By: Sara Rančigaj
“Announcing a vote of no confidence is, in a way, a disruption during the epidemic, and it takes the attention away from the key problems we are facing,” the Prime Minister Janez Janša said on the show Odmevi, regarding the current events. Janša also spoke about a very important topic – vaccination. He says Europe is not yet considering buying other vaccines, which have not been approved. According to current forecasts, a very high vaccination rate could be achieved in late spring, given the quantities provided to Slovenia. But the fact remains true that until then, all citizens will have to continue following the measures, even though we cannot stand them. “In short, to be very concrete, we will have to continue living with these measures, some a bit milder, but some also a bit stricter, I am afraid, at least until spring,” the Prime Minister Janša explained.
Journalist and host of the show Odmevi (echoes), Tanja Starič, talked to the Prime Minister Janez Janša about the epidemic. The Prime Minister pointed out that the main wave of the vaccination of the population against COVID-19 will take place in March and April, which is later than initially expected. Meanwhile, Pfizer’s announcement was a very pleasant surprise, as vaccines began to be delivered during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays already.
“It turned out that these predictions, which claimed that the second wave, the second cold wave, will be more difficult in Europe, were actually true, and the second wave really is more difficult, for a number of reasons,” he explained why the measures still apply, despite the first doses of the vaccine. He added that the people have also been warned that this would happen before the holidays, but they said that they are being intimidated. “The fact is that until a certain percentage of the population is vaccinated, we will have to combine the measures we hate and which we have been following for too long now, with the hope that the vaccination will work. This will definitely be how it is until spring, at least, given the pace of the vaccine production, which is fine.” According to the experts, at least 70 percent of the population should be vaccinated so that life could return to normal.
Janša further pointed out that the European Commission treated all countries equally in the joint procurement of the vaccines. In doing so, it made sure all countries received similar quantities at roughly the same delivery time. Compared to other countries, we have a higher vaccination rate, as we received the same number of vaccine doses on the first delivery as, for example, Germany. “Slovenia has decided to participate in these joint procurements, like all other countries,” he said, explaining that, on the other hand, some countries had also talked about cheaper vaccines from Russia or China, but so far, no other vaccines have been ordered.
According to the Prime Minister, they are very careful when it comes to potentially ordering vaccines that have not been approved by the European Medicines Agency, as they do not trust the non-approved vaccines. “This is also a question of who to trust, and from this point of view, many people have decided that it is better to wait another week or two, in order to get a vaccine that we can really trust, and then we will actually be able to stop the epidemic with a 70% vaccination rate throughout Europe,” he explained, adding that certain EU Member States are not happy with the EU’s approach to the vaccine supply plan.
A complete lockdown could drastically reduce the number of infections; however, the price for that would be huge
Even though our lives were more or less normal during the summer, as much as that was even possible with the fear of the second wave, we are now in the middle of the cold wave. The problem in Slovenia is that at the beginning of the second wave, the spread of infections was not taken seriously enough, and so the virus spread to such an extent that it could no longer be stopped. According to the Prime Minister, we could only succeed in stopping the virus if we carried out a complete lockdown. “If we were to do that, our numbers could probably be in the green in about three weeks, but the question is, what would the total cost of all this be, because there are also side effects to such decisions, and people are also dying of these side effects. In short, to be very concrete, we will have to continue living with these measures, some a bit milder, but some also a bit stricter, I am afraid, at least until spring,” he explained.
When criticised about the rapid changing of the measures, he responded by saying that, following the model of some other European countries, some of the measures were lifted during the holidays, so that people could visit their relatives and the ladies were able to go to the hairdressers. They were aware that we would have to pay the price for the lifting of the measures, but it turned out that we have largely curbed this wave, also with the help of rapid testing, which allowed people to be aware of the infection, so that they did not spread the virus any further.
If we manage to limit the number of infections in the coming days and weeks, the government will resort to a new strategy, which works on a regional basis. “Last week, it seemed as if it would be possible to begin implementing the new strategy, at least in some regions. The government has a session tomorrow to assess the situation. At the moment, it is difficult to say whether any of the regions will be able to reopen, as we are now seeing the trend of the situation levelling off a bit, there are no more extremely good or extremely bad region,” he explained the plan to lift the measures. According to the new plan, the schools would reopen in individual regions, initially in those with a better epidemiological picture.
The Prime Minister believes that the opposition should draw up a programme, which it could present after the end of the epidemic
To the journalist’s claim that the current coalition is now a minority government, the Prime Minister responded that such a government would not be able to last a single day. He also believes that if there was a majority on the opposition’s side, they would not have been postponing the vote of no confidence time and time again, ever since its announcement in April. “In a way, it’s a disruption at the time of the epidemic, and it takes the attention away from the key problems we are facing,” he added. In his personal opinion, it would be more appropriate for the opposition to calmly prepare a programme during this time, which it could then present after the end of the epidemic, or during the next elections, when the situation would have calmed down a bit. He emphasised that the opposition prefers to focus only on the negative, on the demolition and harassment, at a time when the whole country is under threat, and they are, in fact, trying to start a process, which is tragicomic.
“If you have enough votes to form a new government, meaning, you have at last 46, you file the vote of no confidence, the government continues its work for a month, and then a new government comes, and there is no time in between that is unproductive. In this case, however, even though we have been facing the epidemic or the threat of the epidemic for the last ten months, since April, so from the first month of the current government, the only thing the opposition has been doing is announcing the filing of a constructive vote of no confidence. We are something special in Europe, in that sense,” he added. However, he does believe that the procedure is completely legitimate, although no procedure has actually started yet, despite it being announced every few weeks since April.
The operative part of the Police will be excluded from the public sector pay system
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Janša also touched on the issue of salaries in the Police via Twitter. “The problem of salaries in the Police is not their being public or not being public, the problem is the ratio between many (not all) who are sheltered in (overcrowded) offices with all sorts of allowances, and the criminal investigators who work in difficult conditions and risk their own health for everyone’s safety,” he pointed out, adding that because of that, the salary system for the operative part of the Police will be exempt from the public sector pay system, which will enable a more fair regulation of these relations.