Live Blog: Central, Southeast Europe Responds to Uptick in COVID-19 Pandemic

Follow the latest updates as governments in Southeast and Central Europe struggle to tackle the rising number of cases of the coronavirus in the region. After reopening in as early as April, the situation around the COVID-19 pandemic is again worsening.

  • While some countries in Southeast and Central Europe seem to have the pandemic under control, the health situation in others risks worsening once again – due to what some fear is the premature lifting of protective measures.
  • Governments in the region seem determined not to restore tough restrictions, even though the number of COVID-19 infections is on the rise once again.
  • In contrast to the beginning of the health crisis in March, when most countries in the region rushed to impose severe movement restrictions, and despite a new spike in infections and fatalities, authorities and citizens alike now seem more relaxed.
  • Medical professionals in most of the region warned that the crisis was not over – and they are now almost exhausted in trying to prevent an even greater disaster.
  • In the past week, officials and state leaders have made repeated pleas to citizens to stay away from crowded spaces, maintain social distancing and try to stay at home as much as possible.

 

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The airport in Skopje in February, before its closure due to the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: EPA-EFE/GEORGI LICOVSKI

North Macedonia Reopens Passenger Airport

After closing its door for more than three months due to the COVID-19 crisis, North Macedonia’s main passenger airport in Skopje on Wednesday greeted its first passengers who were flying to Istanbul. The first arriving plane also landed from Turkey’s largest city, while a total of 28 take-offs are scheduled for the rest of the day.

The reopening of the airport under strict safety measures does not mean that the country has brought the pandemic under control. For four weeks in a row, North Macedonia has seen a second wave of infections with the daily numbers of coronavirus cases ranging from 100 to almost 200 and new fatalities each day.

Nedim Dervisbegovic

Old Town in Mostar. Photo: EPA-EFE/Erdem Sahin

Mostar’s Tourism Sector Pushes to Open Borders for EU Citizens

Tourism industry employees and some 50 owners of artisan and souvenir shops and restaurants in Mostar have called on the central government to open the country’s borders to EU citizens in order to keep their businesses afloat.

These small establishments have thrived in recent years thanks to hundreds of thousands of travellers who come to the city annually. The owners say opening borders just for citizens from neighbouring Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro will not be enough.

“We are asking for the opening of the borders with full respect of measures, just like EU countries are doing,” said Mensud Durakovic from the city’s tourist association.

The owners said they would hold a protest on the Old Bridge on Saturday at 10 am, warning that they will close down their businesses unless the government reacted quickly.

Bosnia has registered 153 new cases of the coronavirus and two deaths in the past 24 hours. The total number of cases since the outbreak of the disease is 4,606 and 188 people have died.

Ivana Jeremic

Illustration. Photo: BIRN/Igor Vujcic

Summary

Bulgaria: 158 people in Bulgaria have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 24 hours – nine of whom are doctors and medical workers, announced the Ministry of Health on Wednesday. Seven patients died from complications of the coronavirus and 435 people are currently hospitalised.

Romania: Since the outbreak of COVID-19, authorities in Romania have so far reported 26,970 cases of the disease, including 1,651 deaths. From the beginning of the week, 388 new cases of the coronavirus were confirmed and 17 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 died.

Croatia: The EU Council on Tuesday adopted a recommendation on the gradual lifting of temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the bloc. EU member states will decide on whether or not to open their borders to 15 countries, including Serbia and Montenegro, starting on Wednesday.

In response, the Croatian Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said that Croatia will add Bosnia and Herzegovina to its list, explaining that there were fewer new cases of COVID-19 in Bosnia than in Serbia and the decision is in Croatia’s economics interest.

Kosovo: 79 news cases of COVID-19 were registered in Kosovo on Tuesday evening, as well as 71 recoveries.

Since the outbreak, there have so been a total of 2,878 diagnoses and 1,577 recoveries, with 51 losing their lives due to complications with the virus, so far.

Montenegro: In the past 24 hours in Montenegro, there was a total of 47 newly confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and one death. The total number of infections since the outbreak of COVID-19 is to 221.

On Tuesday night, the National Coordination Body for Infectious Diseases banned weddings, night clubs and birthday parties as a measure for preventing the spread of the disease.

Turkey: Within the past 24 hours, Turkey conducted 50,492 tests for COVID-19 of which 1,293 people were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.

The death toll from complications of the disease rose by 16 in Turkey to a total of 5,131, as the number of cases of COVID-19 spiked to 199,906, Turkish Health Ministry announced on Tuesday evening.

So far, 173,111 people have recovered from the disease and 1,026 people are still in intensive care units.

Hungary: Two new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Hungary, bringing the total number of infections so far to 4,157. One person died due to complications of the disease.

A recent poll from the politically tied Nézőpont institute shows that PM Viktor Orban’s popularity grew in the last few weeks, saying that 62% of Hungarians are satisfied with his work.

North Macedonia: In the past 24 hours, officials in North Macedonia reported 126 coronavirus infections and four fatalities. Additionally, the Interior Ministry reported that it has apprehended six people for directing threats towards a doctor in the Skopje’s City Hospital on Tuesday.

Those arrested were relatives to a person who died from COVID-19. They had started directing threats at the medical professional after they were not allowed to pick up the victim’s body themselves.

Poland: In the last 24 hours, Poland confirmed 382 new cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections since the pandemic’s outbreak to 34,775. 14 patients died to due complications of the disease.

Slovakia: Public health officials in Slovakia on Tuesday confirmed 20 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of infections to 1,687. The number of actively infected patients rose to 193, but the number of victims who lost their lives remains at 28.

Ivana Jeremic

Photo:Mika Baumeister /Unsplash

Summary

Croatia: 52 new cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in Croatia on Tuesday, bringing the total number of infections since the beginning of the pandemic to 2,777. The number of active cases is now at 515.

“We had several good weeks, after which we had a rise in the number of cases because of imported cases and failure to adhere to [protective] measures,” Krunoslav Capak, the director of Croatian Institute of Public Health said.

He added that over 4,000 people are in self-isolation and two are on ventilators.

Moldova: 256 new cases of COVID-19 were registered in Moldova on Tuesday.

The total number of people infected with the disease has now reached 16,613 cases and the death toll rose to 545.

Serbia: In the last 24 hour, 8,377 people have been tested for the novel coronavirus in Serbia, and 276 new cases have been confirmed, according to official statistics.

There are 42 people on respirators. Since the beginning of the epidemic, 14,564 cases of infection have been confirmed in the country and the number of current cases so far stands at 1,625.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

North Macedonia’s religious leaders. Photo: Commission for Relations with Religious Communities

North Macedonia’s Religious Leaders Call for COVID-19 Seriousness

As North Macedonia today hit over 300 fatalities from complications of COVID-19 since the outbreak, the country’s top religious leaders, including the heads of the Macedonian Orthodox Church and the Islamic Religious Community, held a meeting.

After coming together, they sent a unanimous call to all citizens to take the virus’s threat seriously and to apply all measures to protect themselves and families from the life-threatening disease.

Svetoslav Todorov

A car crosses the second Danube Bridge between Bulgaria and Romania, in the town of Vidin. EPA/VASSIL DONEV

Romania Opens its Borders for Bulgarian Citizens

Bulgarians can now enter Romania without having to quarantine, if they have no symptoms of COVID-18, the Bulgarian National Radio reported on Tuesday.

Despite a surge in COVID-19 cases, Bulgaria is included in Bucharest’s newly initiated green zone register which lists the countries from which citizens can enter Romania without isolating.

Svetoslav Todorov

A Bulgarian police officer mans a checkpoint. EPA-EFE/VASSIL DONEV

Bulgarian Roma Neighbourhood Under Continuous Quarantine

The Roma neighbourhood “Iztok” in the western Bulgarian town of Kyustendil will remain under quarantine for another week, after nine cases were found on June 16.

Eight people from the town have died so far from complications of the coronavirus.

Revisit BIRN’s analysis on how Bulgaria’s marginalised Roma community feels singled out in pandemic.

Madalin Necsutu

Medical equipment donated by USAID and WHO to Moldova. Photo: USAID

WHO and USAID Send Medical Aid to Moldova

The World Health Organization, WHO, and USAID sent the Moldovan Health Minister and the National Agency for Public Health on Monday evening medical aid worth 200,000 US dollars.

The assistance consists of medical equipment, such as a PCR System machine, dozens of sets of reagents and 21,000 sets of laboratory consumables to ensure the quality and accuracy of COVID-19 tests.

Marcel Gascón Barberá

Medical personnel women, wearing protective gear, compile the data and fill the forms after performing the antibody test to a volunteer at the improvised test center organized at the National Arena Stadium, in Bucharest, Romania, 10 June 2020. Archive photo: EPA-EFE/ROBERT GHEMENT

Romania Reports New Spike in COVID-19 Cases

On Monday, Romania reported 388 new COVID-19 infections – a significant increase from the number of cases reported on the previous day, when 269 people tested positive for the disease.

Romania has so far detected a total of 26,970 cases including 1,651 deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Authorities decided late on Monday to cancel a new set of relaxations which were set for July 1, due to the substantial increase of infections reported in the past two weeks.

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