Illustration: BIRN.

New coronavirus cases rise sharply

While the new government continues to lift measures easing Kosovo out of lockdown, the number of recorded new cases of coronavirus spiked over the weekend, hitting levels not seen since April.

Over the weekend, 76 new cases of coronavirus were recorded in Kosovo by the National Institute of Public Health, with 36 tests resulting positive on Saturday and 40 on Sunday. Of the positive tests, 32 were recorded in the Municipality of Vushtrri, while there were also 10 new cases recorded in Prishtina.

The numbers represent the highest increase in new cases since April, while Sunday’s total of 40 new registered cases is the third highest in a 24 hour period since the outbreak began in March. The number of active cases of coronavirus in Kosovo, which had dropped to below 200, now stands at 313. 

Speaking to a press conference on Sunday night, Naser Ramadani, the head of the National Institute of Public Health, explained the rise in cases as a result of the opening of the economy, the Eid-al-Fitr public holiday and “the non-implementation of measures.”  

Ramadani expressed confidence in Kosovo’s ability to continue to handle the virus effectively, but urged citizens to follow health guidelines. “If we do not adhere to these simple recommendations: keeping distance, putting on a mask and maintaining personal hygiene, we can regress,” said Ramadani, adding that “masks are a necessity and should definitely be worn.”

New health minister Armend Zemaj reiterated Ramadani’s appeals to follow the guidelines, adding that inspections to ensure measures are being adhered to would increase in intensity. 

“The situation needs to change. The virus is still present,” Zemaj told a press conference. “Do not trust statements made due to ulterior motives, trust the health professionals.” However, the minister insisted that no additional measures were required.

At a meeting earlier on Sunday, the new government led by Avdullah Hoti lifted two measures enacted by the previous cabinet, the 21:00 curfew and the requirement to self-isolate for seven days upon entry to Kosovo. 

The requirement for self-isolation is set to be replaced by a detailed medical check-up at the border according to Zemaj, who stressed that the change in policy came as a result of recommendations from the National Institute of Public Health and the WHO.

The government has also announced the drafting of a ‘COVID-19 protection manual,’ which will be approved by the Ministry of Health by June 12. Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti has stated that 200 health specialists will also be recruited to implement the measures that will be outlined in the manual.

Meanwhile, Arban Abrashi, the new Minister of Infrastructure, announced on Sunday that the ministry was intensifying efforts to open Prishtina International Airport for international flights “as soon as possible,” with a date to be announced soon.

Albulena Haxhiu, who served as Minister of Justice in the previous cabinet, has criticised the new government’s approach, calling for more prudent decision making. “The ‘strategy’ of the illegitimate government to rush and open everything and remove any restrictions, poses a great danger and overturns every achievement so far!” Haxhiu stated.

Addressing the 10 new cases in the municipality, Shpend Ahmeti, the mayor of Prishtina, stated that “irresponsibility of individuals” and a “negligent approach to risk” had caused the trouble. He added that two important lessons learned were “not to hide the disease from others” or “dismiss the virus as trivial,” warning that further measures would be announced by the Municipality of Prishtina on Monday.

Valbon Krasniqi, the Head of the Infectious Disease Clinic, also called for responsibility from citizens in fighting the virus. “All of  us together, citizens, health professionals and institutions, must be responsible for our actions,” Krasniqi stated. “What can we do as citizens? At least wear masks. Normal life should go on, but keep masks on and maintain physical distance. This is the least you can do to protect your health.”

08/06/2020 - 09:40

08 June 2020 - 09:40

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.