June 11, 2020 - The Croatian National Civil Protection Headquarters is not responding to questions as to what epidemiological criteria they were using when they decided not to open the borders to the inhabitants of the only corona-free country in Europe; the Institute for Public Health (IPH) says that it is up to each individual country.
The fact that Croatia has not yet opened its borders to the citizens of Montenegro, and Germany does not recommend traveling to the only corona-free destination in Europe, is an internal issue for those countries.
Asked to comment on the decisions of those countries, i.e whether they were guided by epidemiological criteria, the Institute for Public Health (IPH) told "Vijesti" that it is the individual right of each country to define the conditions and countries to which it will open borders as part of easing measures.
"The position of most EU countries is that in the first instance they focus on easing measures within the Union itself, and after that towards other countries. Decisions on opening borders are an internal issue for every state and should be viewed as such,” replied the Institution headed by Boban Mugoša.
The Croatian National Civil Protection Headquarters, which decided to open their borders with 10 countries at the end of May, did not answer "Vijesti" even after a week as to whether and what epidemiological criteria were followed and why the citizens of Montenegro, which has declared the end of the epidemic and where there are no active cases of Covid-19, cannot travel to the neighbouring country.
Montenegro's borders opened for more than 130 countries on June 1st, including Croatia and Germany. Nationals of these countries can therefore come and stay in Montenegro without quarantine, self-isolation or a negative test for the new coronavirus.
The IPH proposed the decision on the basis of a number of criteria, the most significant being the number of active cases of Covid. The borders are open to countries that have up to 25 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
"Epidemiological assessment and analysis of the disease showed that the rate of active cases of 25 per 100,000 inhabitants indicates the level of local transmission, which represents an acceptable risk for unhindered movement and stays for the inhabitants of these countries in Montenegro," explained the IPH.
The measure concerning the stay in quarantine or self-isolation for 28 days has been amended: Mugoša Photo: Boris Pejović
Montenegro was the last European country to officially report the new coronavirus, and the first to declare no active cases. The first cases were discovered on 17th March, the epidemic was declared on 26th March, and the end declared on 2nd June.
324 patients were registered, while nine deaths were recorded.
According to the IPH, there are 30 "zero" patients, and 260 patients infected through contact with these, while in 34 people the source of the disease is unknown.
Has the Netherlands retaliated in kind?
"Vijesti" also asked IPH how they would comment on the fact that neither does the Netherlands does not recommend a trip to Montenegro. The institution referred to the official position of the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands from 1st May, which provides information on the current situation in Montenegro regarding the coronavirus, travel, as well as other useful information for their citizens.
"Here, the ban on entry for Dutch citizens to Montenegro is stated as the reason. Indeed, the latest version of the list of countries adopted by the National Coordination Body does not feature the Netherlands," the IPH replied.
The same institution referred also to the map published on the website of the Government of the Netherlands, on which Montenegro is shown in red, as a country to which travel is not recommended.
"The information on the map was updated on 23rd March, and is a consequence of the fact that the logistical aspects of Dutch tourist travel at the time the map was produced may have been complicated given the severity, dynamics and intensity of preventive measures and restrictions imposed during the previous period." the IPH pointed out.
The website of the Government of the Netherlands states that, given the new coronavirus, travel to Montenegro is not advised, given the risk, and that the measures taken by local authorities to fight the spread of Covid can change quickly.
It is also stated that protests against the expropriation of the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church by the Government of Montenegro have been ongoing since December 2019, and that citizens of the Netherlands are advised "to avoid crowds and demonstrations".
14 days of self-isolation now sufficient
The IPH amended the measures related to the period that citizens should spend in quarantine and self-isolation. Thousands of people in Montenegro spent 28 days in quarantine and self-isolation, and authorities now say the measure has been amended, as new studies suggest that 14 days of limited movement and follow-up upon return from the affected area is justified.
"Although seen in some cases in China, the extremely long incubation of the new coronavirus is more of a precedent than the rule. The current position of the World Health Organization and other public health authorities is that it is more a matter of repeated, undiagnosed exposure to the virus than a long incubation," the IPH replied.
The institution claims that such cases have not been identified in a statistically significant population, given that the number of epidemiologically confirmed cases has unfortunately increased significantly worldwide compared to at the beginning of events in China, due to the spread of the disease.
“Recent studies published, both in cases from China and in other countries, indicate that the incubation time varies significantly among patients, that it is very difficult to determine in many cases, and that the mean incubation time in most published studies is about five days. "In 97.5 percent of symptomatic cases, the symptoms appear within 12 days after exposure," the response reads.
No border opening for Serbian citizens this week?
On 5th June, the IPH added to the list of countries for which borders have been opened, which includes Malta, Cyprus and Ireland. Among the countries from which arrival and stay is allowed without the compulsory institutional quarantine, there is still no neighbouring Serbia.
In Serbia, there were only six active cases per 100,000 inhabitants last Saturday, which is ten times less than on Friday, when there were 64 per 100,000.
According to data published on covid19.rs, 4,052 people in Serbia had recovered from coronavirus in the 24 hour period.
The Assistant Director of the Institute for Public Health "Dr Milan Jovanović Batut", Darija Kisić Tepavčević, stated that the sudden jump in recoveries had nothing to do with non-medical reasons. She pointed out that the Crisis Medical Staff made a decision to ask for one, instead of two negative consecutive tests in asymptomatic patients, and that the monitoring period for the disease had been shortened for this group of patients.
The Prime Minister of Serbia, Ana Brnabić, welcomed the news that the conditions for opening the Montenegrin borders had been met.
However, the Montenegrin authorities are unlikely to allow Serbian citizens to enter and stay without a 14-day institutional quarantine before Friday.
At a session at the end of the week, the National Coordination Body decided last Friday to update and publish the list of countries with less than 25 active cases of coronavirus per 100,000 inhabitants from which entry to Montenegro is allowed without the mandatory institutional self-isolation. This means that Serbia could be on the IPH list by Friday, if the number of cases does not increase over 25 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
Forbes: Montenegro is safer than the United States and Russia
Montenegro is in 42nd place on the US magazine Forbes’ list of the safest countries in the current phase of the coronavirus pandemic, and is, along with several other Balkan countries, better placed than great world powers, such as the United States, Russia and Great Britain.
At the top of the list, based on a report from the organization "Deep Knowledge Group", is Switzerland, while at the moment the most dangerous country is Sudan. Of the countries in the region, Slovenia is the best placed, ranking 32nd.
The study points out that Switzerland and Germany are ranked first and second due to strong economies and caution when lifting restrictions.
Source: Vijesti Online, Ana Komatina