June 2, 2020 - After two and a half months of fighting COVID-19 and 28 days since the last recorded case of coronavirus infection, the Institute of Public Health (IJZ) declared today the end of the epidemic in Montenegro. The IJZ also approved the opening of Montenegro's borders to citizens of 132 countries with less than 25 active cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
End of COVID-19 epidemic, but not risk, remarks by Senad Begic
The IJZ's assistant director, Senad Begic, explained this morning on public television that by medical standards, Montenegro is no longer under epidemic conditions, but that this in practice meant nothing. Begic said declaring the end of the epidemic changed little on the field, as the risk of new coronavirus cases continued and that this was a new reality being faced by the entire planet. Begic said the first wave of the virus had formally ended but that all of the preventive measures of the Ministry of Health as well as the recommendations of the IJZ – particularly physical distancing, hand washing and the wearing of masks – remained in effect and would remain in effect for some time. Begic said testing continued, as well as efforts to prevent the emergence of new COVID-19 cases.
Rakocevic: Imported COVID-19 cases a certainty, we must not relax
The director of the Centre for the Control and Prevention of Infectious Diseases, Bozidarka Rakocevic, said doctors were worried about the opening of Montenegro's borders and that imported COVID-19 cases could be expected, but that this was a risk all countries were ready to take. Rakocevic warned that it was not time to relax and called on citizens to observe all recommendations and avoid traveling if ill. Rakocevic said proposals had been distributed to all hotels and that every hotel would be staffed with a person in charge of guests' health. She said that guests who are accommodated in private apartments would receive instructions in case of symptoms to protect themselves and everyone around them. Rakocevic said Montenegro would not require testing or temperature checks as the reliability of the results was debatable at an outdoor temperature of 40 degrees.
The airports in Podgorica and Tivat opened as of yesterday to citizens from countries on Montenegro's safe list. Travelers from these countries will not be required to quarantine upon entry.
As of yesterday, Bosnia-Herzegovina's borders were open to citizens of Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro without restrictions or special conditions. Due to specific regulations, Bosnia's airports in Sarajevo, Tuzla, and Mostar are now open for interstate traffic.
On Monday morning, tourism workers welcomed the first European guests after Montenegro opened its borders on Sunday at midnight to citizens from greenlighted countries. The government announced that three couples were among the first guests to cross into Montenegro at the Debeli Brijeg border checkpoint and that they will be staying in Herceg Novi, Tivat, and Ulcinj. The tourists said they passed through the checkpoints very easily and quickly, "They just looked at our documents and immediately let us through," they said. The airports in Podgorica and Tivat are also open to citizens from safe-listed countries as of yesterday, Airports of Montenegro announced.
Voucher or cash, agreement with guests
Travel agencies will issue vouchers to consumers whose travel arrangements were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Consumers will be able to choose when to redeem their coupons, up to a designated deadline. An amendment to the tourism and hospitality law currently in parliamentary procedure stipulates that if a consumer does not use the voucher by the end of the following year, he has the right to terminate the contract with the agency, which must return any money paid within two weeks. Rade Ratkovic, the dean of the Faculty of Business and Tourism in Budva, says agencies should come to agreements with customers on the use of vouchers, if this option is not specified in their contracts and if the customer is in favor of this.
Up to €200m in loans to the economy?
To stimulate credit activity, it is planned that the government provides around €150m to €200m through the third state support package to mitigate the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Of that amount, most of the more affordable money would be directed to the economy through commercial banks, and €50m would be placed through the state Investment Development Fund. Vijesti learns this unofficially from several sources in the executive power and the banking sector, though the figures are not final. The Ministry of Finance, headed by Darko Radunovic, is developing a model according to which everything would be implemented. Economy Minister Dragica Sekulic says that the government paid €16.305m based on salary subsidies in April. A total of 15,030 business entities submitted applications for support, which were paid to 14,460 companies and 61,402 workers. She adds that 527 requests for subsidies were rejected.
Montenegro as a corona-free country has precious advantage
The director of a Brussels-based tourism promotion company, Antonio Buscardini, says the tourism economy in Europe will be significantly changed ahead of and that countries must adapt to the new circumstances. Buscardini, whose travelogues on Montenegro have been broadcast in many European countries, says Montenegro has a unique opportunity in being recognized as the first corona-free destination and that Montenegrin tourism campaigns should not focus only on Budva. He believes imported cases are a reality and that health screenings should be carried out at Montenegro's airports.
This brief is kindly prepared for you by Arhimed & Represent Communications.