Cigler Kralj: Government confirms draft 8th coronavirus relief package for discussion by the Economic and Social Council
This afternoon’s press conference on the latest situation with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic was attended by Janez Cigler Kralj, Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Deana Potza of the Health Inspectorate and Tomaž Pečjak, Deputy Director General of the Police.
A total of 1,445 new positive cases of COVID-19 were identified yesterday. The following municipalities recorded the largest numbers: Ajdovščina (21), Brežice (32), Celje (33), Domžale (26), Koper (46), Krško (29), Murska Sobota (25), Nova Gorica (33), Novo Mesto (58), Ljubljana (176) and Maribor (75).
The seven-day average of confirmed COVID-19 cases is 1,225, with the number declining constantly in the last few days. The total number of those in hospital was 1,159, which is 19 fewer than last week. There were 183 patients in intensive care yesterday, two more than on Monday.
Hospitals recorded 25 deaths and there were two deaths in nursing homes, giving a total of 27.
The Government was briefed at today’s session on the draft of the new Act laying down temporary measures to mitigate the consequences of COVID-19. The main aim of the proposed eighth coronavirus relief package (aka PKP8) is to preserve jobs and implement measures regarding employment relationships, the labour market, social care and healthcare. The proposed Act is expected to have financial effects amounting to 320 million euros.
The principal measure contained in the Act will be that the Government assumes part of the burden of the increase in the minimum wage in force from 1 January this year. The Government proposes setting an alternative minimum basis for the payment of social security contributions for workers in an employment relationship. Accordingly, for the months from January to June 2021, the minimum basis for the calculation of contributions will be the minimum wage, and no longer 60% of the average wage. In this way, the Government will help shoulder part of the burden on the economy. The Minister estimates that the Government’s share will amount to just over 40% of the cost to employers arising from this increase in the minimum wage. The option exists to extend the measure for a maximum of six months, in other words for wages and benefits paid from July to December 2021. The financial investment of the state in this measure is estimated to be 47 million euros.
Weekly report on inspections by inspection bodies
Deana Potza presented a report on the management of COVID-19 measures for the period from 11 to 17 January 2021. The total number of inspections carried out in this period was 3,615. Inspection bodies issued 28 minor offence sanctions, 337 warnings under the Minor Offences Act and 91 administrative measures.
In the week covered by the report, the Health Inspectorate carried out 1,251 inspections in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic and issued 9 minor offence sanctions under the Minor Offences Act, 117 warnings and 7 administrative measures. In the hospitality sector, it conducted 195 inspections and issued 21 warnings. In the services sector it conducted 470 inspections and issued 4 minor offence sanctions under the Minor Offences Act and a total of 37 warnings. Inspectors from the Health Inspectorate carried out 360 inspections in outdoor public areas, resulting in 5 minor offence sanctions and 60 warnings. They inspected 226 blocks of flats and issued a total of 6 warnings.
The largest number of inspections related to the services sector and included beauty salons, hair salons, flower shops, car washes, repair workshops, libraries, kiosks, post offices, insurance companies, outdoor cultural heritage sites and other service sector establishments.
Inspectors were present at 15 excursion spots around the country on Saturday and Sunday. They checked for possible cases of travel between regions and effected checks of gatherings, pickup points at catering establishments and possible cases of sports equipment hire. They did not identify any major infringements but did issue a number of warnings.
The current priority of the Health Inspectorate is supervision of the implementation of COVID-19 vaccinations. The Government was briefed at yesterday’s session on the report on the implementation of this supervision between 27 December 2020 and 16 January 2021. The first inspections were carried out on 13 January at the 20 vaccination centres defined in the National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy and also at the Oncological Institute in Ljubljana in connection with suspected irregularities; in other words at a total of 15 hospitals and 6 health centres.
In the course of their inspections, the inspectors verified: (i) how many doses of vaccine individual vaccination centres had requested, (ii) how many doses they had received, (iii) how many vaccinations they had actually carried out, (iv) who had been vaccinated and whether they were reporting the vaccinations carried out in the Electronic Register of Vaccinated Persons and Adverse Effects after Vaccination.
Over the course of the 21 inspections, it was established that vaccination centres had received a total of 13,055 doses of vaccine and that the total number of vaccinated persons was 14,441. It was also found that 297 doses of vaccine (2%) had been used in a manner contrary to the strategy laying down priority groups for vaccination.
Up until 30 December 2020, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, five doses were extracted from each vial of vaccine. Since 31 December vaccination centres have been permitted to extract six doses of vaccine from each vial, following the issuing of an opinion by the vaccination advisory group at the National Institute of Public Health. Since 20 January 2021 the process of ordering vaccines has involved entering the number of doses into the application and dividing it by 6. Before this date, the number of doses ordered had to be divided by 5.
Under the strategy, vaccinations given are entered in an electronic register of vaccinated persons on an ongoing basis, but the strategy does not define exactly what this means. Assuming that the time frame envisaged in the strategy is a period of 24 hours, it follows from the findings of the inspections in individual vaccination centres that entries in the register were incomplete in 86% of cases. On the basis of these findings, we have proposed that the period within which vaccinations must actually be entered in the electronic register should be defined more precisely in the strategy.
Inspectors identified irregularities where vaccinations were carried out contrary to the strategy in the case of six inspectees. In most cases this meant vaccinating individuals who did not belong to the priority groups defined in the strategy, for example family members, partners and friends. It should be emphasised here that, as a rule, these individuals were vaccinated with additional extracted doses of vaccine – in other words in cases where six doses were extracted from an individual vial before 20 January 2021, when the obligation to extract six doses of vaccine from each vial came into force.
On identifying irregularities, an inspector issues an administrative decision instructing inspectees to carry out vaccinations in accordance with the national strategy. Decisions were issued to four inspectees: Nova Gorica General Hospital, Novo Mesto General Hospital, Domžale Health Centre and Velenje Health Centre. In other cases procedures are still under way.
Inspectors have inspected a further 15 vaccination centres (two hospitals and 13 health centres) in the course of this week (up to yesterday, i.e. 20 January).
In three cases they found that the centres had also vaccinated family members of staff or individuals who under the strategy are not entitled to vaccination in the first phase. The process of issuing an administrative decision is still in progress.
The figures presented here are preliminary figures and are the subject of ongoing investigation. Supervision of the implementation of vaccination by the Health Inspectorate continues to take place as a priority, where the Inspectorate will adapt to the current situation and any changes in the vaccination strategy as they occur.
Police report on supervision of the implementation of measures
Tomaž Pečjak reported that in the last seven days (i.e. from Thursday, 14 January to Wednesday, 20 January 2021), in addition to their regular duties, police officers carried out inspections in a total of 16,046 locations with regard to the implementation of the provisions of Government ordinances. This amounts to an average of almost 2,300 inspections a day. Some inspections were carried out on the basis of 101 reports received from citizens of alleged violations of the ordinances.
In the course of their inspections, police officers issued a total of 1,247 measures (including 906 warnings, 333 penalty notices and a small number of expedited procedures). Most cases involved infringements of the ordinance on conditions for crossing borders or the ordinance restricting movement – restrictions of assembly, curfew, travelling between municipalities or statistical regions, or mask-wearing. In three cases officers instituted minor offence proceedings in connection with infringements of Article 22 of the Protection of Public Order Act (failure to obey a lawful order from a police officer), while in five cases officers informed the Health Inspectorate of violations that fell outside police jurisdiction.
In the same period the police issued a total of 4,307 quarantine orders at border crossings and checkpoints, which is 66.8% less than a week earlier. Of these orders, 18 were cancelled when it emerged that the individuals involved were in possession of suitable evidence that they were entitled to enter the country without going into quarantine. This number is down significantly on the previous seven-day period, when 5,478 quarantine orders were cancelled, above all as the consequence of rapid antigen testing at six border crossings up to 8 January 2021.
As regards the point of entry into the country, police officers issued the largest number of quarantine orders at the borders with Croatia (3,853), Austria (305), Hungary (53) and Italy (38). A further 40 quarantine orders were issued to passengers landing at Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport.
In terms of country of arrival, the largest number of quarantine orders were issued to individuals travelling from Bosnia and Herzegovina (1,816), Kosovo (952), Croatia (439), North Macedonia (320), Serbia (252) and Germany (181). Quarantine orders were issued to individuals travelling to Slovenia from a total of 44 different countries.
A total of 156 people were refused entry at border crossings and checkpoints because they did not meet conditions for entry to or transit through Slovenia. This figure is 38.3% down on the previous week.