Business sector worried about consequences of lockdown

Ljubljana – As Slovenia is bracing for the start of a week-long lockdown in the wake of coronavirus surge, business associations warn that the country cannot afford a shutdown the likes of that in spring.

Talking to the press on Friday, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said “Slovenia is returning to the spring period”, as he talked about the restrictions which are to take effect on Saturday.

The government decided yesterday that all non-essential services be suspended for a week, with the exception of grocery stores, agriculture stores, pharmacies, markets, stores selling pet food, florists and plant nurseries, petrol stations, car and bike repair shops, construction stores, banks, insurance companies, post offices, delivery services and news stands.

Bars and restaurants remain closed but to-go and delivery services are allowed between 6am and 9pm. Other essential health and security services are also allowed, as well as remote shopping.

While accommodation services will shut down tomorrow, there will be exceptions for the accommodation of business travellers, both Slovenian and foreign, members of diplomatic missions and of state delegations.

People staying in hotels for prescribed health treatment, such as physical therapy, which is often provided by hotels in thermal spas, are also among the exceptions, and so are top-level athletes travelling for training or competition.

Hotels may also be used for quarantine purposed and Počivalšek said that the government was in talks with several operators making their facilities available for treatment of Covid-19 patients. He said several hundred additional beds could become available this way.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) urged the government on Friday that restrictions should indeed be abolished in a week, saying that the “vital part of the economy must remain active”.

A shutdown in the extent of that in the spring is not something Slovenia can afford, the GZS said, adding that 11,000 jobs were lost during that time.

Without workers there are no companies, therefore it is worth investing every possible effort into saving jobs, said the GZS, also calling on all companies and employees to observe safety recommendations.

In the spring, companies managed to prevent the spread of coronavirus in work environments, the GZS said. Although the virus has penetrated many a company, these outbreaks had been brought under control and this will continue in the future, as companies are now better prepared.

Alongside ending the lockdown in a week, the GZS also wants the government to make damage assessments for any new restriction it may adopt in the future. “This is the best way to avoid that this health crisis turns into a deep economic and social crisis.”

Meanwhile, the Chamber of Crafts and Small Business (OZS) wants that more businesses be allowed to remain open, proposing that the government include among the exceptions hair and beauty salons, textile businesses, photographers, cleaners and car wash services.

The OZS also wants that the state reimburse those forced to shut down their businesses for all fixed costs, the entire sum of compensation for salaries of furloughed workers and freeze their liabilities towards banks and leasing companies.