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Belgrade Media Report 18 March 2020

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Wednesday 18 March 2020

LOCAL PRESS

No one aged 65 is allowed to go outside, no one on the street from 8 pm to 5 am (B92/Tanjug)
Brnabic: Huge influx of Serbian citizens from abroad causes major concern (RTS/Tanjug)
Dacic instructs all diplomatic missions and consular posts (Tanjug/RTS/RTV/Beta)
Stefanovic: Two quarantine sites for Serbians returning home (RTS/TV Pink)
Godfrey calls on Serbian citizens to be responsible, self-isolate (Beta)
Várhely holds a video conference on COVID-19 with WB Prime Ministers (Tanjug)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Seven new cases of coronavirus confirmed in RS; RS Minister Klokic positive for coronavirus (BN TV)
New cases of Coronavirus in Federation of B&H (N1/FTV)
B&H CoM declares state of natural and other disaster in B&H over Coronavirus (BHT1)
Federation of B&H Civil Protection Headquarters bans all public gatherings (BHT1)
China donates disinfectants to RS authorities (ATV)
Croatia

Croatia COVID-19: 81 Cases, 12 New (TCN/Index)
Montenegro

First cases of coronavirus in Montenegro (N1)
Republic of North Macedonia

Four new corona cases in Macedonia, 35 in total; Macedonian citizens who are exiting the country to sign a statement that they will not return in three months (Republika)
Elections to be postponed (Republika)
We have no resources to enforce crisis situation nationwide, says Pendarovski (MIA)
King Felipe VI of Spain signs North Macedonia’s NATO Accession Protocol (MIA)
Albania

Albania tops 59 Coronavirus cases (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Serbia turns to China due to ‘lack of EU solidarity’ on coronavirus (EurActiv)

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LOCAL PRESS

No one aged 65 is allowed to go outside, no one on the street from 8 pm to 5 am (B92/Tanjug)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Tuesday that Serbia faces incredible challenges like other countries in Europe. He added that this is in line with the fact that we have failed to provide full discipline to reduce the vulnerability of our population. “As of tomorrow morning, from 10 am, it is absolutely forbidden to go out in the urban areas to anyone over 65 and in rural areas over 70,” he said. As he said, the biggest hotspots are Belgrade, Kikinda and Nis, and to a lesser extent Cacak. “We will organize local governments wherever possible, we will try to reach all homes through young people aged 25 to 26,” he said. He explained that those who work the third shift can go to the street. Vucic said shops and supermarkets will be open Sunday morning from 4 to 7 under special rules, where everyone will get masks and space between them. “By doing so, we guarantee that no one can stay hungry and without the necessities of life. From 8 pm to 5 am tomorrow, no one is allowed to move,” he said. The President asked citizens to understand the introduction of these rigorous measures. “The Serbian army will take over all border crossings and migrant centers and hospitals, and they must be armed because they have to protect doctors,” Vucic explained. He explained that parents who have no way of working and babysitting in the same time will have a special privilege. “Mothers of children up to the age of 12 will have full pay and can stay with their children,” he said. As for the restraining order, he said that the cafes would work, but that the measure was prescribed so that the distance between the guests should be sufficient. 1.763 people who should be in isolation were not found at home. He said that the National Bank of Serbia put a moratorium on interest rates for paying bills in February, March and even April. Vucic said that “we do not eat anything else, only bread, we will have enough.” “We have a million tons of wheat at the moment, the total reserves in commodity reserves are huge. We have more than enough when it comes to food supplies”, Vucic said. He added that transport would be terminated in a day or two, and that workers would have organized transport to their respective working places. He thanked China for its assistance and said he had spoken with representatives of that country. “I want to thank Chinese President Xi Jinping. They will provide us with tremendous help. They will send us the experts for coronavirus. Thank you ever so much to the People’s Republic of China. I am so happy to have such friends. I am happy and proud; there is no machine or material that the Chinese have not approved for us. Everything we asked for was approved. The first major delivery arrives on Saturday afternoon. This is a battle that is fought by the hour. Thank you very much to President Xi Jinping, our friend and brother. We will never forget that,” Vucic said. According to him, Chinese experts are arriving on Thursday, and he will wait for them at the airport. “We will get enough masks, I can’t tell where the surgical masks come from. They are manufactured in our country, we have three factories, we will have four. Some we will buy, some we’ll get, but we will provide over 30 million masks”, Vucic said. Vucic also stated that the elections for the MPs called on 4 March were adjourned and that no electoral activities will be taking place anymore, and that there were no longer any election blocs. “That is the agreement, and I am grateful to all the people who have presented a wish to participate in the elections. We have a unique position on this issue. There are no elections for us while we are fighting with the coronavirus. When this is over, we will sit together and agree on the date of the elections”, said Vucic regarding the meeting with representatives of the parties that announced their participation in the elections. “We had some great conversations tonight, I want to say that my address from two nights ago has received a lot of attention. Many Chinese companies have called to help us. “They send their experts to us,” he said.

 

Brnabic: Huge influx of Serbian citizens from abroad causes major concern (RTS/Tanjug)

 

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said on Tuesday that she is mostly satisfied with the implementation of the government’s anti-coronavirus measures in local communities, which are being implemented in some places more and in some less effectively. Brnabic said at a news conference at the Palace of Serbia held after a session of the Serbian government that the most important thing is that the centralized system of supply of medical equipment through the state Health Insurance Fund works well. She reiterated that the government has two goals in this crisis situation: one is protection of an efficient health system and this is achieved through crisis response teams and a centralized supply of medical equipment, while the other is that as of tomorrow the elderly can be supplied with food and medicines through call centers in local self-governments. According to her, the biggest problem and perhaps the biggest danger to Serbia is that the Serbs are coming from abroad in huge numbers. She expressed her gratitude to citizens who reported people for whom they knew they came from abroad but did not stay in self-isolation.

 

Dacic instructs all diplomatic missions and consular posts (Tanjug/RTS/RTV/Beta)

 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic instructed all our diplomatic missions and consular posts that the assistance and protection of our citizens in the areas affected by coronavirus must be a priority in their work. Using all available ways – through the diplomatic and consular offices, the Serbian Orthodox Church, newsletters of the diaspora and other, the Ministry distributed abroad the Recommendation of the Government of the Republic of Serbia that the citizens of the Republic of Serbia, who reside abroad, postpone all trips to the Republic of Serbia which are not necessary. Dacic is in daily contact with his counterparts – foreign ministers, as well as with representatives of international organizations, with which he seeks to find solutions to the many problems arising from the restrictive measures taken by countries to curb the virus. The major part of the problems is related to the restriction of passenger traffic and transport of goods.

By the decision of the Foreign Minister, a crisis response team was established in the line ministry with the aim of assisting our citizens abroad. All diplomatic missions and consular posts of Serbia at this time are providing consular assistance to our citizens, despite the difficult conditions in which they operate. Following the imposition of restrictive measures by most foreign countries, our citizens are in large numbers found in certain destinations without the possibility of continuing their planned trip to Serbia. These are citizens who at the time of the declaration of the state of emergency were in foreign countries on official and tourist trips, on treatment for malignant and other serious illnesses, for studies and the like. All diplomatic missions and consular posts make every effort to resolve the problems of our citizens and organize their return if necessary. At the same time, the Ministry once again urges all citizens not to travel if they have the opportunity to stay in a foreign country. Since the introduction of the state of emergency in Serbia on 15 March, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also been engaged in assisting foreign nationals (and their diplomatic and consular offices) who have been caught on their way to their country of origin or at the very border of our country by the ban on entry /transit.

 

Stefanovic: Two quarantine sites for Serbians returning home (RTS/TV Pink)

 

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic told Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that some Serbian nationals returning home from abroad would be put into quarantine to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. He said that people who have no place to self-isolate themselves will be taken to one of two quarantine sites which have been set up in the north and south of the country. “We can’t prevent people from returning to Serbia but we can appeal to them. The healthiest thing for them is to remain in self-isolation wherever they are,” he said.

The Minister said that anyone caught violating the overnight curfew (8:00 pm to 5:00 am) would face criminal charges. Stefanovic told TV Pink that the curfew is intended to protect lives because “people have the most social contacts in cafés, restaurants and during walks” after 8:00 pm. According to him, the police will constantly check people who have been ordered into isolation and expressed the hope that the measure will not be in force for a long time. “Those people have to understand the extent of the damage they are inflicting on their country by leaving the place where they are in self-isolation,” he said, adding that this is important to give the health care system time in the face of the He minister claimed that almost 50,000 people had entered the country since the coronavirus crisis began, allegedly most of them from Italy with some failing to follow isolation orders which he said caused the spread of the infection. Stefanovic also called the public and media to stop what he said is the “conscious spreading of lies aimed at helping, in a political sense, the people who spread them or the owners of their media”, claiming that the nova.rs portal had published a news item which allegedly turned out to be false.

 

Godfrey calls on Serbian citizens to be responsible, self-isolate (Beta)

 

US Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey said that his team was fighting the coronavirus pandemic alongside the country’s citizens which he called on to respect the government’s advice, socially distance themselves and stay inside. “My team and I are taking the situation seriously and fighting alongside you the coronavirus in Belgrade. Respect the advice of the Prime Minister and Serbian President, Ana Brnabic and Aleksandar Vucic. Stay at home. Let’s be responsible for all of us. Social distancing right now,” Godfrey tweeted. The US Embassy in Belgrade also said on Twitter that the majority of its employees were working from home. “The majority of our employees are already working from home. We are even holding virtual meetings inside the embassy and practicing social distancing. For all of us,” the US Embassy said.

 

New 11 cases of coronavirus in Serbia, a total of 83 patients (B92)

 

In Serbia, by the end of 8.00 hours, 11 new cases of coronavirus were registered, increasing the total number to 83 infected persons. From the last report to 8 a.m., March 18, 2020, samples were tested of 47 individuals, 11 of which were positive and 36 negative for the new coronavirus. At home, there are four people with a lighter clinical picture, while seven people are kept in hospital, without complications, with a stable general condition. By 8 a.m. March 18, 2020, a total of 421 individuals were tested in the national reference laboratory of the Torlak Institute, which met the criteria of the case definition.

 

Várhely holds a video conference on COVID-19 with WB Prime Ministers (Tanjug)

 

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhely spoke in a video conference with WB Prime Ministers, stressing the EU’s readiness to help tackle COVID-19, Tanjug reported. “I stressed EU’s readiness to support the region in addressing coronavirus outbreak and its impact,” Várhely wrote on Twitter. Várhely told Western Balkans Prime Ministers that the European Commission is considering how to link the region to the initiatives the EU is taking in response to the virus root pandemic. He also said that in such “critical circumstances” it is of great importance for the EU to make a positive decision to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. The EU Council and EU leaders are expected to adopt conclusions next week on a proposal for a new methodology for the enlargement process and also decide on opening the accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. Video conference was organized by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Seven new cases of coronavirus confirmed in RS; RS Minister Klokic positive for coronavirus (BN TV)


The Republika Srpska (RS) Ministry of Health and Social Welfare released information on seven new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the RS. The Ministry stated that four middle aged men, one younger man and two middle aged women have been confirmed as positive. One infected person is from Prnjavor, another from Doboj and the other five are from Banja Luka. All seven persons have been placed into home-isolation. One of the persons tested positive to the coronavirus is RS Minister of European Integration and International Cooperation Zlatan Klokic. He stated that he feels well and he is in home-isolation.

 

New cases of Coronavirus in Federation of B&H (N1/FTV)


First case of Coronavirus infection was registered in Mostar. It was officially confirmed that two persons, father and son, were examined in the University-Clinical Hospital in Mostar on Monday evening due to respiratory problems. Both were tested and it was established that father was infected by Coronavirus. However, problems occurred because they failed to inform medical staff that one of them paid a visit to Italy some 10 days ago and both were in contact with a certain number of medical workers who did not wear protective equipment. N1 learns that due to the contact with these patients, at least five medical doctors had to undergo isolation. Also, another person who was in the same room with the abovementioned infected person was put in quarantine. The Herzegovina-Neretva Canton (HNC) authorities declared a state of the disaster in the canton on Tuesday. The Crisis headquarters of the HNC will be in continuous session starting on Tuesday. The HNC authorities adopted restrictive measures which order the shortening of work times for all facilities in the HNC and the equipping of the hospitals in the HNC in order to fight the coronavirus epidemic more efficiently. Bihac confirmed on Tuesday the first case of the Coronavirus infection. Namely, a middle-age woman, who came from Munich to Bihac in the night between March 7 and March 8 is positive to the Coronavirus; she has mild symptoms of the disease and she was already put in home isolation. Now, all members of her family will be also put under supervision and all those who were in contact with the woman. FTV warned that around 5,000 migrants in the Una- Sana Canton (USC), out of which around 2,000 of them are on streets without accommodation and supervision, represent aggravating circumstance for control of the Coronavirus. Authorities are waiting for an agreement with the EU to begin with transfer of migrants to the location ‘Lipa’. The crisis HQ of the USC suspended work of all catering facilities – except for the ones with the delivery service – playgrounds, beauty salons, sport centers and gyms. Only grocery stores, pharmacies, bakeries and gas stations will continue to work, while all administration institutions will work from 8:00hrs until 13:00hrs. The Zenica Doboj Canton (ZDC) registered a total of four cases of the Coronavirus infection and the last one was registered in Tesanj on Monday evening. A 49-year-old man from Potocani near Tesanj was positive to the Coronavirus, after he spent 11 days in home isolation upon his arrival from Italy. The man was accommodated in isolation in the Cantonal Hospital in Zenica.

 

B&H CoM declares state of natural and other disaster in B&H over Coronavirus (BHT1)

 

The B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) declared on Tuesday the state of natural and other disaster in B&H over coronavirus. The B&H CoM also formed a rescue and protection coordination body which is headed by B&H Minister of Security Fahrudin Radoncic. The B&H CoM concluded that the biggest challenge for B&H in the fight against coronavirus will be setting up of tent quarantines at B&H borders. Chairman of the B&H CoM Zoran Tegeltija stated that he expects three tent quarantines on the border with Croatia to be set up by the end of the week. “There is currently no need to build them on the border towards Serbia because traffic there has practically stopped,” Tegeltija underlined. Tegeltija stressed that intensity of traffic in B&H has been significantly reduced, noting that B&H asked Croatia to reduce the number of border crossings, but that Croatia is not willing to do that because the issue of border crossings is regulated with an interstate agreement. “I believe that it is not good for us to reach a unilateral decision. This requires of us to hire more people, primarily inspectors, but we simply must endure those efforts,” Tegeltija said, adding that the most important thing is control of travelers. Tegeltija stressed that B&H is at the beginning of the fight against coronavirus, adding that the healthcare sector reacted in an adequate and timely way and that B&H is not in serious problems because of that. Tegeltija called on all B&H citizens to respect recommendations and regulations on isolation and self-isolation, announcing sanctions against citizens who do not comply with recommendations and regulations. Representatives of the B&H Ministry of Transport and Communications stressed that borders have to remain open at least when it comes to traffic of goods and services, noting that they proposed routes for international traffic of goods to the B&H CoM. The B&H Ministry of Transport and Communications also launched an initiative and sent letters to Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro to hold an urgent meeting at which one would define corridors and border crossings through which international traffic of goods and products, primarily medicine, would be carried out.

 

Federation of B&H Civil Protection Headquarters bans all public gatherings (BHT1)


The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Civil Protection Headquarters has issued an order banning all public gatherings, suspending work of all catering facilities for the preparation and sale of food and beverages, restaurants, pizzerias, pastry shops, hookah bars, cafe bars, disco bars, teahouses and cafes in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Furthermore, one ordered the suspension of all services of cultural and sport institutions, as well as the work of museums, theaters, activities at concert halls, art galleries, work of cinemas, swimming polls, spa centers and fitness centers in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sarajevo Canton (SC) Minister of Health Rusmir Mesihovic announced on Tuesday that the SC Headquarters for Civil Protection will implement 14 new restrictive measures and orders on Wednesday. He explained that shopping malls and other places where bigger groups of people are gathering will be closed. A new call center for citizens will be established and other measures will be announced. Authorities in Tuzla Canton (TC) have declared the state of disaster on the territory of this canton. The TC Crisis HQs issued an order to close all facilities but markets, pharmacies, bakeries and oil stations. All public gatherings have been banned in TC. So far, no case of Coronavirus infection was registered in this canton. However, some 1,500 people who recently returned from abroad were ordered into self-isolation. Police has been conducting controls whether those whose health status has been monitored are respecting protection measures ordered by competent institutions. The Council of Mufti of the Islamic Community in B&H decided on Tuesday that all daily joint prayers in mosques will be suspended until further notice, but the Friday prayer will be continued and the number of those who will pray on Friday will not exceed the number predicted by competent bodies.

 

China donates disinfectants to RS authorities (ATV)


Deputy Ambassador of China to B&H Zhou Yan has said that scientific data show that even though it first appeared in China, the coronavirus epidemic facing the humankind may not have originated from China. “We faced all possible difficulties at the beginning, but we are very grateful to people from B&H, RS, Banja Luka, who helped us when we needed it the most” Zhou said in Banja Luka on Tuesday where she brought disinfectants, a donation from China. She has said that this is her second visit to Banja Luka in the past 12 days, given that she brought a donation of masks after the first person with coronavirus infection was registered. According to her, China will continue providing aid as appropriate, such as equipment for personal protection and other things that are deemed necessary to people here in the fight against the virus. RS Minister of Education and Culture Natalija Trivic and RS Minister of Scientific and Technological Development, Higher Education and Information Society Srdjan Rajcevic received the Chinese donation. Rajcevic stressed that this is evidence China is friend of the RS. Reporter reminded that in most difficult period for China, when epidemics of Coronavirus was at its peak, member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik expressed support to people of this country. Similar support was provided by students of the University of Banja Luka who had sent 600 protective masks to China. Chinese Embassy underlined that it will resume to provide assistance to the RS in fight against spreading of Coronavirus.

 

Croatia COVID-19: 81 Cases, 12 New (TCN/Index)

 

Croatia Health Minister Vili Beros reported that 12 new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases have been confirmed. The total number of cases in Croatia is 81. Details to follow later today. Five patients have recovered. At 9:00 CET the National Civil Protection Headquarters held a press conference and provided an update the coronavirus in Croatia as reported by Index. Among them are eight doctors from Zagreb, some of whom had recently been skiing in Austria and became infected. Five people have recovered. Minister Beros announced that more than 1,100 tests have been done. The situation is getting worse all over Europe, Beros said. For now, the HQ does not have information on which cities the newly infected are located. Today, according to government announcements, stricter measures are being introduced and many facilities, cafes, cinemas, theaters, gyms are closing … Minister Davor Bozinovic announced that the additional measures would apply to the elderly, and it was clear that they would go about limiting their movement almost completely. He also announced the intensification of self-isolation control.

“When it comes to doctors, we are well organized spatially and temporally,” Beros said. “For all those who have other problems but are not suspected to have the coronavirus, other health care facilities will provide adequate assistance. Treating chronic conditions is not in question. I want to thank the private sector for being sensitive to this issue,” Beros said. “Mental health professionals are available from 0-24. The ministry is rolling out a wide range of activities and we are doing everything we can to keep the situation under control,” said Beros. “Today, we will specifically discuss the closure of facilities. I would not speak about measures to close cafes yet. Today a law is under review which will give additional power to the National Civil Protection Headquarters so we can implement the necessary measures throughout Croatia” director of the Croatian Institute of Public Health Krunoslav Capak said. Beros also commented on how many people will be infected. According to the table provided by Beros, it is expected that of the estimated 5 percent to be infected in Croatia, 140 of them will fall into the group of severely ill, while 80 percent (2261) will be in the group of mildly ill. Fifteen percent of the population, which is 425, would fall within the category of medium-severe symptoms. In Croatia, 2,826 people are expected to become infected during the coronavirus epidemic. “That’s an earlier estimate,” Beros explained. When asked if new estimates for the infected were higher, he said “not significantly.”

 

First cases of coronavirus in Montenegro (N1)

 

First cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Montenegro. Two female persons, born in 1948 and 1973, both traveled to the regions affected by the epidemic, said Montenegro’s Prime Minister, Dusko Markovic, at the extraordinary conference and added that there was no need for panic. One of the infected women came from the US 12 days ago and the other came back from Spain. PM and director of the Clinical Center of Montenegro, Dr Jevto Erakovic, said that Montenegrin health system was prepared to respond to the new circumstances. Director of the Institute for Public Health, Boban Mugosa, said that one person was under watch, while the other wasn’t. “Montenegro has enough tests,” Mugosa said. He explained that the patient who came back from the USA was from Ulcinj and wasn’t under watch. Patient who came back from Spain lives in Podgorica and she was under watch. Mugosa said that the persons hadn’t been working. “Patient from Ulcinj lives alone, whereas the other patient lives in a family, which requires specific measures,” Mugosa explained. According to Markovic, Clinical Center of Montenegro has adequate conditions to provide appropriate treatment for the patients. “Institute for Public Health has already started taking measures to prevent virus from spreading. From this moment on, the new phase begins. In the forthcoming period, new cases will probably be revealed. But, there’s no need to panic. We have been undertaking many activities so far. It is clear that the entire health system had been prepared for weeks,” Markovic pointed out. He stressed that the epidemic had transformed into a serious challenge. “We are aware of the problem employers and employees now have. We are carefully analyzing every aspect of this threat. Montenegro’s budget is the budget of Montenegrin citizens. I invite you to be responsible and to join our forces,” PM said. He added that the government was working with countries and partners on getting the medical protection. Mugosa urged citizens to stay at home and maintain social distance, and to take care of the hygiene. Minister of Health, Kenan Hrapovic, said that places for the quarantine were being considered. Dr Jevto Erakovic, said that Montenegro was the last European country where the coronavirus had broken out. “Healthcare system and Coordination team have contributed. We were ready for the outbreak and we are absolutely prepared for this. Some tough days lie ahead, especially for healthcare workers. We have got protection equipment. Clinical Center has 44 respirators and is about to get some more. These two patients don’t need respirators at this moment,” Erakovic said.

 

Set to overcome import blockage

“We didn’t discuss this with the counterparts from the region, because they were dealing with their own problems. Many of them made some moves that were not in place. Montenegro acted differently, we offered our ports for trading. I believe we will urge every country to act the same. We had a problem with a great number of trucks from Italy, Slovenia and Croatia but we managed to solve that. We had blockage from Serbia but we are addressing that issue by focusing on other markets. We have enough goods in selling facilities. Enough of everything,” Markovic answered the question about the problem with the import of goods.

 

Four new corona cases in Macedonia, 35 in total; Macedonian citizens who are exiting the country to sign a statement that they will not return in three months (Republika)

 

Four new patients were diagnosed with the coronavirus, the Healthcare Ministry informed, bringing the total of cases in Macedonia to 35. All the new cases are from Skopje and all patients are considered stable. The passengers on a plane that landed from Brussels yesterday, where several passengers had flu-like symptoms, were tested and all returned negative. This allowed to have them released at home, with an order to self-isolate. Macedonian citizens who are exiting the country will be required to sign a statement that they will not return in the next three months. This measure was announced by the Government that held a session to discuss the coronavirus epidemic yesterday evening, after all border crossings were ordered closed for foreign visitors trying to enter Macedonia. Some of the neighboring countries like Greece have already similarly banned foreign citizens from entering, making it very difficult for Macedonian citizens to leave anyway. A group of some 200 Macedonian citizens who were grouped on the border between Serbia and Hungary will be returned to the country in an organized convoy, and will likely be sent into group isolation in the Krivolak army range once they arrive.

 

Elections to be postponed (Republika)

 

Party leaders agreed over the postponement of the 12 April parliamentary elections at a meeting hosted by President Stevo Pendarovski on Tuesday. People’s health is a priority in the current situation with the coronavirus, they say. The meeting was attended by SDSM leader Zoran Zaev, VMRO-DPMNE’s Hristijan Mickoski, Zijadin Sela -Alliance for Albanians, Afrim Gashi -Alternativa, Bilal Kasami -Besa, as well as party officials Bujar Osmani and Izet Mexhiti of DUI, and Orhan Ibraimi and Frimzim Dauti of DPA. Parliament Speaker Talat Xhaferi and Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski also took part.

 

We have no resources to enforce crisis situation nationwide, says Pendarovski (MIA)


Realistically speaking, we do not have the resources to enforce a nationwide crisis situation, President Stevo Pendarovski says explaining why a crisis situation hasn’t been declared yet across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to him, over 350 people – army members, police officers and health workers – have been deployed in Debar and Centar Zhupa since a state of emergency has been declared in the two municipalities with a population of nearly 10,000 residents. If we do this in all municipalities, 80 in total, it would constitute a nationwide crisis situation. With this level of control of entry and exit on the borders of the municipalities, it’s impossible to control all of this, physically speaking,” Pendarovski says in an interview with TV Telma on Tuesday evening. The whole territory, he notes, cannot be covered even if we engage the whole army, all police officers and all qualified health workers. Yesterday, it was estimated that it is a good thing to introduce crisis situation municipality by municipality as necessity arises,” Pendarovski says, adding that deployment of forces – army, police and health workers – should be thoroughly analyzed. Cases doubled since yesterday afternoon until today. We have to make analyzes on daily basis. (Health Minister) Filipche said it’s estimated that the virus outbreak can peak in a month from now, that it is possible 2,000 people to be infected. It means that the Security Council can hold another meeting in coming days. To declare a situation different than what we have now – state of emergency in two municipalities – isn’t ruled out,” President Pendarovski adds. He says that a man was fined today – the first one to be fined – after signing a statement at the border that he would be self-isolated. “It is a EUR-1,000 fine and there are higher fines for those who would not comply with the measures,” the President says.

 

King Felipe VI of Spain signs North Macedonia’s NATO Accession Protocol (MIA)


King Felipe VI of Spain signed Tuesday the bill ratifying North Macedonia’s NATO Accession Protocol, which is to be deposited to the State Department in the next 72 hours, the Spanish Mission to NATO has said. “The Spanish Senate, with a massive e-voting (259 out of 264 Senators), approved the protocol of accession of North Macedonia to NATO. Immediately after, HM King Felipe signed the bill. In the next 72 hours, Spain will deposit its instrument of ratification in the State Department,” tweeted the Mission. President Stevo Pendarovski told “this evening he was rather emotional to see an empty parliament for the first time, debating a single item on the agenda”. “I met the King of Spain at the 75th Holocaust anniversary in Jerusalem. As promised, the King signed the bill” said Pendarovski. The President said the protocol is deposited to the State Department, where all accession protocols are being kept. “We will send the Accession Protocol, which our Parliament passed in advance, to the State Department as soon as Spain submits their instrument of ratification. Once we deposit the protocol, North Macedonia formally becomes a NATO member,” noted Pendarovski.

 

Albania tops 59 Coronavirus cases (ADN)

 

Number of people affected by COVID-19 in Albania has increased to 59. The news was announced by Head of the Epidemiologic Intelligence department, Eugena Tomini. Of the 60 suspected cases of coronavirus, four turned out positive. There are currently 30 hospitalized patients in the Infectious Diseases Hospital. “We inform you about the recent situation of COVID-19 in Albania. This morning a 66-year-old patient died at the Infectious Disease Hospital suffering from several diseases besides coronavirus: cardiac insufficiency, pulmonary edema, and renal insufficiency. For several days the patient was intubated and was in poor health. I would like to inform you that in the last 24 hours, 60 suspected cases have been tested, of which 4 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed. To date 665 suspected cases have been tested and confirmed positive with COVID-19: Tirana 42 cases, Durres 5 cases, Lushnje 2 case, Elbasan 2 cases, Fier 6 cases, Rrogozhina 2 cases. Thirty patients are admitted to the Infectious Diseases Hospital (from Tirana, Durres, Fier, Elbasan and Rrogozhina). Of these, three patients are in intensive care. While the rest of are in stable condition so far. Once again, a plea to the citizens: Don’t go to the hospital right away! Call 127 when you have signs of the disease! Regardless of the measures taken, it is important for social isolation to curb the spread of infection as much as possible. The best way to help health care personnel and to cope with this situation is for citizens to stay at home,” said Tomini.

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Serbia turns to China due to ‘lack of EU solidarity’ on coronavirus (EurActiv, by Julija Simić, 18 March 2020)

 

Chinese Ambassador to Serbia, Chen Bo, informed Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić on Tuesday (17 March) that Beijing had approved a donation and decided to send experts to help Serbia fight the coronavirus pandemic. EURACTIV Serbia reports. Vučić said Serbia was not yet in the same crisis as EU countries when it comes to the coronavirus but that it would soon happen. “Serbia now turns its eyes to China,” Vučić said. “To avoid that worst-case scenario, we need your help and support. That is why I am asking that you send us anything you can. Money is not a problem, we need everything, from masks, gloves to ventilators, literally everything, and most of all we need your knowledge and people who would be willing to come here and help,” Vučić said. “All my personal hopes are focused on and directed toward China and its president,” he said, emphasising that Serbia was not asking for money. The ambassador said that “ordinary citizens” in China had reacted very positively to Vučić’s call for help, and that more than 300 million people had watched a video recording of his statement. “We are waiting for our Chinese brothers here. Without you, it turns out that Europe is having difficulty defending itself, we do not hide the fact that we cannot [defend ourselves]. Without China and our Chinese brothers, we are incapable of doing so,” Vučić said. The first batch of Chinese aid in the struggle against the novel virus has already arrived in Serbia, and comprises COVID-19 test kits donated by the Mammoth Foundation, a humanitarian organisation based in Shenzhen. The aid operation was coordinated by the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in collaboration with the Serbian government. The number of test kits delivered was not specified.

 

“European solidarity does not exist”

The Serbian president said earlier that Belgrade had requested aid in medical supplies and staff from China. This had become all the more urgent since the European Commission decided to limit exports of medical equipment outside of Europe. Vučić further said that he had guaranteed Serbia’s “centennial and strong as steel friendship” to the Chinese president. “European solidarity does not exist. That was a fairy tale on paper. I have sent a special letter to the only ones who can help, and that is China…,” Vučić said on 15 March, the day when a state of emergency was declared in Serbia due to the coronavirus. The president said at the time that many Western governments had pressed Serbia to change its tender procedures in order to reduce imports of Chinese goods and import from Europe instead. But now the same governments do not want to help Serbia even in exchange for money, he said. Brussels issued a statement after that, saying there was no ban in the EU on the export of medical equipment, masks and ventilators. Rather, the EU adopted a regime of permits for the sale of medical equipment to non-EU states which may submit a request to continue deliveries to the Balkan and other foreign countries. On 17 March, European Commission Spokesperson Ana Pisonero said the EU was looking at ways to connect the Western Balkans with the initiatives taken by the EU in curbing the coronavirus pandemic. Now was the time for solidarity, rather than unfounded accusations, she said. “Close coordination and cooperation at the regional level and with the EU are key factors in the response to this emergency situation. In these difficult times, solidarity is needed. This is not the time for a polemic or unfounded accusations”, said Pisonero. She added that the EU was looking at how to best provide support in mitigating the social and economic consequences of the pandemic, including the possibility of redirecting EU pre-accession funds and flexibility regarding state aid rules. The Serbian Minister of European Integration, Jadranka Joksimović, has already sent a letter to the Commission asking the EU to enable the repurposing of unspent IPA funds, to fight the coronavirus epidemic. “We need to understand that we are pretty alone in all of this,” Serbian Health Minister Zlatibor Lončar commented. The Social Democrats group of the European Parliament also issued a statement calling on EU authorities not to ignore the western Balkan region in the fight against the coronavirus. “[We must] include the Western Balkan countries in our common European response, and in measures to prevent and combat the effects of the epidemic,” S&D vice-president Kati Piri said.

 

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