Albanians begin life under daily curfew as coronavirus cases rise

TIRANA (Reuters) - Albanians began life under a 16-hour daily curfew on Monday, as tough measures came into force to limit the spread of the coronavirus that has killed four people and infected 104.

Much of the weekend was also spent under curfew - from Saturday afternoon to early on Monday morning - and while most people abided by the restrictions, a handful did not.

Prime Minister Edi Rama pleaded with people not to break the curfew, branding those who did “traitors” who could be responsible for the death of others. He warned that they would be punished.

On Monday, authorities confirmed two deaths from the disease associated with the coronavirus and 15 new cases. Five people who had the virus recovered.

Since the first case was identified in early March, Albania has forbidden internal travel, suspended sea, air and land movement to neighboring nations except for goods and shut bars, restaurants, schools, mosques, churches, all sports and large gatherings.

People are allowed to shop and go to work from 5 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) until 1 p.m. (1200 GMT), after which police and the army start enforcing the curfew.

Across Albania on the weekend, police fined 278 people for defying the ban, as well as 20 drivers and three bars.

Most Albanians appeared to be keeping a distance from each other in queues outside supermarkets in the capital, Tirana, on Monday.

In the evening, police made several announcements on state and private TV channels urging pensioners not to go to collect state benefits unless they were authorized to do so. They also asked families to limit the number of people who go shopping.

The government decided to send home prisoners aged over 60, those who had less than three years left to serve or inmates suffered from life-threatening conditions.

Reporting by Benet Koleka; Editing by Mike Collett-White