March 18, 2020 / 5:21 PM / in 11 days

North Macedonia declares state of emergency over coronavirus outbreak

SKOPJE (Reuters) - North Macedonia has declared a state of emergency as it tries to contain the coronavirus, President Stevo Pendarovski said on Wednesday after meeting top government and health officials.

The state of emergency is initially set to last 30 days but can be extended, Pendarovski said.

It allows the government to adopt and enforce decrees to counter the disease in the absence of parliament which was disbanded before an election that had been due on April 12 but has now been canceled.

It is the first state of emergency in the landlocked Balkan country, which has reported 35 coronavirus cases, since it peacefully split from the now-defunct Yugoslavia in 1991.

“The fact that for the first time since independence we are imposing a state of emergency shows the complexity of the situation in which we have found ourselves and how big a risk this is for all of us,” Pendarovski said.

He gave no details of what measures the government might introduce under the state of emergency.

North Macedonia has already introduced an array of measures to curb the spread of the virus, including a ban on public gatherings and on the entry of foreign nationals. It has also closed most border crossings.

Reporting by Kole Casule, Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Timothy Heritage

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