Severity: Warning Alert

Exit/Entry: Authorities in Serbia introduce localized states of emergency to combat outbreaks of COVID-19 July 1.

  • Alert Begins: 01 Jul 2020 03:15 PM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 08 Jul 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Business and travel disruptions

Local authorities in Serbia have declared states of emergency in several urban centers July 1 in response to sharp upticks in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection rates. The affected locations include Kragujevac, Vranje, Novi Pazar, and Tutin. Although individual measures may vary, authorities will likely impose restrictions in order to stem the spread of COVID-19 including ordering local residents to remain indoors unless making an essential trip. Authorities have also introduced special measures to combat COVID-19 in Belgrade and Uzice. Protective face coverings are mandatory outdoors and in public indoor spaces, such as shopping malls and public offices, in Belgrade and Uzice.

National authorities previously tightened COVID-19 restrictions June 24 due to the worsening epidemiological situation in the country. Facemasks are mandatory on public transport and are recommended in closed spaces, particularly shops, shopping centers, banks, post offices, and public institutions. Authorities have banned hospital visits. Health authorities also recommend an increased social distance of 1.5 meters (5 feet) between persons from different households.

Authorities only maintain a few other COVID-19 preventive measures. Persons who test positive for COVID-19 but do not display symptoms must self-isolate for 14 days; they are not required to stay in hospital. Public spaces remain closed, including botanical gardens and zoos. Schools and universities remain closed indefinitely.

Since a state of emergency was lifted May 6, authorities have lifted numerous COVID-19 measures. Most nonessential businesses are permitted to resume operations, including shopping malls, gyms, and restaurants, provided they follow strict hygiene requirements. Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport (BEG) has reopened for commercial flights, and limited domestic and international flights have resumed. Protective masks are mandatory for all flights. Travelers to Serbia are no longer required to produce a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter the country. Public transport has resumed in major cities. Intercity road and rail travel has resumed. Kindergartens have reopened. Restrictions on outdoor gatherings have been lifted; however, indoor gatherings may not exceed 500 persons.

All restrictions are subject to amendment at short notice in response to government reviews and may receive updates or extensions in the coming days.

Background and Analysis
While Serbia has previously taken steps to ease COVID-19 restrictions, authorities have warned that restrictive measures could be reintroduced if disease activity in the country increases. Mandatory social distancing measures and use of facemasks in public places and on public transport, as well as widespread voluntary “self-policing” by residents, will assist in reducing the potential for contagion, negating the necessity for a large-scale, blanket reintroduction of significant restrictions.

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.

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.

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