The Slovenia Times

Ministers at odds about reopening of economy

EconomyHealth & MedicinePolitics

Ljubljana - With the epidemic plateauing forseveral weeks and health staff reporting being on the verge of exhaustion, 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 has been backed by Bojana Beović, the head of the government's coronavirus task force, said in a letter 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 but to fully close all non-essential activities for two weeks. He called on Počivalšek to propose such a measure to the government.

According to information obtained by the STA, Gantar has put his job on the line.

Infectious diseases specialist Beović agrees this would be a good way to significantly reduce contacts among people in the coming days. The government task force has recently proposed to the cabinet that workers should go on holiday for the period to prevent transmissions at work.

But with calls coming from businesses struggling because of 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.

He said on Twitter today he would not back Gantar's proposal but propose a different strategy - reopening of parts of the economy albeit under stricter restrictions, which is what business associations propose.

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

They also want the public transport to start operating again at least partially, and that kindergartens reopen along with first three grades of primary school.

"We are losing EUR 60 million in added value every week as it is. If the measures were stepped up in 14 days, we would additionally lose up to EUR 700 million in added value," they said.

Počivalšek also warned that some activities that are banned now were being conducted illegally, which was 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 all available inspectors be deployed to monitor their implementation.

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

Beovič 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 such children is too small for their return to significantly impact the efforts to stem the spread of the new coronavirus and manage the epidemic.

But the task force agreed that safety needs to be guaranteed nonetheless, especially because children with special needs are considered a risky group. This is why reopening of schools or institutes for those children need to be carefully planned, Beović said.


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