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Govt will step up measures to contain coronavirus, PM says

Ljubljana, 17 March - Prime Minister Janez Janša said after Tuesday's session of the National Security Council that the government would step up measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. The first step will be the most urgent legislative measures, expected to be adopted on Thursday, and the second will be a crisis package.

Ljubljana
Session of National Security Council amid coronavirus crisis.
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Ljubljana
Prime Minister Janez Janša at session of National Security Council amid coronavirus crisis.
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Ljubljana
Session of National Security Council amid coronavirus crisis.
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

The first legislative measures will be discussed by the National Assembly at Thursday's emergency session.

These include an emergency bill on pay compensation for temporary lay-offs, and a bill on emergency measures for agriculture and food products, meat and wood products, aimed at offsetting the problems caused by the epidemic.

The National Assembly will also decide on a bill introducing temporary measures concerning judicial, administrative or other public affairs. One of the measures is suspension of a prison sentence if there are no safety reservations.

Janša said that an umbrella crisis law would be subsequently adopted, adding that it would feature a lot of measures, which he could not announce just yet. They will depend on what will be agreed at the EU level later today and in the coming days.

The law is expected to be ready by the end of next week, as the government is preparing new measures to address the situation that has changed significantly since it took over on Friday.

"These will be measures you have never seen before, because the situation is strategically different," Janša said.

The government is also dealing with how to secure enough protective gear to the most exposed and vulnerable institutions - community health centres and nursing homes.

Statements from other participants of the council meeting in the broadest ever format suggest that politicians are united in the belief that measures needed to be stepped up.

Defence Minister Matej Tonin said that the most critical nursing homes and community health centres would be equipped with protective masks today, and that millions of masks would be supplied on Wednesday.

Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, who himself wore a face mask while speaking to the press, added that a sufficient quantity of protective gear would be soon secured not only for the healthcare system, but also for key companies.

In the coming two to three days, more than three million surgical masks will be supplied. "The supply will make it possible for key institutions as well as key industrial and production facilities to continue to operate," said Počivalšek.

Once the protective equipment is supplied, some of the existing measures could be toned down, and perhaps some planned measures not adopted, added Janša.

Počivalšek said that measures aimed at alleviating the crisis for companies and entrepreneurs were being expanded with measures for self-employed persons. The relevant bill is expected to be passed this week, he added.

"These are efforts to secure liquidity, with which we will try to service sole proprietors, SMEs and large companies through SID Banka and the Slovenian Enterprise Fund."

At the same time, the ministry is in talks with the Finance Ministry, commercial banks and the central bank on the possibility to defer all obligations of companies, and perhaps even individuals, for a longer period of time, he added. The Finance Ministry said earlier it was drawing up such measures.

As for commodity reserves, the minister said that there was enough food, and that managers of shopping centres had assured him that the had enough stocks.

President Borut Pahor pointed to the seriousness of the epidemic, saying that while the medical issue would be solved, its consequences could be a problem.

"This crisis is unprecedented. For now, all of us are equal, no one is privileged," Pahor said, stressing that everybody should be taken care of to the same extent, so that there was no feeling of inequality as the crisis was being fought.

The president also said that countries needed to act in unison, otherwise there was a risk of increased inequality, which could seriously affect the sentiment for solidarity after the health crisis ends.

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© STA, 2020