Photo: BIRN.

New measures enter into force as virus numbers spike

An expansion of capacities in Kosovo’s hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients and a curfew in four cities have been put in place as the number of deaths and confirmed cases of coronavirus soared over the weekend.

New measures to tackle the coronavirus outbreak have entered into force following a virtual meeting of the Kosovo Government on Sunday. 

A reorganization of the health service to provide more beds for patients suffering from COVID-19 has been envisioned, as well as the licensing of private institutions to provide testing. Meanwhile, a city-wide curfew has been put in place in Prishtina, Prizren, Ferizaj and Vushtrri between 21:00 and 05:00. This curfew will also apply to all cafes and restaurants across the country.

Over the weekend, statistics provided by the National Institute of Public Health showed a huge increase in the number of patients testing positive for the virus, with 330 positive results on Saturday and Sunday from a total of 670 tests conducted. The Institute reports that there are now 1,531 active cases in Kosovo.

The number of patients that have died after testing positive for coronavirus also rose sharply. The Ministry of Health reported that eight patients died in Kosovo’s hospitals on Saturday, while nine are reported to have died on Sunday. The previous highest daily total was three. 75 people have now reported to have died in Kosovo after testing positive for the virus.

The new measures aim to expand capacities for treating patients suffering from COVID-19 by allocating additional bed spaces in regional hospitals and private health institutions. On Friday, it was reported that the country’s largest hospital, the University Clinical Centre of Kosovo in Prishtina, was treating 141 patients with COVID-19.

Health care staff will also be reorganised to cover for workers affected by coronavirus, and provide more capacity for institutions on the frontline of the battle with COVID-19. It was reported on Saturday that 13 health care staff had been infected over the last week, resulting in the self-isolation of around 50 health workers, reducing capacities further.

In terms of testing, the government has indicated that it will create new testing capacities in the region, begin licensing private institutions to perform tests and prioritise “the most needy.” The Ministry of Health has also been obliged to allocate the necessary budget for the purchase of 100,000 tests.

A curfew between 21:00 and 05:00 has been reinstated in Prishtina, Prizren, Ferizaj and Vushtrri, with Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti stating on Sunday that more municipalities may be subject to a curfew depending on the situation.

Bars, restaurants and cafes across the country are also prohibited to operate between 21:00 and 05:00, and operation in the day can only occur outside, with social distancing of 1.5 metres between customers. Both private and public institutions have been encouraged to operate only with necessary staff, while public transport operators have been ordered to operate at half capacity. 

Prishtina Mayor Shpend Ahmeti criticised the short notice provided to the municipalities entering into curfew, claiming he was not given advanced warning. Meanwhile, Vetevendosje MP and Deputy Speaker of the Assembly Arberie Nagavci described the situation with COVID-19 in Kosovo as being “out of control” on Sunday evening.

“The Government is failing to take care of public health and to protect the lives of citizens as an absolute right,” she stated.

However, Minister of Health Armend Zemaj said on Sunday that Kosovo has the ability to cope with the virus, calling for people to be unified. “There is no need for hysterical reactions, especially from political bodyguards who are trying to interfere with our work and the work of doctors,” said Zemaj.

On Monday, the National Institute of Public Health urged citizens to respect the measures to help tackle the virus. 

“If we do not follow the recommendations, we are obliged to continue with these measures!” the Institute said in a statement. “Please be careful because there is still a risk of spreading to places where there are large crowds. The virus has no legs, so do not give it your feet because you will endanger everyone, especially your relatives!”

06/07/2020 - 10:19

06 July 2020 - 10:19

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.