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Prime Minister Janez Janša: The Government has adopted measures to implement a lockdown from 1 to 12 April

The Government of the Republic of Slovenia today convened at the Brdo Congress Centre for its 67th regular session at which it discussed measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. Among other things, the Government discussed the expert group’s proposal for an 11-day lockdown. This proposal is based on the figures which show a growing number of infections and hospitalisations and which, once again, call into question the stability of the Slovenian healthcare system, since the numbers of those needing intensive care could exceed even those that we saw at the peak of the second wave. These were all topics of the meeting that Prime Minister Janez Janša attended earlier today at the Brdo Congress Centre together with the presidents of the parliamentary parties, the heads of deputy groups, the minister of health and the minister’s expert group for the containment and control of the COVID-19 epidemic, which was hosted by President Borut Pahor.

Following today’s Government session, a press conference was held at Brdo where Prime Minister Janez Janša and the ministers spoke about the adopted measures.

As the Prime Minister said in his introductory remarks at the press conference, we are in a race against time. “The speed of the vaccination drive, which is now picking up, will ensure that we reach the target vaccination coverage, which helps contain the epidemic, in June or at the start of the summer, and, until then, it is necessary to adopt certain additional measures, particularly due to the extent of the UK variant of the coronavirus, which is more deadly and spreads more quickly, leading to an increased number of infections and significantly greater pressure being placed on hospital capacities, which are key factors in assessing when we need to take more action,” said the Prime Minister. He continued by explaining that earlier today the expert group had already proposed measures that would, in practice, mean public life in the country would be suspended between 1 and 12 April.  “The Government adopted these measures, as we agreed with the assessment that was put forward, which is that inaction would mean at least a few hundred additional deaths by June, and this inaction could later lead to a drastic shutdown of public life due to the overburdened capacities of the Slovenian healthcare system,” said Prime Minister Janez Janša. He then said that the lockdown was limited to a relatively short period of time and added that we are aware that Slovenia will not be free from the virus even after 12 April. “On 12 April we will go back to using the traffic light system of easing or tightening measures that is now being suspended. If necessary, the traffic light system will be supplemented, but for the most part it will stay the same, so that life after 12 April will be predictable, even with regard to the measures,” stated the Prime Minister.

“The success of the measures, which to a great extent means the stopping of many activities for this period, will depend on their consistent implementation, which is why I appeal to you all that we must accept the fact that it is better to act earlier than later. If these measures are carefully followed and if they are effective, further restrictions will not be necessary,” added Prime Minister Janša, also addressing his appeal to those who do not feel at risk of the virus. “We ask that you follow these measures for those who are at risk, and, in view of the current level of vaccination coverage, these include the majority of our compatriots. He also said that the Government had adopted the measure today to greatly limit the operation of the state administration from 1 to 12 April, apart from exceptions, and that it would transition to work from home.

“We are also appealing to the economic sector, especially to the part of it that will continue working, to organise themselves so as to ensure that as much of the work is carried out at home as possible, and where being in the workplace is required due to the nature of the work process and which does not allow for working from home, all preventive measures, including testing before going to the workplace, are taken into account even more consistently than before," said Prime Minister Janez Janša.

The Prime Minister added that most of the decrees adopted today refer to the period from 1 April to 12 April, with the exception of the decree concerning the crossing of state borders, which will enter into force as of tomorrow. "The reason for this decision is the alarming situation in some of the Western Balkan countries, where the number of infections has drastically increased and from where we have detected the arrival of many people who sometimes provide proof of testing of a suspicious origin,” said Prime Minister Janez Janša.

Prime Minister Janez Janša then proceeded to answer the questions of the press, in particular regarding the non-participation of the opposition parties at this morning’s meeting. The Prime Minister expressed regret that the opposition parties did not participate in the discussion today, as the representatives of these parties could have posed questions both to the representatives of the Government and the entire expert group. "I do not know how else it is possible to talk than by sitting down together. I do not find it productive or constructive to make the discussion about how to successfully contain the epidemic and which is open to the public conditional on various assumptions as to what the Government must do in order for the opposition to come and participate in the discussion. This is the same as if the Government had set up a condition that the opposition may not submit interpellations if it wants to be invited to discussions, that is, if we had said to them something along these lines that as long as they continued to submit interpellations, we would not invite them. Imagine if the Government had set up such a condition! This is inappropriate and it is equally inappropriate to set up the conditions to the other party," said Prime Minister Janez Janša. He also added that "we did not ask for or expect anything from the opposition, they simply received an invitation from the President of the Republic to attend the discussion, on the basis of a request expressed by them at the first such meeting, where they said that they wanted to be informed of the measures before their final adoption by the Government, and it was precisely due to this request that I asked the President of the Republic not to hold this discussion on 7 April, as had been originally planned, but before these measures were being decided on by the Government," said the Prime Minister, adding that the Government rescheduled the decision-making on the measures also because "we wanted to consult with the representatives of the opposition in advance". "Those of us who have gathered here today are in fact the Coalition of the Constitutional Arc, that is, we are the parties that care about the health and lives of the people and the future of the country, and those who decided to refrain from today's meeting are largely outside of this," said the Prime Minister.

He also pointed out that the measures adopted today, which will enter into force on 1 April, will start to yield results after a delay. "The positive effects after the lockdown will emerge only after 12 April," said the Prime Minister, adding that the expert group's proposal was that on 12 April, if the numbers regarding infections and hospital care are good, the traffic light system should go back to the easing traffic light, and that the Government will follow the proposal. "If a new variant of the virus should emerge in the meantime, which would pose an additional threat to the Slovenian population, we will have to take further action, but as far as we know, this does not pose a serious threat," said the Prime Minister. He also recalled the words of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel that "this is no longer about the epidemic we fought against last year, but a new epidemic where some new and additional surprises are possible". Prime Minister Janez Janša said that during this time, the Government "will direct all its strength towards administering all doses of vaccine that will arrive to Slovenia in a reasonable time and thus maximise the vaccination coverage, with absolute priority being given to the most vulnerable groups".