Janša promises maximum efforts to fight coronavirus epidemic
Ljubljana, 13 March - Prime Minister Janez Janša promised concerted and far-reaching measures to fight the coronavirus epidemic, telling the National Assembly that the new government was taking over at a critical time after the outgoing government botched its response to the outbreak of the virus.
The virus can no longer be stopped, but its spreading must be slowed. "This is a battle with time, a battle that has to be won inasmuch as this is possible," he said at a session that was brought forward and procedurally shortened so the new government could take office as soon as possible.
Janša spoke about little else except the epidemic, which is not surprising given that the new government will take over a day after Slovenia officially declared a coronavirus epidemic due to a surging number of new cases.
He said the outgoing government had "flunked the test in recent days", likening the response of the authorities to the reaction to the migration crisis in 2015, when "what was coming was underestimated and reactions were chaotic".
The old government has been saying it had a plan for an epidemic that only needed to be activated, but that plan dates back to 2017 and was designed for an influenza epidemic. The plan and the measures are being amended now, but doing both things at the same time is "never ideal," he said.
Looking ahead, Janša said the entire society will now have to focus on changing social habits, which is crucial to slow down the epidemic and prevent the health system from being stretched to breaking point.
It is necessary to beef up monitoring capacity to test, detect and locate coronavirus hotspots, and to provide care for the most acute coronavirus cases, he said, calling on Slovenian businessmen abroad and the Slovenian diaspora to help provide much needed equipment, in particular ventilators.
The government will hold its first session an hour after the parliamentary vote and is expected to immediately take additional measures to contain the epidemic. Janša said an emergency session of parliament would probably be held next week to adopt measures that have been drawn up by the outgoing government and additional measures as needed.