August 6, 2020 - Montenegrin seafarers are facing a severe problem in the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic. As of very recently, if they are preparing to board a ship in a foreign port, they cannot do a PCR test in country, which their employers consider valid only if they are between 24 and 48 hours old, writes Pobjeda.
The Institute of Public Health is now conducting PCR testing according to epidemiological criteria, and seafarers are not among the priority groups.
According to Nenad Lazovic, long-voyage captain and President of the Association of Seafarers' Employment Agencies, the Institute tested sailors until recently. And yet, they have been told that since the new wave of the epidemic, they are not a priority when it comes to epidemiological and health situations.
"The Institute has always worked for free because by its nature it cannot charge for tests. Croatia is organized differently; they have left the responsibility to health centers, which have had the right to charge for sampling. In our country it has been done differently. In March, April and May, that is, until the epidemic progressed again, we (seafarers) could be tested in Montenegro. We then received the official notification from the Institute of Public Health that we are not a priority testing group. Not only could we not even pay, but we could no longer also make an appointment. People were chosen according to their health priorities, that's what the profession says," Lazović explained to Pobjeda.
In practice since then, seafarers have been left to themselves and, adds Lazović, they have been left to their own devices to look for a laboratory in which to perform a test.
He points out that there were no problems while Croatia's border was open and that the only disputed number was the number of people who could receive sampling there.
"Our seafarers also went to Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the problem is, among other things, that they needed a test again when they returned to Montenegro. Since the closure of the Croatian border, the company "Marin Med Montenegro" has appeared, which performs sampling on the PCR test in the cross-border area between Montenegro and Croatia at the Karasovići Border Crossing. The agency does not recommend our seafarers to take a test in the cross-border region because we have not received a notification from any institution that it is legal, that is, approved," added Lazović.
The price of the standard PCR test performed by "Marin Med" is 350 euros, for a 48-hour turnaround, while the express test, which is ready in 26 hours, costs 400 euros.
It is not clear to the seafarers why the sample is not taken in Kotor, where this company also has offices, but in the cross-border area between Montenegro and Croatia.
Lazović says that they have information that sampling is done on weekdays from 7 pm, but he also points out that the prices for sampling on weekends go up to 450 euros.
He emphasizes that they believe that it is inappropriate in this situation, especially, he adds when you take into account that Croatia has lowered the prices of tests in all institutions by up to 60 percent.
According to Lazović, his association also wrote to the National Coordination Body for Infectious Diseases, the Institute of Public Health, the Ministry of Transport and Maritime Affairs and the Ministry of Health, but as yet they have had no reply.
It is clear to them, he says, that the state has priorities in epidemiological terms. Still, it is not clear to them that they could not find a way to do 20 to 25 samples a day for Montenegrin seafarers, which would solve major problems and allow them to travel.
According to the company "Marin Med Montenegro" in Kotor, they do not carry out testing in Kotor itself; this is carried out by their sister company from Dubrovnik, reports Pobjeda.
Pobjeda is awaiting answers from NKT, the Institute of Public Health, and the Ministry of Transport on how the problem faced by our seafarers will be solved.