Statement by Minister Simona Kustec and spokesperson Jelko Kacin on the current situation regarding the COVID-19 epidemic
"Children, pupils and students successfully returned to kindergartens and schools yesterday, thanks to the principals and the teachers who thoroughly prepared for the return and made all the necessary arrangements to successfully carry out classes. Students and parents were also very understanding and prepared for a smooth implementation of the education process in schools," stressed the Minister of Education, Science and Sport at today's press conference in her first evaluation of kindergartens and schools reopening yesterday. Schools are reporting good cooperation with local communities and smooth operation of school transport.
The Ministry is consulting with experts regarding the schooling process in the next few weeks. They have received several initiatives regarding this. Due to the organisation of work, the Principals of Slovenia Association has requested delaying the date of return of the 9th grade students until 1 June 2020. Some principals suggested the return of the 4th and 5th grade students, while others suggested that all students return from 1 June 2020. The Ministry will deliberate all the suggestions with the experts, taking into account both the current epidemiological evaluation of the situation in Slovenia and the capacity and appropriateness of organising classes based on all the professional guidelines and the staff capacities of the schools.
The majority of children and students are returning to kindergartens and music schools; assistance for schools with adapted education programme
Approximately half of the children returned to kindergartens yesterday. A few kindergartens have already announced that more children will return after 1 June 2020, which is why it will be necessary to review and reassess the guidelines of the National Institute of Public Health. At today's evening session, the Government will discuss a proposal to extend the measure of kindergarten fee payment by the state for children who are absent until 30 June 2020.
The majority of students are expected to return to music schools this week. They are not experiencing any personnel issues.
Representatives of the Ministry and the National Institute of Public Health will meet today in order to find an appropriate solution for schools with adapted education programme. They will discuss the possibility of introducing so-called mobile teachers, who provide additional professional assistance.
Slovenia's measures regarding education are similar to those in other EU Member States
The minister provided a few numbers that place Slovenia alongside other EU countries:
- like in Slovenia, 17 countries gave priority to the opening of kindergartens and to the return of lower and final grade students to school; 14 of them are offering childcare and preschool education;
- like in Slovenia, 20 countries are giving priority to higher grades, matura and final examinations when it comes to secondary schools;
- 8 countries, including Slovenia, are reopening schools for children with special needs;
- 20 countries, including Slovenia, have prepared professional guidelines in cooperation with the relevant medical institutions.
New operating hours of the 080 1404 call centre, third stimulus package and crossing borders
Later in the press conference, the Government's spokesperson Jelko Kacin spoke about the Government coronavirus call centre, which has been available to citizens during the epidemic. The call centre is a collaboration of doctors from the Department of Infectious Diseases, the National Institute of Public Health, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Civil Protection Service, the Labour Inspectorate, the Police, other ministries and the Government Communication Office. They have answered more than 40,000 calls to date.
The toll-free telephone number 080 1404 remains available to all citizens that require reliable and up-to-date information; however, the operating hours of the call centre are changing – from now on, the call centre will be available every workday, from Monday to Friday from 8:00 to 16:00.
Crossing borders: Countries discuss easing the measures at borders
The coordination of easing the measures is being carried out by individual ministries and also taking place at the European level. Yesterday at a video-conference, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of several EU countries – Slovenia, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Spain, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Malta and Portugal – called for close cooperation and coordination in the gradual easing of measures with a view to restoring freedom of movement between EU Member States.
At yesterday's correspondence session, the Government was briefed on the epidemiological situation in the Republic of Croatia that was prepared by the Slovenian National Institute of Public Health and adopted a Decision to include the Republic of Croatia on the list of countries from which people can enter the Republic of Slovenia, said spokesperson Kacin. Specific restrictions of movement between the two countries are currently not necessary, and the same applies to quarantine and self-isolation after crossing the national border.
The Government also confirmed that the existing agreements with neighbouring countries that allow crossing of the border still apply for:
- daily commuting cross-border workers who provide proof of employment relationship in a neighbouring country or a signed statement justifying the reason for crossing the border as daily commuting cross-border workers;
- weekly commuting cross-border workers who provide proof of employment relationship in a neighbouring country or a signed statement justifying the reason for crossing the border as weekly commuting cross-border workers;
- persons who own or rent land on both sides of the national border and carry out agricultural work;
- persons who provide proof of a medical examination or procedure in the Republic of Slovenia or the neighbouring country that is planned on the day of crossing the border;
- persons who cross the border for reasons of education and training in the neighbouring country or in the Republic of Slovenia and provide appropriate proof and their parents or other persons who drive them and return across the border on the same day;
and remain in force until new technical agreements are concluded.
At the end of the press conference, the Government's spokesperson also announced that the Government is to discuss the third stimulus package at its evening session.