The Slovenia Times

Experts call on politicians to act in concert Covid-wise

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Brdo pri Kranju - Health experts urged politicians on Wednesday to tackle the Covid-19 epidemic as a united front, Health Minister Janez Poklukar said after a meeting at Brdo pri Kranju hosted by President Borut Pahor. Pahor and Prime Minister Janez Janša assessed the meeting, the kind of which are to be held once a month, as useful.

The meeting was attended by Poklukar, the government Covid-19 task force, leaders of parliamentary parties and of deputy groups, with the exception of the opposition Marjan Šarec Party (LMŠ) and the Left.

Pahor said that despite differences or in fact because of them, all participants should strive to come up with best solutions for the Covid crisis.

"Hence we decided to continue with this task together and if not earlier we'll meet again in a month," he said, adding that the fight against Covid-19 was an ongoing learning experience.

He noted that Slovenian politics could be graded in these circumstances by the level of focus devoted to the most important current issues - the fight against the crisis and recovery afterwards.

Janša too called the meeting useful, regretting the absence of the LMŠ and the Left. "Had they come and heard the information, they would talk less nonsense," he said.

The kind of presentations, discussions and dilemmas heard today are usually discussed only by those who debate the coronavirus situation each Wednesday, he said referring to the re-examination of coronavirus measures by the government and the Covid-19 advisory group every week.

Given the increase in coronavirus transmissions in recent days, they agreed to hold a similar meeting before a potential new tightening of coronavirus measures, and to meet on a monthly basis for an exchange of information at least for the duration of the epidemic.

According to Poklukar, experts also urged politicians to perhaps make a stand together if the epidemiological situation got worse. The minister welcomed the decision to meet every month or even more frequently in the event of adverse developments.

They discussed mainly a potential third wave of the epidemic with Poklukar saying measures would be based mainly on hospital occupancy rates where the starting point in a potential third wave would be 450 Covid patients in hospitals.

Mateja Logar, the head of the Covid-19 advisory group, noted the problematic coronavirus situation in Slovenia's neighbourhood. "Cooperation between science and politics is the more important at the moment," she said.

Considering the group comprises mainly health experts, Logar said they also needed questions and initiatives from other vital sectors in order to strike the right balance to ensure sustainability of the health system and the functioning of other sectors.

The advisory group will not propose any specific measures to the government at the meeting scheduled for later today except for potential regional easing, depending on the situation in each of them.

The party officials present welcomed the plan to meet regularly with several of them, in particular leaders of coalition parties, calling for efforts to be made to find a way to cooperate despite differences.

Even Tanja Fajon, the leader of the opposition Social Democrats (SD), agreed a joint effort should be made to find solutions, including over the vaccination strategy.

Jernej Pavlič from the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) said they had still not received answers to questions about the high Covid-19 death toll, in particular among the elderly in care homes, and long school closures. For a potential third wave they would want to see measures that produced results.

Referring to the absence of the Left and LMŠ, the leader of the coalition New Slovenia (NSi) Matej Tonin said the meeting was attended by constructive part of the coalition. "A clear division has emerged between who thinks well, who wants to contribute expertise and energy to defeat the crisis, and who wants to keep politicising, throwing spikes in the wheelworks," said Tonin.

Having declined the invitation to the meeting, LMŠ leader Marjan Šarec noted that the party had also rejected an invitation to a meeting of parliamentary party leaders hosted by Pahor in February since, he said, both had been held behind closed doors and served no other purpose than to rehabilitate Prime Minister Janša in the wake of all his actions.

Instead of attending today's meeting, the party requested a session of the parliamentary Health Committee or what it sees as an appropriate forum to discuss Covid-related issues.

"Under normal circumstances we would perhaps attend such a meeting, however these circumstances are not normal as experts and politicians have found themselves in significant disharmony, so it is necessary that experts speak out in parliament," Šarec said.

The Left said before the meeting that it had declined the invitation because the occasion would merely legitimise the government's undermining of democratic institutions.


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