International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Stop wearing masks if you're not sick, WHO reiterates

March 31, 2020

World Health Organization (WHO) officials Monday said they still recommend people not wear face masks unless they are sick with Covid-19 or caring for someone who is sick.

"There is no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the mass population has any potential benefit. In fact, there's some evidence to suggest the opposite in the misuse of wearing a mask properly or fitting it properly," Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO health emergencies program, said at a media briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday.

"There also is the issue that we have a massive global shortage," Ryan said about masks and other medical supplies. "Right now the people most at risk from this virus are frontline health workers who are exposed to the virus every second of every day. The thought of them not having masks is horrific."

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the WHO, also said at Monday's briefing that it is important "we prioritize the use of masks for those who need it most," which would be frontline health care workers.

"In the community, we do not recommend the use of wearing masks unless you yourself are sick and as a measure to prevent onward spread from you if you are ill," Van Kerkhove said.

"The masks that we recommend are for people who are at home and who are sick and for those individuals who are caring for those people who are home that are sick," she said.

World Health Organization officials warned at a media briefing last week that globally there is a "significant shortage" of medical supplies, including personal protective gear or PPE, for doctors.

"We need to be clear," Van Kerkhove said last week. "The world is facing a significant shortage of PPE for our frontline workers -- including masks and gloves and gowns and face shields -- and protecting our health care workers must be the top priority for use of this PPE."

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a420996/Stop-wearing-masks-if-you-re-not-sick-WHO-reiterates.html

US Ambassador: Bosnia authorities response to Covid-19 praise-worthy

March 31, 2020

Bosnian authorities for reacting correctly to the coronavirus pandemic by realizing they should jointly act for the sake of all Bosnian citizens, US Ambassador to Bosnia Eric Nelson said in an interview with N1 on Tuesday, pointing out that their response was praise-worthy.

The Embassy worky overtime, he said, in the safest possible way – from home. He added he works from home and is constantly on the phone and on video conferences with leaders from across Bosnia and from Washington.

According to Ambassador Nelson, the US will continue to be Bosnia's best partner as it was in the past 25 years and that America will continue working on capacity-building of Bosnia's institutions as well as its citizens.

He noted that the US will provide $1.2 million to help Bosnia and the funds will be given to the US which will then turn to Bosnia's Security Ministry as the main coordinator in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, to provide them with the help Bosnia needs in a transparent manner and according to its priorities.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a421254/US-Ambassador-praises-Bosnian-authorities-response-to-coronavirus-pandemic.html

Security Min. will stop leading Bosnia's Protection and Rescue Coordination Body

March 31, 2020

Bosnia’s Security Minister, Fahrudin Radoncic, said on Tuesday that he will stop serving as the head of Bosnia’s Coordination Body for Protection and Rescue anymore because there are experts more suitable for the job and because he does not want to have anything to do with any donations the country is getting to fight COVID-19.

“I think that the Coordination Body has lots of experience regarding how that help should be distributed and I don’t want to have any contact with humanitarian work because there are experts who do a much better job with that,” he said, adding that the body should be led by “someone from the health care sector.”

“The competent state bodies should decide who to choose,” he said.

Radoncic said his ministry must continue working with full capacity as there is still a lot to be done.

The Minister said that Bosnia received financial assistance of more than 80 million Bosnian Marks from the EU and that donations of about another 20 million were secured as well.

The Coordination Body has done the strategic part of the work regarding those donations and it is up to the Council of Ministers to decide on opening up an account where the money will be kept, he explained.

From now on, the Coordination Body will act as a “big warehouse” here donated medicine, hospital beds, respirators, coronavirus tests and other medical equipment will be kept, he said.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a421154/Security-Min.-will-stop-leading-Bosnia-s-Protection-and-Rescue-Coordination-Body.html

Epidemiologist: 24-hour ban on movements in Serbia will be 'last straw'

March 31, 2020

Predrag Kon, the main epidemiologist in Serbia's anti-pandemic team, said late on Tuesday that there was no "serious reason" for isolating Belgrade, one of the coronavirus hotspot, and that possible introduction of the 24-hour ban on movements remained as 'the last straw," but added that the authorities were in charge of making decisions and that they would have the support of the experts, the Beta news agency reported.

He said that successes in fighting the coronavirus had been achieved.

Kon added there would be reasons to quarantine the capital if we were ahead of a big festivity like New Year.

"We are ahead of Easter which is not celebrated in the streets," Kon told the state RTS TV.

He added that the measure had a point in preventing the further spreading of the virus and that he was seriously afraid that something could happen, but "that was not the case."

"The 24-hour ban on movements is meaningful when the epidemic cannot be controlled any more. The virus cannot survive during two weeks of absolute isolation," Kon said.

He also said that this Tuesday was a tough day, but he was still "cautiously optimistic."

"That's because we did not go over the maximum of 131 infected in one day which we had, and because we did not have a sudden jump, a double number of sick people daily," Kon said.

He added that further step in fighting the epidemic would be to find some 80,000 contacts of those already infected.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a584188/The-24-hour-quarantine-as-a-last-straw-Serbia-s-main-epidemiologist-says.html

Kosovo’s PM: Taxes on goods from Serbia and BH will be lifted at midnight

March 31, 2020

Kosovo's acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti told reporters late on Tuesday his Government decided to revoke the decision on the 100 percent import tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina as of midnight, the Beta news agency reported.

The taxes were introduced in November 2018. The move put the Belgrade - Pristina dialogue on the normalisation of relations on hold since Serbi's authorities said would not talk as long as the taxes were in place.

Pristina has been refusing to revoke the decision on tariffs despite demands and even threats of stopping the aid from the US. 

Washington welcomed the no-confidence vote in Kurti's government earlier this month.

Kurti said on Tuesday that taxes on Serbia's goods would be lifted based on reciprocity, while that would not be implemented on products from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The decision will last until June 15, when the results will be assessed.

The head of Serbia's Government Office for Kosovo Marko Djuric said Kurti did not abolish taxes, but only suspended them and that under conditions. "That the things are not back where they have been before the introduction of tariffs," he said in a written statement.

 Earlier, Kurti abolished taxes on raw material from Serbia and BH.                 

On Tuesday, he said that the decision meant that all phytosanitary and veterinary documents had to be controlled at Kosovo's border. All Kosovo's relevant institutions have to start with the implementation of the decision as soon as it's being signed.

"The reciprocity measures, i.e., mutual relations as the institute of the relationship between the sovereign states which is in line with international law," Kurti said.

He accused Serbia of implementing a series of trade non-tariff barriers since the CEFTA agreement, hugely damaging Kosovo's importers and exporters and causing significant trade deficit between the two countries.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a584174/Pristina-lifts-import-tariffs-on-goods-from-Serbia-and-BH-at-midnight.html

Kosovo's Court says movement ban unconstitutional, Govt. to revoke decision

March 31, 2020

The Constitutional Court of Kosovo ruled on Tuesday that the Government decision to limit the freedom of movement and private cars from 10 am to 4 pm and from 8 pm to 6 am to prevent the spreading of coronavirus was unconstitutional, the KoSSev website reported.

The Court's decision came upon President Hashim Thaci's request it to rule on the Government's step.

"The Court ruled unanimously that the Government decision from March 23 is not in line with the Constitution," the ruling said.

Besides, it said that the limits were not brought in line with the law.

It said the Government could not curb any fundamental rights and freedoms by decisions unless the Parliament approved such moves.

The Court ordered the Government to revoke the decision by April 13.

It added that the Health Ministry and the acting Government could bring decisions to prevent the spreading of the coronavirus to the extent regulated by the Law on Preventing Infectious Diseases and the Law on Health.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a584150/Kosovo-Court-says-ban-on-movements-unconstitutional.html

Serbia’s Govt. to help employees in mid-May; € 100 to every citizen

March 31, 2020

Serbia’s Finance Minister Sinisa Mali said on Monday that the Government would pay the first aid to small and middle-size companies as of mid-May in the amount of an average wage, N1 reported.

The aid would be paid only to those firms which did not fire more than ten employees and monthly to avoid abuse. “If someone gets that at once, they could fire people immediately after and go somewhere.”

The money will be paid into employees account.

Besides, every citizen will get 100 Euro after the end of the state of emergency, he adds.

Mali said that the Government's aid package would be 5.1 billion Euro and would include tax policy, direct aid to employees mostly in the private sector and support of the financial liquidity.

He announced additional measures for the most affected in the pandemic if the crises continued.

Mali said the money would be secured from the budget and in the capital markets at home and abroad and that the public debt would never be above 60 percent regardless of all measures.

He promised the breakdown of the package – how much would be allocated from the budget and how much from other sources - "very soon.”

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a584120/Every-Serbia-citizen-will-get-100-after-state-of-emergency-is-lifted.html

BCHR: Constitutional Court to assess legality of state of emergency measures

March 31, 2020

Belgrade Center for Human Rights (BCHR) submitted an initiative to Serbia's Constitutional Court to access the legality of the two articles of the Decree on Measures during the state of emergency and the Order banning people's movements, the Beta news agency reported.

The Center says in a statement that the Decree hasn't envisaged concrete measures for the protection of human and minority rights, but has authorised the Interior Ministry to, with approval from the Health Ministry, decides on its own.

That, according to the Center, violates the Constitution."The Constitution says the Parliament by a majority vote prescribes measures which deviate from the human and minority rights during the state of emergency.

In case the Parliament cannot convene, the Government, with the President's signature, can prescribe them," the Center said.

It added that in such a case the Government should pass the Decree to the Parliament for ratification within 48 hours after it brought it, or when the Parliament could meet at the latest.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a584066/Demand-for-assess-legality-of-Serbia-state-emergency-measures.html

Over 37,000 people sign petition to allow walking pets in evenings in Serbia

March 31, 2020

In the first five days, 37,000 people signed a petition asking for the return of the decision allowing the walking of pets in the evenings during the curfew, due to call of nature, and sent to Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, N1 reported on Tuesday.

The first 17,000 signatures were collected on the day the online petition was published and among the signatories were associations for animal protection and many veterinary ambulances.

Some people who don't have pets joined the petition as well.

The petition asks for the earlier decision which allowed the pets to walk between 8 and 9 pm for 20 minutes regardless of the curfew that started at 5m to be put in place again.

The decision was revoked since some people abused that time either walking without pets or disobeying the 2-meters distance between them.

The petition suggests that the time is limited to half an hour, from 8 to 8:30 pm. That, it says, will give the pets ten more minutes for their needs, and will prevent an eventual abuse since the walk time will be strictly limited.

It also adds that the signatories are aware that the human lives are the most important at this moment, and accordingly ask the pets owners to stick with all the protective measures during the walk. 

The petition adds that there is no reason why the danger of the spreading of infection will be more severe than it is between 5 am and 5 pm when the curfew is not in place.

The authors of the petition say that pets are in a way family members and that they are helping many people, especially those who live alone, to deal with this challenging time of isolation and overcome the situation in a more relaxed manner.

“With sick pets, the owners will not feel good either,” the petition said.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a584032/Pet-owners-in-Belgrade-sign-petition-allowing-evening-walk.html

Government says only Crisis Staff can issue information about coronavirus

March 31, 2020

The Serbian government warned that any information about the coronavirus pandemic not coming from its Crisis Staff should not be considered trusthworthy.

The government decided on March 28 to forbid anyone not in its Crisis Staff from issuing any information about the coronavirus pandemic. “All information for the public will come from the Prime Minister or persons empowered by the Crisis Staff,” the government said in its decision which was published in the Official Gazette on Tuesday. All government decisions take effect once published in the Gazette. The Crisis Staff is headed by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic.  

The government warned that any information about health care measures and any other information from “unauthorized persons” cannot be considered “correct and verified”, adding that anyone passing along that information could be held accountable under “regulations covering accountability and legal consequences for spreading disinformation during the state of emergency”.  

The government also ordered all mayors, municipality chiefs, local crisis staff, health care institutions and medical staff to send any information about the coronavirus pandemic only to the government Crisis Staff.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a584240/Serbian-government-says-only-its-Crisis-Staff-can-issue-information-about-coronavirus-pandemic.html

Doctors: The worst day in Serbia: Seven more dead, 115 new cases of coronavirus

March 31, 2020

After reporting on new seven deaths and 115 new confirmed infections with coronavirus in the last 24 hours, the members of Serbia's medical experts' team left the regular news conference, obviously disappointed and without taking any question, N1 reported on Tuesday.

The increase put a total of fatal outcomes to 23 and infected to 900.

The only one who addressed reporters was the head of the Belgrade Infectious Clinic, Goran Stevanovic, who said that the last 24 hours were the worst day in Serbia since the outbreak of the pandemic, blaming people for disrespecting the measures introduced to prevent the spreading the infection.

"If this continues, we will have an Italian and Spanish case. We took the danger unseriously," Stevanovic said, adding that there was no health care system which could withstand such pressure.

Then he said he had to go back to his colleagues "who are wearing protective gear every day," while, he added, "the epidemiologists had to try to find the contacts of those infected."

The, they all left the hall.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a584024/Serbia-has-23-deaths-and-900-confirmed-cases-of-coronavirus.html

Von der Leyen: Emergency measures should not endanger values

March 31, 2020

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned on Tuesday that the emergency measures imposed by European governments to combat the coronavirus pandemic should not be at the expense of the fundamental principles and values of the European Union.

“It is of utmost importance that emergency measures are not at the expense of our fundamental principles and values as set out in the Treaties. Democracy cannot work without free and independent media,” a statement said and added that several EU governments took emergency measures to address the health crisis.

Von der Leyen warned that democracy cannot work without free and independent media. “Respect for freedom of expression and legal certainty are essential in these uncertain times. Now, it is more important than ever that journalists are able to do their job freely and precisely, so as to counter disinformation and to ensure that our citizens have access to crucial information,” she said and warned that any emergency measures must be limited to what is necessary and strictly proportionate and must not last indefinitely.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a583982/Von-der-Leyen-Emergency-measures-should-not-endanger-values.html

More staff hired for military health care system

March 31, 2020

The Defense Ministry has given jobs to another 95 people in its Military Health Care Department, a press release said on Tuesday.

Minister Aleksandar Vulin presented the new staff with their permanent contracts, saying that the ministry invested in the military health care system before the coronavirus pandemic and adding that 400 doctors, nurses and other medical staff had been employed last year. He said 130 people had been given contracts this year.  

“These people are heroes who take care of us in the worst of time. Every investment in them is an investment in quality of life for each of us,” Vulin is quoted as saying.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a583968/More-staff-hired-for-military-health-care-system.html

EU commissioner to Vucic: Money for immediate needs approved

March 31, 2020

European Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi told President Aleksandar Vucic that Serbia would be granted access to 15 million Euro for immediate needs to combat the coronavirus pandemic, a press release from the president’s cabinet said on Tuesday.

The Commissioner for Expansion and Neighborhood policy is quoted as saying that he instructed the relevant European Union services to allow the use of the funds for immediate needs which will be financed from current agreements with UNOPS and the UNDP and from the European integration support program.  

The press release said that Vucic and Várhelyi spoke by telephone about cooperation in combating the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease it causes as well as EU aid to Serbia and the Western Balkans.  

The commissioner said that he also requested the possible re-directing of the remaining 20.8 million Euro from the European integration program for short-term needs and the re-directing of 57.6 million Euro intended for other projects with the approval of the Serbian government. Várhelyi also offered Serbia the possibility of joining the voluntary agreement on joint procurement.  

Vucic said that he is counting on EU support in dealing with the economic consequences of the pandemic. He added that Serbia will meet its obligations on the European integration path and will show solidarity with the EU member states worst hit by the coronavirus.  

The press release said the Vucic and Várhelyi agreed on the need for the Western Balkans and EU to coordinate measures to combat the pandemic.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a583952/EU-commissioner-to-Vucic-Money-for-immediate-needs-approved.html

AP: Vucic assumes full power under state of emergency

March 31, 2020

The Associated Press said on Tuesday that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has assumed full power during the state of emergency which includes some of the strictest measures that have been imposed in Europe to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

        “The Serbian leader, who makes dramatic daily appearances issuing new decrees, has assumed full power, prompting an outcry from opponents who say he has seized control of the state in an unconstitutional manner,” the AP said, adding that since the “open-ended state of emergency was declared on March 15, parliament has been sidelined, borders shut, a 12-hour police-enforced curfew imposed and people over 65 banned from leaving their homes”.  

“Serbia’s president warned residents that Belgrade’s graveyards won’t be big enough to bury the dead if people ignore his government’s lockdown orders,” it said added that the images of a huge hall at Belgrade Fair being transformed into a makeshift hospital “has triggered widespread public fear of the detention camp-looking facility”.

 “According to Johns Hopkins University, testing (for the coronavirus in Serbia) has been extremely limited and experts believe the figures greatly under-represent the real number of victims,” the AP story said.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a583901/AP-Vucic-assumes-full-power-under-state-of-emergency.html

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