ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) – Croatia on Wednesday considered whether the border restrictions for the citizens of several other Balkan countries should be partially restored following a spike in coronavirus cases and an outbreak at an exhibition tennis tournament hosted by Novak Djokovic.
The Croatian crisis team has yet to decide whether it will impose stricter control and possibly 14 days of isolation on travelers entering Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro and North Macedonia, officials said.
The European Union country reported 30 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, including a dozen nuns in a monastery in a central region. Croatia has had 2,366 contamination cases, while 107 people died.
Dozens of new infections are reported daily in Serbia, Bosnia and other Balkan countries that have seen a spike following relaxation of anti-virus rules.
Tennis star Djokovic tested positive for the virus, along with three more players who took part in the charity tournament in the Croatian coastal town of Zadar. Dozens of people are still being tested in the city who have taken part or attended the event.
Among them was Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, who was criticized just days before a parliamentary vote on July 5 for not isolating himself after meeting Djokovic. Plenkovic has tested negative and says he only saw the Serbian player briefly.
“There has been no close contact. All epidemiologists have explained that. That topic has ended, “he told journalists on Wednesday, according to N1 television.
Croatia reopened its borders before summer tourism – the tourism sector is crucial to the country’s economy, which is among the weakest in the EU.
In Serbia, authorities made it mandatory to wear masks on public transport on Tuesday and reported 102 new cases. Closing measures in the country are loose and epidemiologists are facing public reactions for not responding before holding a national election last weekend that has strengthened the grip of ruling populists on power.
Djokovic’s charity Adria Tour opened in Serbia earlier this month, when thousands also attended football matches without respecting social distance rules or wearing masks. Serbia has had 13,092 cases of contamination and 263 deaths.
Epidemiologist Branislav Tiodorovic said that all gatherings pose a risk, including a football match scheduled for Wednesday.
“I expect citizens to realize that this is the last moment to take the situation seriously,” Tiodorovic told RTS television. “We don’t expect rigorous measures like curfew, but we need to raise awareness.”
The neighboring Bulgarian government ordered the state of emergency until July 15, without announcing any new restrictions, but tightening the existing one – wearing face masks indoors was restored earlier this week and the travel ban remains in place for most non-EU countries .
Health Minister Kiril Ananiev has said that the average daily number of infected people has increased nearly three times this month. The country of 7 million people reported 130 additional cases of the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, representing a record number of days in confirmed cases.
Figures released Wednesday showed a total of 4,114 cases with 208 deaths.
Romanian doctors have also called on citizens to respect anti-virus rules after seeing 300 cases daily in the past week. However, the country has no immediate plans to reintroduce lockdown measures.
Further south in Kosovo, the government has reluctantly warned that, following an increase in infections over the past three weeks, it needs to restore some economically damaging lockdown measures. Neighboring Albania still does not allow large gatherings, but cafes are full and people generally no longer stick to social distance measures.
Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia; Vadim Ghirda in Bucharest, Romania; Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania; and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this report.
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