June 26, 2020 / 10:17 AM / a month ago

Montenegro reimposes restrictions after jump in COVID-19 cases

BELGRADE (Reuters) - A month after it declared itself coronavirus-free, Montenegro reintroduced restrictions late on Thursday, including a ban on sports events and outdoor political rallies, to try to contain an increase in new cases.

FILE PHOTO: People sit at a cafe terrace after Prime Minister Dusko Markovic declared the country the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)-free in Podgorica, Montenegro, May 25, 2020. REUTERS/Stevo Vasiljevic/File Photo

Neighbouring Serbia, which is much larger than Montenegro, said on Friday it would again dedicate some general hospitals to treating only COVID-19 patients following a spike in infections there in recent days.

The moves follow Croatia’s announcement on Wednesday that it would reintroduce a 14-day quarantine for visitors from four other Balkan countries including Serbia due to the regional resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

Montenegro, a tiny Adriatic nation of just 620,000 people and heavily reliant on tourism, had declared itself coronavirus-free, but has reported about 100 new cases in the past 10 days, bringing the total to 424, with nine deaths.

Its national body tasked with combating COVID-19 said it had banned religious gatherings outside places of worship, though indoor church services are still allowed.

“Funerals will be performed exclusively within family circles,” it added.

Authorities have also imposed a night-time curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m in two municipalities in northern Montenegro hardest hit by COVID-19.

Serbian authorities said they were reactivating some hospitals that had been adapted to treat COVID-19 patients in the early phase of the outbreak this spring.

Ivana Milosevic, deputy head of the Clinic for Tropical and Infectious Diseases in Belgrade, said “there’s not a spare bed” in its COVID-19 ward.

“As soon as one patient is discharged, another moves in... They are mainly young people and some are in intensive care,” she told state-run RTS TV on Friday.

Serbia which has a population of 7.2 million, recorded 137 new infections on Thursday, bringing its total confirmed cases to 13,372, with 264 deaths.

Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Gareth Jones

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