Govt sets up coronavirus crisis unit, measures yet to follow

Ljubljana, 14 March - Meeting for its maiden session right after being sworn in late last night, the Janez Janša government set up a coronavirus crisis unit and adopted several emergency measures to curb the spread of the novel pathogen, however details are yet to be revealed.

Group photo of the Janez Janša government at the start of the term.
Photo: Anže Malovrh/STA

To demonstrate the seriousness of the situation, the government posted a photo on its Twitter account soon after the start of the session of the prime minister and his cabinet wearing surgical face masks.

"This is to send out a message that we must all take care of each other and do everything to stop the virus's spread," Defence Minister Matej Tonin said after the session in the wee hours this morning, adding that they were not wearing the masks throughout the four-hour-plus session.

The meeting focused on measures to fight the coronavirus contagion. "The ministers will be announcing over the next few days what those measures are," said Tonin. The stringency of the measures would "depend on how much people follow the measures already taken".

The government adopted today several decrees pertaining to agriculture and commodity reserves, with other potential measures to affect traffic, public transportation, shopping centre hours, but Tonin would not disclose any details.

"My job is to ensure undisrupted functioning of civil protection and new capacities for potential patients," Tonin said.

The crisis unit is headed by PM Janša with Andrej Rupnik, the former director of the SOVA intelligence and security agency, acting as its secretary. The unit comprises all the ministers in one format and also includes other senior expert staff in another.

The unit is supported by people managing the situation on the ground who can provide accurate and reliable information at every one time, Rupnik told reporters after the government session.

The crisis unit will be meeting later today, as soon as the new ministers have taken over from their predecessors. Rupnik has indicated stringent measures would be taken affecting all areas where people interact and could be stepped up depending on the situation.

"This is no rocket science, society will have to adapt. Everyone, not just Slovenia, the world will pay a substantial economic price too, but this is nothing compared to lives that can be saved," he said.

Until 2pm on Friday Slovenia had 141 confirmed coronavirus cases, but Rupnik said it was not clear how many people were already carrying the infection or were ill at the moment. "What we're looking at today is 14 days back. What we don't know today will have expanded in a week or two."

"The problem is that up to 80% of the population may fall ill and 3% may potentially die, while 17% may have harmful consequences," he said, pledging that the crisis unit would seek to "get risk factors under control".

© STA, 2020