April 29, 2020 / 7:54 PM / a month ago

Slovenia eases restrictions as coronavirus curbed

LJUBLJANA, April 29 (Reuters) - Slovenia will from Thursday lift a restriction imposed at the end of March that prohibited citizens to travel outside their local community, Prime Minister Janez Jansa said late on Wednesday.

Slovenia, which has 2 million citizens and borders Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, has so far confirmed 1418 coronavirus cases and 89 deaths.

Jansa thanked citizens for following restrictions that have been imposed from the middle of March to curb the epidemic and told them in a speech sent to the media: “Thanks to you Slovenia is the most successful (in curbing the virus) among all neighbours of the focal country Italy.”

He added that Slovenia is also among countries that have suffered less economic and social damage than most due to the government’s quick response which included financial help of about 3 billion euros or some 6% of GDP to companies and citizens hurt by the epidemics.

Jansa said more restrictions will be lifted on Monday but gave no details. The government said earlier hairdressers and beauty parlours, as well as outdoor bars and restaurants and a number of shops, will be able to open from Monday. Libraries and museums are also expected to open on Monday.

He said, however, that large public events, including large sports gatherings, in Slovenia and the rest of Europe will “most probably” only be possible after a vaccination or medication against coronavirus is discovered and widely used. He also called upon citizens to remain disciplined in the coming weeks to prevent the spread of the virus.

On Monday several hundred people protested in the streets of various Slovenian cities against Jansa’s centre-right government and its coronavirus restrictions.

Slovenia closed all schools, bars, restaurants, hotels, cultural and sports centres, shops, apart from food and drug stores, and suspended public transport in the middle of March. It has prohibited any socialising in public spaces and introduced obligatory quarantine for most people entering the country.

First restrictions were lifted last week when car service centres and shops that sell cars, bicycles, furniture and constructions material were allowed to open. However, citizens are obliged to wear face masks in all indoor public spaces.

The Bank of Slovenia said last month the country’s GDP could fall by 6% to 16% this year due to the epidemic while the government expects budget deficit of 8.1% of GDP this year after a surplus of 0.5% in 2019. Slovenia’s export-oriented economy expanded by 2.4% last year. (Reporting by Marja Novak; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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