PM warns 70% vaccination rate needed to avoid new lockdown

Ljubljana – Prime Minister Janez Janša has called for joint efforts to convince people to get vaccinated against coronavirus as he warned that a vaccination rate of 70% would have to be achieved until the end of the summer if Slovenia is to avoid new lockdowns.

“If we do not achieve a vaccination rate of 70% by the end of the summer, everything will be closed in autumn,” he told the National Assembly at the outset of the plenary session on Monday.

“This is the only way to prevent having to pass legislation making vaccination mandatory for certain categories,” he said.

Slovenia initially set the target of 60% vaccination rate by the beginning of summer, but as of Monday 39% have received one shot and 33% have been fully vaccinated.

Janša warned that the delta variant of the novel coronavirus, first detected in India, was 60% more transmissible than the alpha variant, which was first identified in the UK, and even some countries close to Slovenia had forecast that there would be a new wave as early as the end of July.

He said that vaccines were “to a large extent the appropriate answer”, noting that despite sufficient vaccine supplies, Slovenia and certain other EU countries were “victims of a certain conviction … that others will get vaccinated and I will be among the 30% who do not have to be”.

He said certain EU member states were already mulling mandatory vaccination of adults, while certain others were considering mandatory jabs for groups such as health workers, employees at nursing homes, teachers, and staff working in critical infrastructure.

The majority of countries are also discontinuing free testing. “Why should those who have been vaccinated pay for you to get a free test because you refuse to get vaccinated?” he wondered.

Janša also argued the media could do much more to counter anti-vaccination prejudice. “At this point the most that can be done is for media to organise debates and answer people’s dilemmas and fears.”

As for criticism that the government has failed in how it has handled the pandemic, Janša said the opposition had tried very hard to make the battle against the pandemic as difficult as possible and to unseat the government.