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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, August 4

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• COVID-19 report: 7 deaths, 250 new cases (media)
• Health Minister: We’re in gravest situation since start of pandemic (media)
• Hospital nursing staff protest demanding overtime pay (media)
• Public Health Institute: Hoti disclosed COVID-19 test result in ‘record time’ (media)
• PDK’s Haxhiu: State of emergency must be declared (media)
• Europe’s Southeast grapples with COVID-19 resurgence (Balkan Insight)
• Hyseni visits Washington, meets Matthew Palmer (media)
• Hyseni reacts to his meeting with Pompeo reports (media)
• Mitrovica municipality vows to correct memorial stone mistake (media)

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  • COVID-19 report: 7 deaths, 250 new cases (media)
  • Health Minister: We’re in gravest situation since start of pandemic (media)
  • Hospital nursing staff protest demanding overtime pay (media)
  • Public Health Institute: Hoti disclosed COVID-19 test result in ‘record time’ (media)
  • PDK’s Haxhiu: State of emergency must be declared (media)
  • Europe’s Southeast grapples with COVID-19 resurgence (Balkan Insight)
  • Hyseni visits Washington, meets Matthew Palmer (media)
  • Hyseni reacts to his meeting with Pompeo reports (media)
  • Mitrovica municipality vows to correct memorial stone mistake (media)

Kosovo Media Highlights

COVID-19 report: 7 deaths, 250 new cases (media)

Seven deaths and 250 new cases of coronavirus have been recorded in the last 24 hours in Kosovo. The highest number of new cases is from the municipality of Prishtina (65). 126 patients have recovered from the virus during this period.

46 patients with coronavirus are reported to be in critical condition. 448 patients with the coronavirus are currently being treated in Kosovo’s health facilities.

Radio Free Europe reports that 208 people in Kosovo have died from the virus in July.

Health Minister: We’re in gravest situation since start of pandemic (media)

Kosovo’s Minister of Health Armend Zemaj said in a Facebook post on Monday that Kosovo is in the gravest situation since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Following the request of Prime Minister Hoti to fully activate the National Reaction Plan, we held today the meeting of the Inter-Institutional Group for Incidents Management chaired by Interior Minister Agim Veliu,” Zemaj wrote. “For purposes of managing the situation, we decided to prepare a list of urgent needs that are in the competencies of this group and to immediately take the necessary decisions and measures. As Ministry of Health, we asked for more support, because we are in the gravest situation since the start of the pandemic and any further deterioration in the healthcare system will bring it to unpredictable limits with long-term consequences”.

Hospital nursing staff protest demanding overtime pay (media)

Trade union of hospital nursing staff protested yesterday in front of the Kosovo Government building demanding they be paid for their overtime.

Chairman of the trade union, Fitim Havolli, said they also demand the night shift pay be increased.

Kosovo Assembly Speaker Vjosa Osmani met with the representatives of the nursing staff trade unions and pledged support for their demands. She said nurses play an invaluable role in protecting the health of the people, particularly at this difficult time in coping with the pandemic.

At the same time, Head of OSCE Mission in Kosovo Jan Braathu also expressed support for the demands of the hospital nursing staff. Commenting on a Facebook post of PDK MP Valdete Idrizi, Braathu said: “I don’t understand how people can be expected to work literally around the clock under health-threatening circumstances and not be compensated for their time on the job.”

Public Health Institute: Hoti disclosed COVID-19 test result in ‘record time’ (media)

Kosovo’s National Institute for Public Health (IKSHPK) has issued a statement regarding allegations made against Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti of violating health protocol by not self-isolating during the time he was waiting for COVID-19 test results.

“Groundless news circulated today about failure to respect the recommendations of the IKSHPK giving the impression that certain people, including from senior state positions, have no right to be infected. We respectfully remind you that the virus does not choose age or race or gender or social levels. The virus is everywhere and does not choose. Everyone has the right to be infected,” the statement reads. “We state with full competency that the Prime Minister has informed the public in record time as soon as he received information about SARS Cov-2.”

Albulena Haxhiu from Vetevendosje said the misuse of the Institute’s logo for interests of the LDK leadership is unacceptable and seriously undermines the citizens’ trust in the institution. “This should not have been allowed under any circumstance,” Haxhiu wrote.

Kallxo calls Institute’s statement of ‘everyone having the right to be infected’ a gaffe.

PDK’s Haxhiu: State of emergency must be declared (media)

Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) MP Bekim Haxhiu said in a debate on Monday that a state of emergency must be declared because of the current situation with the coronavirus.

“I have called for a state of emergency and this does not mean a total lockdown but rather limiting certain activities and allowing the state to help those in need with swift procedures,” Haxhiu said.

Haxhiu also argued that Kosovo can conduct 700 – 1000 tests daily, “but that people leading the healthcare institutions must answer why this is not being done”. 

Europe’s Southeast grapples with COVID-19 resurgence (Balkan Insight)

The coronavirus has come back to bite the Balkans for a second time – putting health systems under fresh strain, after many governments prematurely lifted restrictions and declared the pandemic more or less over.

The Western Balkans, which weathered the start of the coronavirus pandemic relatively well, is grappling now with a spike in new cases and deaths that started in June and has turned it into a European “red zone” and prevented its citizens from entering the EU.

Montenegro, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina are particularly hard-hit and their health systems are challenged.

Only Luxembourg, with its large immigrant population, is above five countries from the region in terms of cases, according to the latest comparison of the 14-day average of new infections in 27 EU member states and six Western Balkan states compiled last week.

Montenegro, which in April claimed to be the first COVID-19-free country in Europe, has had around 240 cases per 100,000 inhabitants lately, followed by Kosovo, with 145, Bosnia and Herzegovina, with 96, North Macedonia, 94 and Serbia, 79. Albania is behind EU members Romania and Spain at 47.

The regional average of 97 new cases per 10,000 over two weeks is almost five times that of the EU 27, where the average is 20. The EU is unlikely to soon remove any of the countries in the region from the “red list” of countries for whose citizens it recommends a ban on entry until the situation improves.

Kosovo

Kosovo reported 469 coronavirus cases over the weekend and 8,799 since the beginning of the pandemic, while 249 patients have died. Nurses protested in Pristina on Monday, demanding their salaries be doubled to 36 euros per day, as health officials warned the system risks collapse.

Prime Minister Avdulah Hoti, who also tested positive to COVID-19 over the weekend, visited Pristina’s University Clinical Centre,, UCCK, last week, and expressed solidarity with health workers, and said the fight against the pandemic was a “national mission”.

“I know they [medics] are tired because they have been facing this situation for six months now. I am here today to show our appreciation for the work they are doing and hear their appreciation of the situation we are going through, the forecasts for the coming weeks and months, and the preparations we need to make in this regard. The situation is serious,” Hoti said.

Currently, 448 patients with coronavirus are being treated in the UCCK and in regional hospitals.

The government has banned all public gatherings, including private family parties, as well as the gatherings of more than five people in public squares, parks and others. Last week it ordered restaurants and bars to close after 10.30pm, which prompted many establishment owners to protest.

Over the weekend, police said they had arrested people who did not respect health measures, such as family gatherings with many people, in Gjakova/Djakovica, Rahovec/Orahovac and in Skenderaj/Srbica.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia reported 166 new cases on Monday. It has seen the number of cases rise four times since mid-June to close to 12,500. The number of deaths has doubled to some 340 over the same period.

The mainly Serbian entity, Republika Srpska, which roughly has half the population of the Federation entity, until June had more cases, with its main city of Banja Luka being the worst hotspot The Federation entity now has 6,800 cases.

The capital Sarajevo in particular has been hit hard. It has almost a fifth of all registered cases, 2,248, after going without new cases for several weeks in May and early June. Currently, 1,295 of these cases are active, and on Monday it reported 52 new infections, one of the lowest daily tallies for several weeks.

The Sarajevo Canton Public Health institute said the latest outbreak could be linked to imported cases from the Serbian region of Sandjak, with which many Bosniaks in Bosnia have family ties and suffered its own outbreak in June and July, and from smaller hotspots in Bosnia, such as the central town of Tesanj.

Citizens of Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro can still enter the country without restrictions. EU nationals and third-country citizens with a Schengen area visa can do so only with a negative COVID-19 test.

The Federation entity declared a state of epidemic two weeks ago, mandating the wearing of face masks and keeping social distancing and limiting public gatherings to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors. Republika Srpska on Monday extended similar measures until August 18.

Sebija Izetbegovic, head of the Sarajevo University Clinical Centre, KCUS, told the state public broadcaster, BHRT that citizens were not respecting health measures.

“More restrictive … measures will need to be introduced because citizens are not respecting the current measures; they don’t wear masks and that is the most dangerous. If we respect them, we can master this problem,” Izetbegovic said.

Montenegro

With 274 active cases for every 100,000 citizens, Montenegro has highest rate of infection in the region. The capital, Podgorica, is the city with the highest rate of infection in the country, followed by the towns of Rozaje, Niksic, Bar and Berane.

The National Coordination Body for Infectious Diseases has declared a state of epidemic in the country, banning public gatherings with more than 20 people indoors and 40 outdoors.

The Islamic community banned last week’s Eid prayers and called on Muslim believers to stay at home for the holiday. Wearing protective masks is mandatory while restaurants work only until midnight.

Despite the high rate of infection, the National Coordination Body for Infectious Diseases on Sunday shortened the mandatory period of self-isolation and quarantine from 21 to 14 days.

North Macedonia

The daily numbers of new infections in North Macedonia over the last month has been constantly high, ranging from 80 to 180, with no positive or negative trend in sight. On Monday, it reported 74 new COVID-19 infections and three deaths. The number of active cases now stands at 3,667. The death toll, so far, is 500.

Authorities insist that have kept the overall number of active cases relatively constant, between 3,500 and 4,000 people, which they say has kept the health system from collapsing.

A recent new worry came at the start of August, when tourists traditionally flock to the resorts at Lake Ohrid, even more so now, when options abroad are limited. While the authorities advised caution, media reported crowded beaches and pedestrian streets in the town of Ohrid, and of night clubs throwing massive parties where safety features were ignored.

Schools and kindergartens may not open in September because children are among the riskiest categories who can spread the virus, and it is practically impossible to keep them in masks for several hours, a Skopje-based epidemiologist, Dragan Danalilovski, said over the weekend, as the country mulls what to do about the new school year.

Serbia

Serbia reported 258 new cases on Monday, after 311 on Sunday, raising the overall number of cases to 26,451. As of Sunday it had 4,196 people in hospital and 146 on respirators.

Infectious disease specialist and Crisis Staff member Mijomir Pelemis said on Sunday that he was concerned about the number of patients in intensive care units.

“The biggest problem for us is that people who are admitted to hospitals have to go to intensive care. We have a high percentage of patients with a severe clinical picture, despite a reduced number of examinations,” Pelemis told the media.

On Monday, eight eight people died, meaning a death toll of 598 since March.

The number of the newly-infected has continued to rise since the June 21 parliamentary elections. The number of cases grew to over 100 daily towards the end of June and to over 300 at the start of July. The number has not dropped below 200 since, peaking at a record of 467 on July 27.

Authorities claim Belgrade is a hotspot, but there are no official data about all the places where new cases are discovered. Most cities in Serbia have declared an emergency situation, limiting the working hours of shops, restaurants and cafes. Since July 17, gatherings of more than 10 people have been forbidden and masks are mandatory in closed spaces.

Albania

Albania over the last three weeks averaged 100 new infections per day, while deaths average four daily, with Tirana, Shkodra and Durres as the main hotspots.

There are about 2,335 active cases across the country. Wearing a mask in closed spaces is currently obligatory while bars and restaurants are banned from airing music after 8pm, a measure aimed at sending people home. Nightclubs are not open and wedding parlours are closed, too.

Romania

Romania has seen a steady increase of cases since early June, and on July 22 reported over a thousand cases daily, double the maximum number of daily infections it reported in April, at what was then considered the peak of the pandemic.

Authorities have voiced concern over the numbers, alongside an equally worrying trend in the number of deaths. Officials in Bucharest are reporting more than 30 coronavirus-related deaths almost daily.

On Sunday, Romania reported 1,075 coronavirus cases and 34 new deaths, bringing the totals to 53,186 and 2,413, respectively.

The government largely attributes the spikes to the almost two weeks in which authorities could not mandatorily hospitalize patients who tested positive with COVID-19 or impose isolation on suspect cases – after the Constitutional Court on 25 June, citing technical deficiencies, scrapped legislation that allowed the government to do so. Over 4,000 people infected with coronavirus left hospitals or refused to be admitted and were left to circulate freely until the new law entered into force.

Romanian officials trust the numbers will get down once the effects of the new quarantine law take effect.

After Luxembourg, Romania has been the EU country with most new infections in the past two weeks, and tops the list of coronavirus-related deaths in the same period, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Turkey

Turkey, which reported 987 new cases and 18 deaths on Monday, is still on the Eid-al Adha holiday and many people have gone to other cities for holidays and family gatherings.

Experts warn that health measures are not being respected and say the virus is spreading to many other cities as tourism activity picks up.

“We may have some worrying results because of the lack of precautions in the holidays,” Health Minister FahrettinKoca said on Sunday when he confirmed the worrying situation in Turkish cities.

The total number of infections is 232,856, while 5,728 people have died.

Read the story: https://bit.ly/2Xr7jp4

Hyseni visits Washington, meets Matthew Palmer (media)

All media report that Kosovo’s State Coordinator for dialogue with Serbia, Skender Hyseni, has met Matthew Palmer, Deputy Assistant Secretary at U.S. Department of State Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs for the Western Balkans. Hyseni said they discussed the course of the EU-facilitated dialogue in Brussels and that Palmer said the U.S. supports the process of the dialogue.

“After I informed him about the course of the dialogue in Brussels so far, we had an open and extensive conversation with Mr. Palmer with the aim of coordinating and with the objective to have a new dynamic in dialogue to discuss without further delay and agree on the key issue – a comprehensive agreement on mutual recognition and normalisation between the Republic of Kosovo and Serbia,” Hyseni wrote in a Facebook post.

“Concluding that alongside the EU, the U.S. have an irreplaceable role in the process, I asked Mr. Palmer for a permanent active presence of the U.S. at the table of talks in Brussels”.

“After stressing that the U.S. appreciate the constructive engagement of the Government and all institutions of the Republic of Kosovo in the process, Mr. Palmer said the United States of America support the dialogue in Brussels and that the U.S. will be beside us throughout the process, while strongly supporting a fair, sustainable and comprehensive agreement.”

Gazeta Express notes that Hyseni travelled to Washington without informing the junior partners in the ruling coalition.

Hyseni reacts to his meeting with Pompeo reports (media)

Kosovo’s coordinator for dialogue with Serbia, Skender Hyseni, has reacted to media reports saying he was expected to meet the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo whilst in Washington but that the meeting did not come about.

“I am reading in the media that allegedly an ‘imaginary’ meeting of mine with Secretary Pompeo was refused. Something that was not requested has no way of being refused. Only an ignorant person or one with ill intentions can launch such speculations and untruths,” Hyseni wrote on social media.

Mitrovica municipality vows to correct memorial stone mistake (media)

The Municipality of Mitrovica has issued a statement after it emerged that a memorial stone erected in honour of people killed by a grenade attack at the green market in the city in March 1999 left out the name of a five-year-old Roma girl.

The Municipality said that based on the information it obtained from relevant institutions, the list of victims killed in the attack only included six people. It said the information went unchallenged for twenty years and although it refused to take responsibility for the name of the girl not being on the memorial stone, the Mitrovica municipality pledged to correct the mistake.

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