Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Serbian authorities announce gradually easing of coronavirus-related restrictions starting April 21; curfew to be shortened.

This alert affects Serbia

This alert began 18 Apr 2020 23:40 GMT and is scheduled to expire 09 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Preventative restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Significant business and travel disruptions, increased security

Summary
Authorities in Serbia reportedly plan to begin gradually easing the existing restrictions related to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) following the nation's Orthodox Easter observance. Beginning April 21, the current weekday 1700-0500 curfew will be shortened by one hour to run 1800-0500. Moreover, retirees will be allowed to leave their homes for one half hour between 1800-0100 on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. It remains unclear what adjustments, if any, the government may make to the total weekend lockdowns, which have been beginning at 1700 each Friday and continuing until 0500 the following Monday; the country is currently under an extended lockdown for the Orthodox Easter weekend from 1700 April 17 through 0500 April 21. During curfew hours residents must remain inside their homes, except as otherwise authorized.

Additionally, President Aleksandar Vucic announced on April 18 that certain businesses, such as construction companies and automotive repair shops, will be able to open starting April 21, with more establishments being approved to reopen April 27. The president further projected that gyms, hairdressers, cosmetic studios and similar businesses will likely be allowed to open from May 4. He anticipated that hotels, shopping malls, intercity traffic, airports, cafes, and restaurants would reopen gradually between May 4-11.

Regardless, as of April 18, nonresident foreign nationals are indefinitely barred from entering Serbia, with the exception of foreign truck drivers transporting freight. All international commercial passenger flights remain suspended at Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport (BEG); the facility is open solely for domestic, humanitarian, and cargo flights. Other measures include:

  • A ban on unnecessary travel
  • Suspension of demonstrations or gatherings of any type, and public or private events of any kind (including cultural, sporting, recreational, or religious events)
  • Closure of nonessential businesses, gyms, museums, and cultural sites
  • Closure of all schools and suspension of classes and school activities, except distance learning classes and medical or healthcare training


Authorities could change the requirements and restrictions based on disease activity in the country.

Background and Analysis
It remains unclear at this juncture how realistic President Vicic's projections for reopening his nation's economy may be and whether he will be able to deliver on his statements in that regard. While officials within Serbia's Ministry of Health have observed an improving trend in disease activity, they caution that lifting of restrictions must take place "very, very gradually."

Serbia's travel restrictions and preventive measures are similar to actions other governments are taking in the region in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Heed all official advisories and remain nonconfrontational if stopped by authorities. Reconfirm all travel arrangements if traveling to, from or via Serbia. Shipping disruptions may occur; consider delaying or rerouting shipments. Consider delaying travel if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

Resources
Government of Serbia COVID-19 info: www.srbija.gov.rs/

World Health Organisation (WHO): www.who.int