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Prime Minister Janez Janša: The visit to UKC Maribor was a gesture of gratitude to all Slovenian healthcare workers who have been fighting the most difficult battle with the epidemic on the front line since March

Today, when the first COVID-19 vaccinations for the groups of the population most at risk started to be administered, Prime Minister Janša visited the University Medical Centre Maribor, where the first healthcare workers were vaccinated. The Slovenian Prime Minister also visited the COVID-19 hospital wards to gain insight into the work of the doctors and medical staff.

In his statement to the media after his visit to UKC Maribor, he said that part of the first shipment of vaccines, which arrived in Slovenia yesterday, will also be intended for healthcare workers who belong to the most at-risk category, i.e. those treating COVID patients. "The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine to our country could be compared to the arrival of a fire brigade at the scene of a fire. We are well aware that the first team will not be able to put out the entire fire, but it can start protecting those areas most threatened by the fire. In the coming weeks, we thus expect even stronger fire-fighting teams until by means of the intervention through vaccinations the epidemic is stopped and the spread of the coronavirus prevented," emphasised Prime Minister Janša.

"My visit to UKC Maribor is also a gesture of gratitude to all Slovenian healthcare workers who have been fighting the most difficult battle with the epidemic on the front line since March," said the Prime Minister, adding that without them the situation would be much more serious. "I hope that they can all take a rest during the festive days that are still ahead of us and gather new strength for the post-holiday shock we are expecting. We want this shock to be as weak as possible but we are aware that the partial easing of restrictions on movement and mixing between so-called bubbles will generate a certain number of infections that will increase the statistics at the beginning of January and therefore additional reserves will have to be squeezed out of the already exhausted healthcare system," said Prime Minister Janša. 

He stressed that vaccinations against COVID-19 are taking place throughout the European Union and expressed recognition of the efforts of the European Commission, which, in cooperation with European and American science, provided an effective vaccine already this year and ensured that the vaccine is being evenly and equally distributed across Europe. Today, as then when we voted for the European Union, we feel we are equal Europeans," added Prime Minister Janša.

When asked about the investments in the new infectious disease clinic in Maribor, Prime Minister Janša replied that it is an investment envisaged in the National Recovery Plan and is one of the priorities.  "We will make every effort to ensure that the Plan is implemented in the next few years, not only in Maribor but also throughout Slovenia and that additional healthcare capacities are built in all Slovenian regions," emphasised the Prime Minister.

In response to a question regarding the post-holiday shock and the return of children to school, Prime Minister Janša said that yesterday, according to all criteria as regards the roadmap to ease measures, Slovenia moved from the black to the red zone. "The situation has slightly improved, but is still extremely serious. We hope, not only temporarily, that some minor restrictive measures can be eased next week, for example regarding the work of hair salons and food markets, while a further easing of restrictions is not allowed during transition from the black to the red zone," said the Slovenian Prime Minister. In his opinion, a bigger step forward in the positive direction would be the transition to the orange zone, which will enable the easing of restrictions in regions with a better epidemiological situation, "but until then an average of some hundred patients occupying the capacities for COVID-19 patients must be cured and the number of infections must drop below 1000; now it is still several hundred above a thousand." The Prime Minister also emphasised that currently the main risk is actually the result of increased movement and contacts during the holidays because restrictions were eased. In this regard, he recalled the meeting with the directors of all healthcare institutions at the beginning of December, when all of them were asked if they could provide a 30% reserve capacity to deal with the situation at that time and it was said that that was probably a figure impossible to reach.  "However, everyone is trying hard and making a great effort to provide some of these reserve capacities," said Prime Minister Janša.

He also pointed out that at this moment education is one of the priorities, in particular the first three grades of primary school and schools for pupils and students with special needs; "but today it is still too early to answer the question of whether it will be possible to relax the restrictions on 4th January. The Government will decide on this issue in the middle of next week when more accurate figures and forecasts are available. Before the opening of kindergartens and schools for the first three grades, we will try to ensure testing of employees by means of rapid tests for COVID-19," emphasised the Slovenian Prime Minister, who expressed his hope that all stakeholders in the education sector will be able to agree on a common statement to take into consideration the recommendations of the National Institute of Public Health and that the education sector will carry out the necessary reorganisation to provide sufficient space per individual pupil and school lessons in such a way so as to prevent the mixing of classes.  "On the basis of these measures and the agreement and commitments made by all those responsible, from the trade union to the head teachers, the opening of schools would be acceptable along with the possibility that the epidemiological situation would gradually improve, but we do not know whether this will be on the 4th or 11th of January or in mid-January," said the Slovenian Prime Minister. He especially highlighted that everything depends of the figures recorded in the first weeks after the holidays and on the capacity of the healthcare system.

As regards the complications and dissatisfaction related to the ski resorts widely discussed in recent days, Prime Minister Janša noted that the opening of the ski slopes in December before the holidays was only temporary and that it was a measure in parallel with the lifting of the restriction of movement to municipalities and that it only applied to certain regions.  "In the municipalities to which the restriction of movement applied, the operation of ski resorts is not even economically reasonable," said the Prime Minister, adding that it was made clear that certain things would have to be given up during the holidays. "Skiing is a luxury activity and not the same priority as schools, kindergartens, etc. It was said in advance that with the restrictions during the holidays we will try to provide conditions for the reopening of schools and kindergartens and everything that is crucial for a normal course of life," emphasised Prime Minister Janša.

Finally, he once more appealed for understanding. "When we record infections and the occupancy of hospital beds, it does not matter where someone gets infected, either at school or elsewhere; the Government must consider the priorities in terms of what is more and what is less important for the society, said the Prime Minister. He also stated that after long discussions the Government has lifted the restrictions on movement for individuals and families in one’s municipality of residence when it comes to taking walks, recreational activities and individual sports activities; in these cases, the restriction of movement to the municipality does not apply and everyone is allowed to move within the region for such purposes. "In comparison to the opening of ski resorts, this is something that allows the movement of many more people," observed the Prime Minister, who appealed for patience. "If there are not enough reserves, it will not be possible to reopen kindergartens and schools. The epidemiological situation in our country is serious; and in most European countries with a better epidemiological situation and more reserves in their respective health care systems the ski resorts are also closed," he said and added that the provocation with the Krvavec ski resort was "unnecessary and harmful." "Those who do not respect the measures also do not deserve subsidies to compensate for the loss of income during the epidemic," concluded Prime Minister Janša.