Slovenia’s chief epidemiologist quits Covid-19 advisory team

Ljubljana – Mario Fafangel, Slovenia’s chief epidemiologist, has quit the Health Ministry task force advising the government on measures to fight Covid-19, the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) said on Monday.

The head of the NIJZ’s Centre for Communicable Diseases, Fafangel has informed Health Minister Tomaž Gantar of his decision and explained his reasons, but he does not intend to provide a public explanation.

Fafagel has recently told the political weekly Mladina that he disagreed with some of the restrictions the government has imposed, but he stressed that overall, tough restrictions were needed to contain the epidemic.

At the morning coronavirus briefing, Jelko Kacin, the government Covid-19 spokesman, would not comment on the reasons for Fafangel’s resignation, or reports that other members of the advisory group were unhappy about measures that had not proved effective in other countries.

“I cannot talk about potential frustrations of other members about measures not being effective,” said Kacin, noting this was a matter of the advisory group’s head and members.

The group includes four members of the NIJZ. It is not clear yet who will substitute for Fafangel.

The group’s head Bojana Beović told the STA that Fafangel would have probably wanted his proposals to be taken into account exactly. She said the group never tried to limit anyone.

She does not think much will change with Fafangel’s departure – the situation regarding the epidemic is changing slowly and a consensus with the government and society needs to be found, while people’s feelings differ, she said.

Health Minister Tomaž Gantar meanwhile announced the possibility of the Covid-19 task force being restructured and the number of its members reduced, noting that they frequently exchanged very differed opinions. “It is hard to be operational this way.”

Commenting on Fafangel’s resignation in a press statement, Gantar said that he would invite him to join this reformed task force as he appreciated his work. “I understand his ill will and I have to say that I shared it with him many times.”

The minister would not discuss possible reasons for the resignation. “The fact is that he probably many times did not agree with the methods and ideas of some individuals in the group. If you cannot take a step further, you probably take a different decision.”