President Alexandar Vucic declared a state of emergency in Belgrade on Friday, July 3, amid a surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the capital. Various restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 are to be reimposed in the city following the declaration, including the compulsory use of face masks in indoor public spaces and on public transport, and a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people indoors or 500 outdoors. Opening hours for bars and cafes will also be limited to 06:00 to 23:00 (local time) as per previous restrictions, while nightclubs have been ordered to close.
Vucic also announced the closure of student dormitories in the capital on Thursday, July 2, after one outbreak cluster was traced to university accommodation. However, protests by students prompted the Ministry of Education to reverse the order on Friday, allowing those with upcoming exams and coursework deadlines to remain in halls of residence until July 20.
The state of emergency comes amid a surge in COVID-19 infections in the capital, which has seen more than 80 percent of the country's new cases in recent days. Several other areas in central and western Serbia have also introduced local lockdowns and states of emergency due to high infection rates since the countrywide lockdown was lifted in May.
As of July 3, health authorities have confirmed 15,504 COVID-19 cases and 298 associated deaths in Serbia. Further spread of the virus is expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) labelled the outbreak as pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
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