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Border checks on entry points with Italy as of today

Ljubljana, 11 March - Slovenia is introducing health checks along its border with Italy today to prevent transmission of coronavirus across the border, under a decision taken by the government late last night.

Nova Gorica
Slovenia-Italy border crossing.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

The checks will be conducted on persons who are not Slovenian citizens or are not registered as permanent or temporary residents in Slovenia, the Government Communication Office announced.

The government imposed the measure to prevent the risk of spread of COVID-19 in Slovenia.

The number of infections in the country has risen to 57, with most of the cases linked to Italy, the European country worst hit by coronavirus.

"On or in the vicinity of the borderline" between Slovenia and Italy passengers arriving from the neighbouring country will be checked whether they have a certificate proving they tested negative for the novel SARS-COV-2 virus, issued by the relevant authority.

The certificate will need to be in Slovenian, Italian or English and not older than three days.

Persons without such a certificate may be barred from entering Slovenia.

The Interior Ministry explained that the measure was not based on the Schengen Borders Code, adding that notification as envisaged in the code was not necessary.

The ministry added that the measure was being introduced on the basis of the relevant national legislation - the contagious diseases act.

An unofficial source from Brussels confirmed that in Slovenia's case, measures were not being taken on the basis of the Schengen Borders Code, so the European Commission need not be informed.

The exact time when the new checks will come into force will be determined in a decree to be issued by the health minister which is being worked on.

Speaking to reporters Minister Aleš Šabeder said that the border was not being closed for the time being, but that measures were being taken to check passengers' state of health.

He said that six check points would be erected at border crossings Rateče, Robič, Škofije, Vrtojba, Fernetiči and Krvavi Potok, while all other crossings would be closed.

The closures need to be enforced by local authorities, while road managers have the duty to put in place suitable signs and signalling.

Entry checks will not apply to cargo traffic. "We cannot stop transit because these are key supply and logistic routes and the measure could cripple the country," said Šabeder.

Transit passengers not stopping in Slovenia may face movement restriction but the details are still being worked out as to how conducts inland checks.

Meanwhile, congestions are reported on the border with Croatia because the country is denying entry to all vehicles arriving from Italy.

Šabeder is currently in a meeting with everyone involved to determine how exactly to implement the checks, which he said was a major logistic operation as there is no current suitable infrastructure on the border with Italy.

Slovenia is imposing the new measure after the whole of Italy was placed under a lockdown on Tuesday.

However, Slovenian media have reported that traffic across the border with Italy continued as normal yesterday with many Italians arriving in Slovenia, including to fill up with cheaper fuel.

Meanwhile, a ban has been in force at Ljubljana airport on arrivals of planes from coronavirus-hit areas. Temperature screening of passengers at the airport is to be introduced in the coming days, according to Šabeder.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, afternoon flights to Belgrade, morning flights to and from Frankfurt as well as afternoon flights to and from Brussels and Podgorica have been cancelled.

Bus transport between Italy and Slovenia has also been suspended until further notice, the operators Arriva and Nomago said.

The international train connecting Ljubljana and Italy's Trieste twice a day, operated by Trenitalia, meanwhile still operates on schedule.

Commenting on the measures to contain the novel virus for TV Slovenija last night, Slovenia's PM-elect Janez Janša said that Slovenia had the capacities to produce personal protective equipment and should get organised to manufacture it for its own needs.

Janša would regulate the prices of such equipment to prevent profiteering.

He is planning to set up a crisis headquarters if the coronavirus spread entered a second phase. The headquarters would comprise most of government ministers as well as other relevant officials such as the civil protection chief and experts.

He said the foreign minister would have a briefing every day on measures taken by other countries, in particular in the neighbourhood, over the past 24 hours.

Janša supported the outgoing government's measure to close the border with Italy, adding: "we will be keeping our fingers crossed over the next few days that the police and the Health Ministry are capable of putting it into practice".

Janša said that cooperation between the outgoing and incoming cabinets was running well, adding that the virus "is not choosing left or right" but "it's an external enemy that we need to fight together".

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© STA, 2020