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Prime Minister Janez Janša: The more seriously we comply with the current measures, the less need there will be for more drastic ones

  • Former Prime Minister Janez Janša (2020 - 2022)

Prime Minister Janez Janša was a guest on the Planet 18 show on Planet TV where the coronavirus epidemic and current domestic policy topics were discussed.

Prime Minister Janez Janša was a guest on the Planet 18 show on Planet TV

Prime Minister Janez Janša was a guest on the Planet 18 show on Planet TV | Author Office of the Prime minister

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Initially, he and the host spoke about the management of the epidemic and statements by immunologist Dr Alojz Ihan who said that he saw no alternative other than the country going into a full lockdown, that there had been enough of coordinating the interests of various groups and that stricter restrictions on movement should be adopted. "I think this is the last resort," was the Prime Minister’s assessment of this statement, and he went on to say that when he spoke with his colleagues in other European countries who have been forced to confine people to their residences and restrict them to half an hour of exercise once a day within a range of 50 metres from home, they emphasised that these were drastic measures. "We monitor the epidemic very closely with the help of experts such as epidemiologists, so we’ll know if stricter restrictions are really necessary." It they are, then this is what we’ll do. But we still hope that it won’t be necessary," said the Prime Minister.

He also highlighted that the positive effects of rapid testing are already apparent as this option was particularly used during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays by those who, for example, displayed the symptoms, but were not certain if they should take PCR tests. "Many of those tested positive. Due to this measure, we are counting on overcoming the January or February wave without imposing drastic measures," said Prime Minister Janša, adding that, "…We all hate the restriction of freedom, but we should still consider that the more seriously we comply with the current measures, the less need there will be for more drastic ones."

To the question of whether the issuing of quarantine decisions should continue and not be abolished, the Prime Minister replied that everyone who was in contact with an infected person or crossed the border in a certain period received instructions on how to behave. "There was supervision as well, but with regard to the legal restrictions, the Information Commissioner and everything else, the supervision could not be implemented effectively. The number of cases was high, and the Health Inspectorate was unable to handle everything despite being allocated inspectors from other inspectorates," explained the Prime Minister. "In the spring wave of the epidemic, tracking stopped due to limited capacity. This cannot be rectified overnight. Now, the number of daily infections is over 1,500, which is more than twenty times the limit, thereby exceeding functionality," continued Janša. "When the number of infections exceeds a certain threshold, some measures are no longer efficient and need to be replaced with others," stressed the Prime Minister, adding that we are forgetting the fact that there was also a political crisis arising from the Minister of Health resigning during the autumn wave when the situation was at its worst. "We tried to resolve this issue as fast as possible, so I assumed the relevant ministry," said Janša, adding that certain matters from the past year were discovered only recently.

"When speaking about staffing and staffing reserves in health care, a major problem during the cold wave was the large proportion of health professionals falling ill," claimed the Prime Minister and continued that in certain health-care institutions this number was incomprehensibly high. "This was likely in part due to exhaustion and partly to the rules being too loosely interpreted as up to ten per cent of staff members were absent in certain institutions," explained Prime Minister Janša, adding that the situation was now improving. "For this reason, too, health professionals are being vaccinated first. The effects of the vaccine are slowly becoming apparent and we believe that medical staff infected with COVID-19 will no longer pose such a great problem," concluded the Prime Minister.

To the question of the introduction of a vaccination record booklet, Janša responded that such an introduction would likely occur but would be nothing new as a certificate of vaccination was already necessary when travelling to certain countries.

"So, this is nothing new and I think it would benefit everyone. There’s probably not a single person who wouldn’t be pleased that they can travel, and they only have to prove that they have been vaccinated," said the Prime Minister.

To the question of why the Government decided to remove Government spokesperson Jelko Kacin, the Prime Minister responded that the replacement did not occur overnight. "After December’s session of the European Council, it became certain that the vaccine would arrive, and the vaccination procedure would have to be carried out in a way that would ensure everyone’s prompt protection against the virus. This is an activity for which no country in the world is ready as special preparations are required on a day-to-day basis and for this a top logistics organiser, such as Mr Kacin, is required," said Prime Minister Janša, going on to say that great coordination efforts are also required concerning contacts between Slovenia and the European institutions. "Communication about the measures will not be affected in any way," reassured Janša. He noted that many people would miss Kacin’s clear messages. There were also some criticisms regarding his communication, but "ten times more commendations." "Mr Kacin and I have belonged to different political sides for several decades and I am personally grateful to him that he decided to help at the most critical time of the epidemic, as there were others whom we asked, but who declined," said Prime Minister Janša.

When speaking about the vote of no confidence, the Prime Minister said that he saw the text of the motion of no-confidence on a website and assessed it as "a concentrated brutal outburst of ideological hatred in which I see no facts." "It’s ironic that the deputies of the Minister of Health’s party have signed this vote of no confidence in which the main issue in the text is incorrect conduct during the fight against the epidemic," stated the Prime Minister and proposed that the authors of the text take a look in the mirror. "The Minister of Health resigned based on his party’s exiting the coalition when the situation was at its most strenuous," he further noted.

The Prime Minister agreed with Minister Počivalšek’s statements that they would "do a recount" and the situation would somewhat calm down at least for a while as it is difficult to work in the conditions that have prevailed since the vote of no confidence was announced last April. "I still believe that, in spite of the problems and obstructions, the Government will contain the epidemic, successfully preside over the EU Council and successfully complete its term, too," said Janša and pointed out that substantial European funds were ensured for the post-epidemic recovery and "it would be ironic that those who, within their one-and-a-half-year term, were unable to complete a single anti-corona package would then spend EUR 12 billion of European funds for various studies and clientelistic sources of financing, which is the only programme of certain left-wing parties."

Finally, Prime Minister Janša addressed the publication of police wages and the payment system reform. "The idea of the reform is based on the assumption that taxpayers would not be charged more. It’s not about the complete abolition of the uniform wage system, but keeping the entire administrative section of the public sector within the uniform wage system with grading levels because no great anomalies exist in this system," said Janša. "When dealing with specific sections of the public sector, such as the police, the armed forces, health care, etc., this uniform wage system disintegrated a long time ago," said the Prime Minister and proposed that a comparison of ratios from 2008, when the wage system was first introduced, and now be implemented. Regarding the reaction to the publication of police officers’ wages, the Prime Minister responded that the taxpayers have the right to know how much of their money goes to certain public employees, and "whoever denies this is in conflict with the fundamental aspects of democracy."

He further added that the adverse reaction to the publication of wages would not have occurred if the appropriate ratios had been in place. "The police officers work in cold and rain. They risk their lives and receive the same bonuses as someone who is sitting in an office. Of course, people also work hard in the offices, but if these ratios were arranged accordingly, no one would be upset," said Prime Minister Janez Janša, who believes that changes in the wage system are urgent, "…Not so much because of the police, but mostly because of the health care sector as we have seen that the staffing problem in health care is to a great extent the result of an unfair wage system in this sector."