European Commission that relaxed the rules of state aid and redistributed resources from the existing EU funds. The key instrument, the so-called corona bond, enabling the funding of the elimination of the epidemic’s consequences at a moderate price and without direct pressure on the public debt of individual member states, is unfortunately still without adequate support among the richest Member States. This is the point where the future of the euro, our common currency, as well as the future of the Union is at stake.
This is why we should be particularly aware of the fact that all money we can borrow for alleviating the epidemic will have to be returned one day. This is why we will do everything in our power to preserve, during the epidemic, the potential of our economy and therefore jobs and, through that, all the vital elements of the welfare state; to receive, in the European context, a debt instrument allowing for the distribution of the burden over a longer period, without high interest rates and without severe shocks to the prosperity of Slovenia.
We should also bear in mind that new opportunities will arise after the end of the epidemic. Those who will arise from the crisis less affected, with more preserved or even renovated capacities, will be stronger, more competitive and therefore more successful.
The crisis also brings an overhaul of our healthcare system. A lot of good, selfless, high-quality and innovative work and solutions in our healthcare has gained a much greater visibility than before. At the same time, it has made even clearer the need for additional investments in our healthcare system, the reform of the remuneration aspect, purging corruption from supplier chains and much better organisation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let the excess time available to some of us in these nameless days be also dedicated to reflection on what we, as individuals, families, businesses, communities, municipalities and Slovenia as a whole, can do better, faster, with more innovation and better organisation, in a more environmentally-friendly way and with more unity in the future.
Thank you all for your maturity and courage. We are doing moderately well at the moment. Slovenia is showing the world what it is made of. Let us continue down this path. Stay healthy. In spite of the current situation, allow me to wish you a happy and blessed Easter!