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Prime Minister Janez Janša: A challenging period of colder months lies ahead - an effective response to the pandemic is needed

Address of the Prime Minister Janez Janša to the people of Slovenia.

Dear Citizens,

Slovenia, the European continent and most of the rest of the world are amidst the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. While in spring the virus first spread only from China and some hotspots in Europe, it has been spreading locally throughout the EU in autumn after the lifting of restrictions on the movement of people in the summer. This significantly reduces the effectiveness of certain restrictions that in March and April protected Slovenia and some other EU countries from experiencing what happened in Lombardy.

When looking at the direct consequences of the second wave, Slovenia is still among the less affected countries in the EU; however, the situation is deteriorating dangerously. Together with the rest of Europe, we are forced to adopt measures to curb the spread of the virus to protect people’s lives and health.

At the end of last week, after an in-depth discussion on the dangers of the second wave of the epidemic, the European Council reached a full agreement on the hierarchy of values used in the fight against the virus in the EU: Lives come first, followed by health and then the economy, especially essential activities. Everything else, from entertainment to various other activities and some freedoms will have to temporarily be put on hold. The more we will be able to adhere to this list of values through our measures and behaviour, the sooner we will be able to return to our normal lives, at least for the most part. The prepared measures, which will be activated if need be, are proportionate. All institutions in the country are functioning and will continue to function even if the situation deteriorates. We are in daily contact with the governments of other EU Member States, consulting, studying the different measures these countries are adopting and monitoring their effects.

The EU also agreed upon the recommendations on border crossing during the epidemic and the potential escalation of measures to tighten internal border regimes. For some time now, Slovenia has been following these recommendations, which prevent the recurrence of restrictions and blockades from the chaotic times of March this year.

The European priorities regarding vaccination of the population after the vaccine becomes available are also presented. Some tests are yielding promising results and we believe an effective vaccine will be available to everyone in spring at the latest. In Slovenia, vaccination will be free of charge. The first ones to receive the vaccination will be medical staff, followed by the most vulnerable groups, those working in critical infrastructure facilities, those working in jobs where it is not possible to maintain a sufficiently safe distance, and then everyone else as soon as possible.

However, before the vaccine becomes available, we still have a challenging period of the pandemic in colder months of the year ahead of us, which will require an effective response, but above all a high level of responsibility and solidarity.

We are facing difficult times that are forcing us to do what is most difficult, to change our habits and partly even change our way of life. But if we give it serious consideration, the obstacles are far from insurmountable. What is more, with relatively small short-term adjustments in the behaviour of the vast majority, we can overcome these challenges together. You can already do a lot just by downloading and using the #OstaniZdrav contact tracing app, especially if you have tested positive for COVID-19. However, we must do our utmost to support our healthcare workers, doctors and nurses, nursing staff in homes for the elderly and other institutions, those working in critical infrastructure facilities and all activities that cannot be brought to a halt even during a pandemic, as they are essential for the nation's health and survival. Since spring, we have significantly strengthened our organisation based on our experience in healthcare, but unfortunately human resources are still limited because they cannot be doubled in such a short time.

There have been times in human history when the fate of many lay in the hands of a few. However, the pandemic has posed a major, double challenge to the entire democratic world based on freedom, and to us Slovenians as well: The health and lives of all of us are in the hands of our fellow citizens who work in healthcare. At the same time, we all know that they will only be able to accomplish their mission if we all help them by behaving responsibly so that the rate at which the virus spreads does not exceed the capacity of our healthcare system. We are all tired from the long months of battling the virus. But let us think of our fellow citizens who are seriously ill and consider their suffering. Think about all the doctors and nurses in the long days and nights, exposed to the danger of infection, wearing protective masks and coveralls. And you will look at everything we all have to give up in a different light.

With the fifth anti-virus and economic assistance package we have provided additional funds to remunerate healthcare professionals that care for COVID-19 patients as well as additional payment for anyone transferred to another healthcare facility for this purpose.

The previous four packages have significantly mitigated the financial and social consequences of the current wave of the epidemic. No one was left out. The sixth package will soon be ready in order to promptly address the consequences of the cold wave of the pandemic as they occur. Due to effective measures, Slovenia is one of the few countries that improved its credit rating during the coronavirus crisis and thus improved its position on the financial markets. We have secured significant resources within the EU budgetary framework and the Recovery and Resilience Facility for rapid recovery and growth in the coming years. Never before in a comparable period has Slovenia had such investment opportunities at its disposal as it will have in the next three years. If we maintain political stability and eliminate bureaucracy, we can ensure a significant increase in welfare in record time: higher wages and pensions, sustainable development, support innovation, build new hospitals and homes for the elderly, build infrastructure that is currently lacking, strengthen the pension system, reward good work and management better, create new well-paid jobs, and modernise and simplify management at all levels.

So we are not facing an abyss into which we will surely fall, but a challenge that we will overcome together. And the time of sun and freedom, when the virus and protective masks will be just a distant memory, will come again. Again, there will be football matches, visits to cinemas and theatres, travel and holidays. Everything we have to temporarily give up will still be there. Life and a new experience of shared success will make up for lost time.

I would like to particularly thank you for everything you have already done and will do for your own safety and health and for protecting the lives and health of those who need protection the most. In this way, you will safeguard our existence and our future and help Slovenia be triumphant. Stay healthy.