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Prime Minister Janez Janša: Science and solidarity are the keywords of the COVID-19 crisis

In a video address, Prime Minister Janez Janša addressed participants at the 71st session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, taking place virtually from 13 to 15 September , as one of the keynote speakers. The main topic of the session, which will be attended by the representatives of the 53 member states of WHO's European region, is tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and setting the course for further action.

In his speech, the Prime Minister emphasised the role Slovenia plays in global health and presented the vaccine donations under the COVAX initiative (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt and Cape Verde). Slovenia will continue making such donations in the future. He also stressed the importance of preparedness and an effective response to future health crises. Healthcare is also one of the priorities of Slovenia's central foreign policy priority, the Western Balkans. The Prime Minister also highlighted that Slovenia is closely monitoring the health situation in the region and that it supports the WHO Regional Committee for Europe's Roadmap for Health in the Western Balkans 2021–2025. He also voiced his support for the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development led by Mario Monti.

Mr Janša concluded by emphasising the importance of science and solidarity in the fight against COVID-19. Healthcare systems, which have had to overcome many issues and obstacles due to the pandemic, are in need of robust and resilient investments and innovations.

 

The Prime Minister's full address reads as follows:

Your Royal Highness, The Crown Princess,

Director-General Mr Tedros,

Regional Director for Europe Mr Kluge,

Chair of the Regional Forum Ms Ogerta Manastirliu,

Esteemed Ministers and Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It has been a year and a half since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic. The fight against the pandemic remains one of the key priorities around the globe, therefore health is one of the key points on out political, security and economic agendas. This health crisis has revealed that we still have a lot to learn to overcome similar challenges in the future.

To determine the origin of the virus, a comprehensive and transparent investigation has to be undertaken in Wuhan. This will help us obtain the information needed to identify and prevent future pandemics.

On the brink of the fourth wave of the pandemic, we are faced not only with inequitable access to vaccines but also disinformation and a lack of trust in vaccination, which has lead to insufficient vaccination rates and is preventing a return to normal life.

With a €500,000 COVAX donation, Slovenia has helped ensure global access to vaccines. It was particularly effective in terms of vaccine distribution per capita, as it donated nearly 450,000 doses to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt and Cape Verde, and will continue its efforts as long as necessary.

The Western Balkans being of the foreign policy priorities of the Slovenian Presidency, we are devoting particular attention to this part of Europe in all areas and greatly welcome the Roadmap for Health in the Western Balkans 2021–2025, an initiative spearheaded by the WHO Regional Office for Europe. Strategic investment in health will certainly contribute to the successful implementation of plans for other investments in the region.

We are living in unprecedented times. Many unknowns remain as to the consequences of the pandemic and future challenges in the health sector. COVID-19 still poses a great threat, endangering people’s lives and well-being, particularly that of vulnerable groups.

However, we must never lose faith in humanity. Science and solidarity are the keywords of the COVID-19 crisis. By bringing together our scientific and technological capabilities, we have managed to respond very quickly, but securing a victory in this fight in the long run now requires solidarity on a global scale. Health systems that have been under tremendous pressure now require significant investments and innovation to become more robust and resilient. For that to happen, us – the prime ministers and the ministers of finance – must place healthcare even higher on the agenda. I highly approve of the WHO Regional Office for Europe’s initiative to establish a special Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development. It is important that the Commission’s report presented last week be considered also at the G20 Summit and other global-level forums discussing financing priorities.  Now is the time to spend, so we can save in the future.