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Coronavirus: Greece bans Serbian visitors as cases rise in Balkans

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Image source, Getty Images


Serbian authorities have reinstated restrictions in several cities, including Belgrade

Greece has banned all but essential travel from Serbia as the number of infections steadily rises in the Balkan country.

For a week starting Monday morning, all entry points are closed to Serbian travelers, Greek officials said.

It comes days after Serbian authorities reimposed lockdown restrictions in the capital Belgrade.

Over the past 24 hours, another 302 infections were reported in Serbia, with a total of more than 16,000 cases and a death toll of 311.

In May, around 50 new cases were reported daily.

But there has recently been a significant increase in the number of cases in the Balkans.

Montenegro recorded a record daily increase in infections on Sunday, while Kosovo reinstated a nighttime curfew in the capital Pristina as cases rise.

Meanwhile, Belgium has not opened its borders to any of the 15 countries on the EU list.

What is happening in Serbia?

Authorities declared a state of emergency in several major cities in Serbia, including Belgrade, Kragujevac and Novi Pazar.

Gatherings are restricted, opening hours of cafes and restaurants have been shortened, sporting events are banned and masks are mandatory on public transport and in indoor public spaces.

Image source, Getty Images


Soldiers set up field hospitals across Serbia, including in Novi Pazar

Novi Pazar is particularly hard hit, with local media reporting a lack of medical equipment, allegations that authorities have denied. Prime Minister Ana Brnabic was booed during a visit to the city last week.

After imposing one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe in March, Serbia lifted its national restrictions in May. Since then, the country has held football matches with spectators, religious festivals and even legislative elections in June.

But cases have increased significantly since then. Last week, a number of senior members of the ruling coalition tested positive for Covid-19 after attending an election victory party.

President Aleksandar Vucic criticized the article on Thursday, saying their data was “not authentic.”

Residents of Western Balkan countries are counting on open borders, after long weeks of enduring some of the strictest lockdown measures in Europe. Instead, they find themselves victims of EU countries’ discretionary border policies.

Both Serbia and Montenegro were on the EU’s list of 15 “safe” countries. But the majority of the bloc’s 27 member states decided to ban entry – or allow it only with restrictions.

This morning, Greece became the latest country to show the Serbs the red light. It’s a particularly hard blow for residents of a landlocked country who decamp in large numbers to Greek beaches every summer.

Slovenia has even tightened restrictions on arrivals from neighboring Croatia. This partly explains the need to prevent the entry of people from countries further south on the Balkan Peninsula.

Most countries in the region have reported an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent weeks – and several have broken their previous records for the daily number of new cases.

But at the moment the numbers are far from the record levels seen in countries like the UK, US and Sweden. So when Serbs see photos of British tourists sunbathing on Adriatic beaches, it would be understandable if they harbor a sense of injustice.

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