From ‘corona free’ state to largest number of COVID-19 cases in SEE

By , 18 Jul 2020, 22:22 PM News
From ‘corona free’ state to largest number of COVID-19 cases in SEE Illustration, Source: Radio Tivat

July 18, 2020 - A large number of people infected with the coronavirus in Montenegro have no symptoms, and that is why the COVID-19 disease quickly spreads to a significant amount of contacts, the Assistant Director of the Institute of Public Health, Senad Begić, told Radio Free Europe (RSE).

Montenegro was the last country in Europe to register the first case of COVID-19 (March 17) and the first in which no evidence of infection was registered for 28 consecutive days (two incubation cycles). That is why the end of the epidemic was declared in the country on June 2.

In that period (March 17 - May 4), 324 COVID-19 cases were registered, of which nine people died.

When asked why Montenegro went from a "corona free" country to the country of the Western Balkans with the most significant number of infected per 100,000 inhabitants, Begić believes that the key reason is that everyone, together as a society, relaxed.

"The import of the virus could not be avoided, and it was clear to everyone. As long as it is anywhere in the world, there are no protected and safe countries or territories," said Begić.

The main problem mostly lies in the virus characteristics. Above all, a vast number of infected people, those who are ready and able to pass the infection on, most have no symptoms.

"At the time when we identified the first cases, the situation on the ground was such that, thanks to that asymptomatic nature, they spread the disease to a relatively large number of contacts. Everything we register now and everything we see now is a consequence of behavior and events that took place a few weeks ago," concludes Begić.

Due to the increase in the number of infected people, the European Union removed Montenegro from the list of safe countries to which travel is allowed, due to the negative epidemiological situation. As announced from Brussels, this is a recommendation that is not binding for EU members.

When it comes to the region, 14-day self-isolation is prescribed for Montenegrin citizens entering Serbia. It is possible to enter North Macedonia and Kosovo with a negative test for Covid-19. Citizens of Montenegro can enter Bosnia and Herzegovina without restrictions.

Montenegrin citizens must register a negative test when entering Croatia, or they will have to undergo mandatory self-isolation or fourteen-day quarantine.

Strict measures accompanied the first cycle of the disease in Montenegro. All educational institutions, restaurants, fitness, and shopping centers were closed. Restrictions were in place regarding leaving the home, and it was forbidden to gather as more than two people on the street or in a car. Intercity traffic was also abolished. The most extreme example was the quarantine of Tuzi's municipality, near Podgorica, after 15 cases of infection were discovered in one day.

The second cycle of the disease, although with a much higher number of infections, is not accompanied by strict measures. Current measures include keeping a physical distance, a mask indoors (in Podgorica, a face cover is also mandatory in the open air from July 17), and appeals by the National Coordination Body (NKT) for enhanced hygiene. The NKT says that people are now going out to work, "because the economy also defends public health."

Due to the worsening of the epidemiological situation, the manner of holding parliamentary and municipal elections in four Montenegrin municipalities, scheduled for August 30, is also being questioned.

Source: Radio Free Europe

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