PRISTINA -- Authorities in Kosovo have announced restrictions on movement in the capital, Pristina, and three other cities after a dramatic increase in both new cases of coronavirus infections and deaths in the country.
Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti said July 5 that the country is dealing with a “new situation” and therefore will restrict movement from 9 p.m. (2000 GMT) to 5 a.m. in Pristina as well as Ferizaj, Vushtrri, and Prizren. The restrictions will take effect on July 6, he said on Facebook.
The government also said restaurants and bars throughout Kosovo will have to observe new measures requiring early closures and limiting service to terraces and other open-air spaces.
The number of workers at all institutions will be limited to only those essential to run the operations, and health institutions also will be required to postpone all elective medical services.
The new measures are expected to take effect if approved by the government in a vote taking place electronically late on July 5.
"We are doing our best to manage the situation," Hoti said, adding that he won’t hesitate to declare a state of emergency if health professionals suggest it.
Speaking at a news conference, Hoti also said citizens will be continuously informed about the situation and from the Infectious Diseases Clinic to dispel any doubts about the existence of the coronavirus.
"Based on estimates, 30 percent of Kosovo citizens do not believe that COVID-19 is real,” he said.
Health Minister Armend Zemaj warned against “hysterical reactions” in a comment he posted on Facebook.
"We currently have the potential to face the virus. We must behave according to the recommendations of competent medical professionals," Zemaj said. "Those who are trying to exploit this situation by creating fog, to cause sabotage in our work, are wrong and only deliberately endanger the health of citizens."
The new measures come after Kosovo health institutions reported 17 deaths over the past 48 hours. Kosovo also recorded more than 300 new COVID-19 infections over the weekend. The new figures bring the total number of COVID-19 cases in Kosovo to 3,508, with 75 confirmed deaths.
Health officials have said the number of patients requiring acute treatment for COVID-19 has increased significantly in recent weeks.
Hoti told journalists that there is a plan to make beds available for COVID-19 patients and purchase more testing devices so the capacity can be increased to 500 tests per day, up from the current 200-350 tests daily.
The president of the Health Workers' Union, Blerim Syla, said Kosovo is also dealing with a shortage of health-care workers and said those on the job are overworked.