One of the things this government made a complete and utter fuckery of in managing the Covid-19 fallout, apart from trying to call in the army, overpaying for medical equipment and gutting public oversight, was messaging.
From the beginning to the end, the honchos in power produced a steady stream of thinly veiled threats, contradictory information on personal and public hygiene measures and did many a walk-back. The one thing they don’t seem to be capable of doing, however, is staying the fuck on message.
Admittedly, those early days of the epidemic were a bit of a blur and the fog-of-war effect was very much real. But if anyone in the top echelons of power was thinking of calming the frayed nerves of the population back then, they sure hid it damn well.
The general unease was not helped one bit when Jelko Kacin, the official Covid-19 spokesperson floated the possibility of a complete lock-down and then ominously told everyone at a press conference to “enjoy while you still can”.
The same went for the ever-lingering aftertaste of dubious competence when ill-thought-out rules on shopping times were enacted. Aimed at separating the vulnerable senior citizens from the general population, they resulted in people of all generations queueing and mingling in front of the stores, often unable to observe social distancing.
Still, the above paled in comparison to Milan Krek, the new boss of the National Public Health Institute (NIJZ), the central agency coordinating the response to Covid-19 epidemic. Krek bent over backwards to land the job when the previous NIJZ boss and her temporary replacement were removed from their posts in quick succession. In doing so he made a few dubious media briefings, toeing the government alarmist line even before he was appointed.
But last week he really blew it out of the water, when he was unable to explain what exactly were the new post lock-down hygiene guidelines and which of those were mandatory and which merely recommended.
If your Slovenian is at least passable, this dumpster fire of a media briefing is a sight to behold. The fun starts at 48 minutes.
And yet somehow Krek is a perfect fit for this slow-moving car crash of a government that cannot even follow its own public health recommendations.
In mid-April, when the lock-down in Muddy Hollows was at its most stringent, masks were the order-du-jour and there was wall-to-wall coverage on on just how easy it was to catch the coronavirus and how this bastard supposedly lingers around for seventeen days (spoiler alert: it doesn’t).
Back then, the leadership was clamoring for military policing civilians and even president Pahor was on board. To that end, he, defense minister Matej Tonin and interior minister Aleš Hojs went on a sightseeing tour of the southern border where hordes of African and Asian migrants were supposedly waiting to take advantage of the situation and slip into Muddy Hollows (spoiler alert: they weren’t).
But shit hit the fan when pics of Pahor, Tonin and Hojs strolling in the woods were published.
At a time when people were told stay at home and away from one another, and when powers that be were freaking out over PPE procurement, the very top of the leadership pyramid went about literally rubbing shoulders in the woods, not a mask in sight.
The above picture was credited with being the single most destructive moment in handling the coronavirus in Muddy Hollows. After this, how could anything these jokers said be taken seriously?
Amazingly, not a single aide or a PR grunt on site figured that was a bad fucking idea. They even went and tweeted it. Talk about being tone-deaf.
Lesson learnt. Or not.
But surely, I hear you say, they’ve learned their lesson? After all, the government has published new personal hygiene recommendations and instructions in big, friendly letters and pictograms. Well, let’s take a look-see.
Here we have minister for EU cohesion funds Zvonko Černač and his team holding meetings with mayors in Eastern Slovenia the other day. As you can see, everyone is snug as a bug in a rug and masks are nowhere to be seen.
Minister of agriculture and DeSUS leader Aleksandra Pivec and her aide(s) are apparently immune to Covid-19, too.
Defense minister Matej Tonin took a group photo with firefighters, the most versatile among first responders. Not one fucking mask in sight.
Italian foreign minister Luigi di Maio was in Ljubljana the other day discussing reopening of the border and his Slovenian counterpart Anže Logar was… *checks notes*… shaking hands?! Also, if Logar thinks that is 1.5 metres, I’d hate to see him parallel park his car…
These are just tweets that ended up in this scribe’s Twitter stream without searching over the last couple of days. There are other offenders as well, as well as some inconsistent performers, such as minister of labour Janez Cigler Kralj and minister of environment Andrej Vizjak who occasionally abide by the recommendations and occasionally don’t.
The only one who seems to take his government’s recommendations seriously (such as they are) is minister of infrastructure Jernej Vrtovec.
OK, so perhaps personal hygiene rules and recommendations are erring on the safe side of caution. They most definitely make the politicos look either stupid or sinister, depending on the choice of facial apparel.
But if the big kahunas in Muddy Hollows want to preserve whatever credibility they’ve left, they better start following their own fucking advice, pronto.