Half a million face masks delivered to civil defence today
Ljubljana, 19 March - Around half a million face masks were delivered to the civil defence warehouse on Thursday morning, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said, adding that the most urgent needs for the protective equipment to contain the coronavirus outbreak were now covered.
A total of 400,000 disposable three-layer masks have been delivered by the medical equipment supplier Sanolabor, and the railway operator Slovenske Železnice delivered an additional 100,000 masks.
Speaking to the press at the civil defence warehouse in Roje on the outskirts of Ljubljana, Počivalšek said that the government would try to pull off the planned supply of 1.5 million type FFB2 masks by the end of the week.
The same quantity of the more effective type FFP3 masks is expected to be delivered at the beginning of next week, he added.
The minister said that the government was checking what had happened with a shipment of 1.5 million masks which had been expected to arrive at an airport in Germany's Hamburg on Wednesday.
Slovenia's diplomatic service in Berlin has been involved in the inquiry, Počivalšek said, adding that the efforts included Slovenian Ambassador Franc But.
Počivalšek expects that, despite some logistics problems, protective equipment will be provided to all healthcare workers and later to other public services whose employees are in contact with infected persons, and to companies.
The minister noted that the market was flooded with suppliers and that talks were under way to supply around 11 million three-layer masks. "I want ... everybody to get access to all the protective gear as they need."
Defence Minister Matej Tonin, whose ministry is in charge of distribution, said on Wednesday that the equipment would be distributed first to the healthcare sector and social institutions, and then to critical infrastructure and companies.
Slovenia is also awaiting another 300,000 face masks secured by the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba via personal connections between Slovenian lawyer Aleksander Čeferin, the president of UEFA, and Alibaba owner Jack Ma.
The shipment arrived on Wednesday at the Liege airport in Belgium, and is expected to be in Slovenia this evening or on Friday morning.
Tonin also said late on Wednesday that a shipment of three million masks had been expected via Italy, but that the government had lost contact with the driver, whose whereabouts were unclear. The whole story turned out to have been a fraud.
"We were promised to be delivered masks...the driver contacted us last time at 6pm, saying that he would refuel in Postojna and that the masks would be in Ljubljana soon. We lost contact after that," the minister told the press today.
He said that he had immediately called acting Police Commissioner Anton Travner, who reported back saying that the police had found out that it was pure fraud.
The masks were ordered from the company Global Promet, whose director is Bosnian citizen Emir Begović. "This shipment and these masks never existed," said Tonin.
He added that the police would treat and prosecute such fraud, abuse and "war profiteering" as a matter of priority, and that the only good side was that the state had not paid for the non-existent shipment in advance.
Tonin said yesterday that, according to the information he possessed, Slovenia had already paid for 10 million masks, but Počivalšek said today that the Commodity Reserves Agency had paid nothing in advance.