Slovenian health experts were ignored in pandemic

Epidemiologist Ivan Eržen – who briefly served as director of the National Institute for Public Health (NIJZ) in spring 2020 before he was replaced after criticising the government’s actions – told MPs that some restrictions imposed by the government were inappropriate. [Shuttestock/Soru Epotok]

Several prominent Slovenian public health experts have told parliament the government ignored their views during the pandemic as part of an inquiry investigating the government’s much-criticised handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

Epidemiologist Ivan Eržen – who briefly served as director of the National Institute for Public Health (NIJZ) in spring 2020 before he was replaced after criticising the government’s actions – told MPs that some restrictions imposed by the government were inappropriate.

People were reluctant to accept measures like the ban on movement between municipalities, the night curfew and wearing face masks outdoors, the epidemiologist said, adding that this made people ignore many other measures.

Eržen also criticised the appointment of a special advisory group for coronavirus measures that mostly featured doctors who were not epidemiologists. The group has performed tasks that should have been entrusted to the NIJZ, Eržen said, adding that the “public lost trust in decisions and misinformation was spread.”

Mario Fafangel, the acting head of the NIJZ communicable disease centre, said he had decided to resign from the advisory group twice because his role had been marginalised, and his proposals had not been sufficiently considered.

“We were able to express our expert position freely, but we were not sufficiently heard,” said Fafangel.

(Sebastijan R. Maček | STA)

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