LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) – Slovenia’s populist prime minister on Monday blamed the rise in COVID-19 infections on protests in early October that culminated in clashes between police and those opposed to vaccinations and coronavirus restrictions.
Prime Minister Janez Jansa responded in parliament to opposition criticism of police use of force against protesters, including tear gas and water cannons. Jansa defended the police action, accusing the demonstrators of attacking the police.
“Forty police officers were injured and some rioters were slightly injured,” Jansa said of the unrest that erupted ahead of a major European Union summit in Slovenia in early October. “It’s clear who used the violence.”
Slovenia currently holds the presidency of the 27-member EU.
Also on Monday, Health Minister Janez Poklukar rejected opposition calls to step down over the death of a 20-year-old woman two weeks after she received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Injections in Slovenia were suspended last month, but opposition parties accused the government of promoting disposable vaccines among young people seeking COVID-19 passes.
Protesters on October 5 criticized the virus containment measures and the use of COVID-19 badges, which must be used to work in all state-owned firms. People must show that they are fully vaccinated or cured of the virus, or must present a recent negative PCR result.
About 25 protesters were detained and several were injured, mainly from inhaling tear gas. During the police intervention, the AP video journalist was shot at with a water cannon and hit on the head with an unknown object.
Jansa dismissed the possibility of escalating violence in Slovenia as a result of police action, saying instead that the nation is facing an increase in coronavirus infection from protesters.
“As a result of irresponsible behavior that was definitely not caused by the actions of the police or the government,” Slovenia may be forced to re-introduce isolation, Jansa said, according to the STA news agency.
Slovenia had 364 new confirmed cases on Monday, nearly double the number a week ago, according to the STA. In a country with a population of 2 million, about half of its population is vaccinated. Since the start of the pandemic in Slovenia, about 5,000 people have died with COVID-19.
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