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Prime Minister Janez Janša: Let us unite our efforts to increase vaccination coverage rates

  • Former Prime Minister Janez Janša (2020 - 2022)

At today's press conference in Ljubljana, Prime Minister Janez Janša and Deputy Prime Ministers Zdravko Počivalšek and Matej Tonin discussed the current epidemiological situation and other current topics.

In his introduction, the Prime Minister Janša said that every week and including today the Government considered the epidemiological situation in the country, the threats posed by new virus variants, and the situation regarding the vaccination coverage of the population. “In our view, now when we have sufficient vaccine supplies, when people can choose the vaccine they want, it is the responsibility of each individual to protect themselves and their loved ones and at the same time contribute to keeping public life open. We have enough instruments at our disposal to avoid the need to lock down public life, restrict movement and economic activities, especially services, so we need to join forces to achieve the highest possible vaccination coverage rate," said the Prime Minister, announcing amendments to the regulations to be proposed by the Ministry of Health in this respect.

"We welcome the statement of all deputy groups in the National Assembly that signed a statement representing every political group in the Slovenian Parliament, calling on everyone to get vaccinated, and to unite in pursuit of these efforts. I believe this was a hugely significant move, coming at just the right time," said the Prime Minister. He further added that in the light of this statement and successful efforts to achieve unity, the coalition had decided that amendments to the Communicable Diseases Act, which is in parliamentary procedure and waiting to be voted on, are probably not necessary at this stage. "That is why coalition deputies will vote against the filed amendment, and the Government will take the time to reconsider the comments made in the debate in the National Assembly and the National Council and propose a new amendment to the Communicable Diseases Act," said the Prime Minister, adding however that this would not comply with the Constitutional Court's deadline for amendment. "The Government hurried the amendment to the law forward precisely because of the deadline set by the Constitutional Court; this was not our choice, so the old Act is still applicable and in our opinion provides enough instruments to deal effectively with the epidemic at this stage, especially if this unified call of deputy groups for vaccination is taken into account," said the Prime Minister. He also pointed out that in this way, the coalition wishes to alleviate the burden in the coming weeks, which will be crucial to Slovenia achieving sufficient vaccination levels to contain the epidemic. "Discussions about the amendments to the Communicable Diseases Act, potentially collecting signatures for a referendum, a constitutional review – all announced by the opposition – would be seen as opposition to vaccination and would have a negative impact, which we do not want," he said, adding that the key priority for Slovenia at this moment was to achieve sufficient vaccination levels to keep schools and kindergartens open in autumn and avoid restrictions on public life as well as normal activities under the recovered-vaccinated-tested requirements.

"The coalition has also decided to propose that the vote on the National Demographic Fund Act, which is in the third reading, be postponed. We do not want this important decision to be made in such an overheated political climate: it is a strategic decision on how to secure stable pensions in the future and since the adoption of this law has been pending for over a decade, we believe that if this opportunity were wasted, there would not be a new one any time soon," the Prime Minister said and added that it would also mean that the management of state property remains fragmented and the funds to ensure the stability of the pension system and pensions would be smaller than they could have been, given Slovenia’s current options.

Prime Minister Janez Janša continued by mentioning tomorrow’s decision of the National Assembly on the proposed nomination of the Minister for Digital Transformation. "When I submitted the proposal to the National Assembly, there were some comments wondering would we might propose a new ministry in the last year of the mandate.  First, it is not a new ministry but a new post for the minister who will coordinate existing ministries. The reason for the nomination is the European Commission’s approval of Slovenia’s recovery plan, which provides for substantial funds allocated for the digital transformation of Slovenian economy, public administration, service activities and every field where digitisation enables faster procedures and shorter waiting times for people; those funds will start coming to Slovenia in the coming months. These are not funds for the next seven years, but funds that will already be made available this year and it is crucial that these investments in digital transformation be harmonised so that the line ministries do not make decisions regarding the same topic at different levels. This ministry is along the lines of what is being introduced in many other European countries undergoing digital transformation," said the Prime Minister. He also pointed out that the nominated candidate has proven himself at the helm of the Strategic Council for Digitalisation. "The council produced practical proposals for amendments, which have been approved by the Government, in record time, but we need a coordinated approach to start their implementation as soon as possible. This is not about years and decades, but about the weeks and months ahead, and that is why we are confident that this proposal will receive support in the National Assembly tomorrow," the Prime Minister said.

In conclusion, the Prime Minister once again thanked the representatives of deputy groups that signed a joint statement to encourage the highest possible level of vaccination coverage. "This is a very important political step, which makes Slovenia one of the European countries that have managed to act collectively against the epidemic," concluded Prime Minister Janša.

Asked about rapid tests, the Prime Minister said that, since vaccination is provided for free, testing will not be free of charge from a certain date forward. "The Ministry of Health will propose a certain timeline, and while the decision has not been made yet, the testing will not be free of charge somewhere from mid-August onwards. All EU countries are transitioning to a similar system," the Prime Minister said. He added that an agreement had been reached and a regulation had been adopted in record time on a single European COVID certificate, which is also available in Slovenia and throughout Europe, and continued that it is a mandatory certificate used to cross internal borders. It is left to the nation states alone to implement this instrument according to national measures, but it is the recommendation of the European Commission that this instrument be applied as widely as possible, wherever there are certain restrictions. "Following today's discussion of the Government, we will follow this course, leaving as much as possible open and accessible, without unnecessary restrictions, but subject to the recovered-vaccinated-tested requirement, so that is the direction these measures will be going in. Therefore, vaccinated, tested or recovered persons should not face any obstacles in public life, using services and all those areas that had to be restricted," said the Prime Minister and added that, where possible, this requirement will also be enforced in education, "but that in that area age restrictions do exist".