Following the suspension of all international travel, Serbian President Vucic calls on the nation to stay disciplined and vigilant against COVID-19. He announces a new set of stringent measures against the novel coronavirus.
Serbian President Vucic said today that Serbia has 103 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which means that the local transmission of coronavirus has already occurred. “What is important”, he said, “is to try to control the outbreak as much as we can”. He informed Serbia and the world that most of the patients in Serbia who have recovered from the coronavirus are young. 55 people are in hospitals and 6 people are in critical condition on respirators.
“We are expecting in the coming weeks a further increase of the number of infected”, he said.
President Vucic also said that only yesterday, 475 people died in the Italian cities of Bergamo, Brescia, Milano, and Cremona. Vucic said that, as a government, “we are trying to avoid such scenarios”. He added, “if we come into that situation, we won't be able to exit. This virus is invisible”.
“We do not want a situation like Italy where the doctors have to make decisions which patients to let die”, he added, and called on Serbians to act responsibly to protect themselves and others. From tomorrow, the Serbian government will suspend all transport by trains and buses from noon local time. This demonstrates the strong precautionary measures being taken by Serbia compared to other European states.
“Discipline is crucial”, the President said, reminding everyone that the goal is to protect all citizens, especially the elderly. In order to protect all over 65 years old, Serbia issued a 24-hour ban against leaving the house. “Please do not come out”, President Vucic told the elderly. The prohibition of movement that is currenly taking place from 8 pm to 5 am in the coming days will be expanded to more hours. “We tried to ask people not to come out but now we have to enforce more stringent measures”, the President explained. That is his logic behind the decision to prohibit the movements of people, especially the elderly in the time of the Coronavirus crisis.
President Vucic also said that he spoke with the grocery companies and clarified that they will offer “elderly-only” shopping two times per week from 4 am to 7 am. “Some Western countries are taking the idea from us”, he said and added that, “this is normal as we all are watching what others are doing”.
President Vucic announced that today Serbia will get 7 new respirators from Sweden and that on Saturday, 100 more are coming as a donation from China. Following his recent announcement that he was forced to buy respirators on a “semi-gray market”, he said that an additional 200 respirators are expected to arrive but that he cannot say “where and how I purchased them”.
“I will tell you only when money transactions go through and the planes take off from those territories”, he revealed during the Q&A.
President Vucic reasserted his commitment to secure at least 1000 respirators to be available for coronavirus patients. He mentioned that Republika Srpska (part of Bosnia and Herzegovina) has an exceedingly small number of respirators.
As for testing, the Serbian President said that they have enough tests and will give them to other countries in the region as an act of solidarity.
He also referenced concerns about masks by announcing that as of next week there will be 6 million masks readily available for citizens. Vucic revealed that Serbian prisoners are helping with the production of masks and that he will consider releasing those with lighter sentences earlier from the prison, however “pedophiles, rapists and those convicted for high crimes and misdemeanors should not count on any of that”.
The Serbian President said it is of the utmost importance for the full isolation to continue. “Ideally, 21-day isolations, instead of 14 days isolation, would work best to contain the virus”, he said.
“Everything depends on us”, President Vucic told the nation.
“From tomorrow at 8 am, all borders will be closed, and no one will be able to enter the Serbian territory”, he announced. These measures the government is taking are due to the inability of Serbia to cope with a sudden influx of 71,180 Serbian citizens from Germany, Austria, Italy, and France in the last three days.
Those who entered Serbia already had to stay in a 14-day mandatory self-isolation, but it looks like not everyone followed the rule. Vucic said that the government can trace the number of Italian phone numbers present in the Serbian communications networks and there is a substantial number of people on the move.
“Before anyone goes on to say how we are listening to people’s phones we are not doing that”, he insisted.
“Don't try to trick us by leaving phones at home as we found another way to trace you”, he warned those in mandatory quarantine.
“I do not care who is going to call me a dictator, but my job is to protect the people and I will do so at any price necessary”, President Vucic said later during the Q&A session of the press conference.
There has been a rumor circulating on the internet that Serbia is running out of oil and gas. Vucic addressed this news on his initiative and said that this is “fake news” and that Serbia has enough gas and oil.
“Do not react to fake news and do not react to disinformation. We don’t have any problems with oil, and we will even allow export to other countries”, he said.
“This virus is crashing world economies”, the President said, adding that the Serbian government is doing “as much as they can” to manage the crisis. He announced that the doctors and nurses will have a 10% salary increase and that the government will fully pay pensions for retired people. President Vucic appealed to the private sector not to lay off people and said that the government will do everything they can to help.
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