As is the case in the rest of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has started spreading quickly in Slovenia. One of the first measures, taken by the competent authorities of the Republic of Slovenia was the prohibition of public gatherings, larger than 100 people. This directly impacted many events and conferences organised in the month of March and even April and stopped some in their tracks. The 59th Home Fair was taking place at the GR – Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre (GR) when the decision to cancel such events occurred (March 4-7). The fair was planned to last until March 8th, but the fair organisers at GR decided to end the fair, thinking of the health and safety of the exhibitors, visitors and staff.
The first mandatory precaution was followed by others, mostly city specific. The Major of Ljubljana, Zoran Janković declared numerous restrictions, pertaining to public life to prevent coronavirus from spreading. As of Monday, March 16th, 2020, all kindergartens, schools, and universities are closed, and all the learning programmes were moved online. It was also decided that everyone starts working from home, if that is a possibility. All catering facilities had to close their doors and can now operate through delivery services. Furthermore, Ljubljana public transport (LPP) has been cancelled and in turn all parking spaces, belonging to the Municipality of Ljubljana have been declared free of charge for the duration of the quarantine.
The National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) has issued preventative measures for COVID-19 that follow from the World Health Organisation’s recommendations for places of business that are still operating, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and post offices, and for individuals. The crucial outlets will continue to operate, but under constricted terms and shorter operating hours. Each pharmacy and post office only admits one person at a time, while the others wait outside, standing no less than 1.5 metres apart. As it is not possible to implement such measures at grocery stores, each store must provide hand sanitizing stations for its visitors and protective gear for its employees. All the staff working at the outlets is strongly recommended to wear protective gear, including gloves and a mask.
The city of Ljubljana is doing everything in its power to aid the medical staff, working long, stressful shifts. Celica, the ex-military prison turned into a hostel has been made available to accommodate people who are currently working at the University Medical Centre in Ljubljana and do not live in the city. Furthermore, the city is ready to lend two kindergartens, schools and the Ljubljana castle, that has been disinfected, for the purpose of healthcare needs. Thinking also of the most vulnerable groups in our community, children from underprivileged homes are receiving home food deliveries during the period of closed schools. The drivers of Ljubljana public transport (LPP) have volunteered to take on this task.
The city of Ljubljana also understands the burden of the lockdown on people with small businesses and the self-employed. The Major of Ljubljana decided that all businesses, renting from the Municipality of Ljubljana are excused from paying rent for the month of March, or possibly longer, if the lockdown is prolonged. The same holds for the outdoor Ljubljana farmers market, which will continue to operate under shorter operating hours and following the same safety measures as other necessary places of business.
What does this mean for the meetings industry?
All events, meetings, conferences and gatherings have been cancelled or postponed. GR, the largest and most important exhibition and convention centre in Ljubljana, has postponed all planned events indefinitely, waiting for the pandemic situation to settle down to set new dates for all the missed events.