Slovenia: Different views clash on lockdown measures

Slovenia: Different views clash on lockdown measures

With the epidemic curve failing to flatten for several weeks now and health staff reporting of being on the verge of exhaustion, Slovenian Health Minister Tomaž Gantar has proposed a temporary full lockdown of all non-essential activity in the country. Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, on the other hand, proposes a gradual reopening of businesses with stricter measures.

Gantar, whose call was backed by Bojana Beović, head of the government’s coronavirus task force, noted in a letter penned to the Economy Minister last night that the epidemiological situation in the country was not improving fast enough, despite the lockdown measures introduced so far.

The minister, therefore, sees no other option to contain the epidemic than to fully shut down all non-essential operations for two weeks. He called on Počivalšek to table a relevant measure to the government.

Infectious diseases specialist Beović agrees this would be a good way to significantly reduce contacts among the population in the coming days. The government task force has recently proposed to the cabinet that workers be given holiday days off in an effort to prevent the transmission of the disease at work.

Nonetheless, with the enterprise world voicing its concerns while struggling to survive in the aftermath of the existing lockdown measures, the Economy Minister said the government should change its strategy given that the restrictions introduced so far had brought little to no progress.

Today, he posted on Twitter that he would not back Gantar’s proposal but rather pitch a different strategy – reopening of branches of the economy albeit under stricter restrictions, which is essentially what business associations are calling for.

Eight of them, including the Slovenian Business Club, the Manager Association, the OZS and the GZS chambers, as well as the Slovenian-German and the British-Slovenian chambers, called in a joint letter today for the reopening of all shops and services such as hairdressers, physiotherapy and technical services.

They also urge that public transport resume operations at least partially, and that kindergartens reopen along with the first three grades of primary school.

“We are losing EUR 60 million in added value every week. If the measures were to be stepped up for 14 days, we would lose an additional up to EUR 700 million in added value,” they underline.

Počivalšek also warned that some activities currently banned were being conducted illegally, rendering it even more dangerous for the spread of the virus.

He proposed that medical experts set strict conditions for each activity that would reopen and that every available inspector be deployed to monitor their implementation.

Počivalšek also called for maximum use of rapid tests, alongside the swift issuing of quarantine orders and sick leave to isolate those infected.

Beović said that the criteria for easing any of the existing restrictions had been set and that the current epidemiological situation did not allow for any major changes.

However, the coronavirus advisory task force discussed last week the return of children with special needs to school, agreeing with the Constitutional Court that the number of children in this category is too small to significantly affect the efforts to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus and hinder the management of the epidemic.

However, the task force agreed that safety needs to be guaranteed nonetheless, especially because children with special needs are considered a risk group. In this context, the reopening of schools or institutes for those children needs to be carefully planned, Beović said. /ibna