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Prime Minister Janez Janša: It is only a matter of time before we triumph over COVID-19

Prime Minister Janez Janša spoke today at the virtual conference entitled "Changing Paradigms in a Pandemic World: How to regain trust? Health, Happiness & Ethics".

The virtual conference was held under the auspices of the World Forum for Ethics and Business. It was attended, among others, by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization; Petra de Sutter, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Civil Service, Belgium; Kjell Magne Bondevik, Former Prime Minister of Norway; Jo Churchill, Minister for Public Health, Primary Care & Prevention, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom; Dr Christian Garbe, Managing Director, FIZ Biotech.

In his opening address, Prime Minister Janez Janša said that we often hear that hard times bring out the best and the worst in people. "The COVID-19 pandemic is a great example of this. We have witnessed the selfless commitment of healthcare professionals worldwide and the rise of the black market for personal protective equipment, and in recent months even the black market for vaccines," the Prime Minister said. Similar things have occurred at the state level. "For example, although EU Member States do not have enough vaccines for their citizens, but they have nevertheless exported almost 77 million doses to more than 30 countries. The European Union is also the lead donor to the COVAX programme, which has delivered 31 million vaccine doses to 54 countries. As such, it would be most welcome and indeed beneficial for the global community if the EU’s allies joined in selfless action and reciprocity," the Prime Minister stressed.

"It is unwise to assume that once the West has been vaccinated, we will be safe from this pandemic. If the rest of the world does not receive the vaccine, the virus will mutate and reappear in the West. Until the entire world has been vaccinated, the humanity will not defeat the virus," Prime Minister Janez Janša pointed out. He reminded us that it took us almost 200 years to eradicate smallpox. "Yet, I am optimistic that this will not be the case with COVID-19. Within a year of the outbreak, scientists and pharmaceutical companies have produced vaccines that would normally take about a decade," the Prime Minister said and added that we have the knowledge and are building the capacities to fight the virus. "We are also gaining experience for the next possible epidemic. And we have learned that the more we stand in solidarity, the sooner we will ultimately defeat this disease," the Prime Minister said.

According to the Prime Minister, the effectiveness of our fight against the pandemic will therefore depend on political leadership, namely whether politicians recognise and solve the vaccine moral dilemma. "If they act selfishly, their respective states may benefit in the short run, but lose out on long term. But if we all show solidarity, this will bring long‑term benefits which will come at a short‑term cost. All politicians have a responsibility to their countries and the people who elected them," Prime Minister Janez Janša said. He added that there is no simple and straightforward answer to this puzzle or dilemma. "The current situation illustrates Max Weber's ethical dilemma of ethics of conviction vs. ethics of responsibility. According to Weber, political virtue resides in the wilful combination of both in a unified soul. Hence the most prudent way forward is that state leaders, practically speaking, strengthen their agreements within the COVAX programme, include the entire world in this distribution mechanism, extend its partnership to private entities and ensure some benefits for vaccine investors, producers and developers," the Prime Minister, said and added that there will be no progress without such an approach.

"As state politicians we do not run from our obligations and responsibilities, but the results of our actions will only be seen in the following months," Prime Minister Janez Janša said, adding that over the past year he has been in touch with numerous volunteers and non‑governmental organisations, so he knows they are contributing their share in the fight against the pandemic.

Lastly, the Slovenian Prime Minister said it was only a matter of time before we triumph over COVID‑19. "But a more important question on the horizon is, will we come out of the pandemic better or worse people and societies. The answer to this question is being shaped as I speak, and will be clear in the near future. When it comes to human solidarity and global governance, every day of the pandemic counts. World leaders are the ones who need to display a moral compass. Maybe now more than ever, as this is the only way to lead states and societies to a better and more prosperous future," Prime Minister Janez Janša concluded.

According to the organiser, over 2 million people from 100 countries watched the virtual conference.