Home Articles COVID-19 – Management of Pandemic in Kosovo

COVID-19 – Management of Pandemic in Kosovo

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The first cases of COVID-19 in Kosovo were registered on the 13th March at a press conference held by Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Minister of Health Arben Vitia and Director of the National Institute of Public Health Naser Ramadani. At that time, there have been confirmed the first two positive cases with COVID-19 in the country (Office of the Prime Minister, 2020). Since then, the number of positive cases in Kosovo has increased. Like other governments, Kosovo’s institutions responded to this public health emergency by imposing a series of preventive measures. On the 13th March, the Kosovo government set curfews and imposed restrictions on rallies. President Hashim Thaqi sent the decision to the Constitutional Court for interpretation, calling the decision ´unconstitutional´ (Sokoli, 2020). At a press conference, he addressed citizens, police and security authorities that they are not obliged to respect the government’s decision, stating that a state of emergency must be declared. Such a situation would give him considerable power (Sokoli, 2020). His statement was disturbing because it was an invitation to disobedience and some opinion leaders saw it as an attempt for a coup. At the same time, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Government’s decision taken on 13th March is not in accordance with the Constitution of Kosovo (Berisha, 2020). But the Court has postponed the entry into force until the 13th April, considering the possible punishment for public health that could be caused by the immediate strengthening of restrictions in the current state of pandemic (Sokoli, 2020). The number of cases in the country was increasing and on the 13th April, 79 new positive cases were confirmed. The Ministry of Health introduced new measures taken to prevent the spread of pandemics. The acting Minister of Health, Arben Vitia, stated that the new measures will take effect from 15th April until 4th May (Shehu, 2020). Measures were taken: “For natural persons, for those over 16 years of age, the circulation is allowed for the supply of essential goods such as food, medicines for people, animals or poultry and hygienic products, as well as to realize financial obligations such as payments or banking, but only one and a half hours a day according to the set daily schedule based on the penultimate digit of their personal number in the notification permits,” as stated Vitia, (Shehu, 2020). The political parties in the Kosovo parliament reacted to this considering that the measures taken are unconstitutional.

During the time that Kosovo was facing the highest numbers of positive cases, the cities and villages that had the most cases were quarantined as Prishtina, Malisheva, Ferizaj, North Mitrovica and Zveqani. Circulation in these cities was controlled by the Police and the observance of measures taken by the country’s institutions.

On the 9th March, Pristina Airport announced that all flights from Northern Italy had been suspended and vice versa, according to ANP spokeswoman Valentina Gara, the suspension was taken following a decision by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment (Telegrafi, 2020). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Diaspora and the Ministry of Health decided that every citizen who enters the Republic of Kosovo through the International Airport or land borders, will be sent to quarantine for 14 days (Ministry of Labor external, 2020). In order to help different social categories, business workers in case of reduced work intensity or their closure, the Government of Kosovo approved already in March, an emergency package proposed by the Minister of Finance and Transfers, Besnik Bislmi (Sulaj, 2020). This package includes double payment of the value of the social scheme for all beneficiaries of social schemes for April and May. The package is in the amount of up to EUR 7 million and 650 thousand, including the payment of March. Financial support is also provided for companies that are in financial difficulties, businesses will be helped by subsidizing rent by up to 50 per cent for small and medium enterprises for April and May. Employees will have an additional salary of EUR 300 for those who are on the ground and who are directly exposed to the risk of infection in their work (not all staff of the institution). Employees of grocery stores, bakeries and pharmacies will be given an additional payment of EUR 100 for these two months, while workers who lose their jobs due to the emergency situation will receive a monthly payment of EUR 130, for April, May and June (Sulaj, 2020). According to the Ministry of Finance and Transfers, this fund also includes the media (Telegarfi, 2020). The chairman of the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce, Beart Rukiqi, however, stated that the Government has been delayed with the Emergency Package to help businesses, he stressed that there will be delays in the Package of Economic Recovery. „There are many delays, procedures and some ambiguities that are still following the implementation of the emergency package,“ said Rukiqi (Telegarfi, 2020). The management of the situation with COVID-19 was discussed in the Parliament of the Australian Federation, According to the opposition in Australia, Kosovo, although a small country in Europe devastated and paralyzed by pandemic, is successfully preventing the spread of the virus on a large scale (Bota Sot, 2020).

Assistance from other countries

Turkey, with a decision by President Erdogan, sent medical equipment and protective measures to institutions to manage the pandemic crisis. Representatives of the country’s institutions thanked Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the medical assistance he has provided to Kosovo in the fight against coronavirus (TRT Shqip, 2020). The European Union has also assisted the Government of Kosovo with EUR 5 million in assistance in combating COVID-19 (Office of the Prime Minister, 2020). The United Nations Program (UNDP) in Kosovo and the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) have allocated EUR 250 thousand to prevent the spread and impact of coronavirus in Kosovo (21 Media, 2020). Also, the Ambassador of the United States in Kosovo, Philip Kosentt, on the official account of the US Embassy on twitter announced: “Very good news, Kosovo will receive another USD 500,000 from the State Department and USAID to help fight pandemic. Together we can defeat COVID-19,” (Net News, 2020). Kosovo has also received a donation from Qatar, 6,500 tests and six respirators in order to better manage the situation with COVID-19. Minister Zemaj considers the help valuable in tackling the pandemic of COVID-19 (Literal Media, 2020). The state of Norway has also donated respirators to Kosovo, this was confirmed by the Ambassador of Norway during a meeting with the Minister of Health Armend Zemaj (News 365, 2020). While the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund has approved an emergency support of USD 56.5 million for the Republic of Kosovo to help fight the pandemic COVID-19, in April (Kasperi, 2020). Three successful entrepreneurs abroad have helped Kosovo by donating 15,000 COVID-19 tests. Also, EUR 722 thousand have been collected from the aid received from the diaspora, as confirmed for Radio Free Europe by the General Director of the Kosovo Treasury Ahmet Ismajili: “while the balance of this sub-account is EUR 716,773.93.” This assistance came after the call of former Prime Minister Albin Kurti, on the 12th April 2020 (Qenja, 2020).

The new government and the management of the situation with COVID 19

On the 4th May, the first phase of easing the measures began and from 19th May, Kosovo the second phase of easing the measures that were decided to fight pandemic has started, the third and final phase then began on 2nd June until another decision. These decisions of imposing measures have been taken by the Government led by former Prime Minister Albin Kurti (TRT SHQIP, 2020). In the period of pandemic, the ruling coalition partner the Democratic League of Kosovo incited a non-confidence motion against the Government, Members of the Assembly with 82 voted in favour, 32 against and one abstention vote towards the motion initiated by the LDK (Insajder, 2020). The country remained with the Government in office until the election of the new Government. Analyst, Arben Ahemti, commented on A2 this important decision in Kosovo politic: “It should be noted that all parties are guilty of leaving the country without institutions in times of pandemic,” (A2, 2020).

The Assembly voted on the new Government on 6th June, the new Government led by Prime Minister Abdullah Hoti approved the Government 2020-2023 program, the executive’s priority is the management of COVID-19 pandemics, including economic recovery after pandemics (Express, 2020) . The Prime Minister, in a meeting with the representatives of the Kosovo Chamber of Physicians, emphasized: „In order to gradually return to our normal lives, we need to create a mobile monitoring infrastructure and react to COVID-19 and possibly other epidemics in the future.“ As for economic recovery, the Prime Minister presented 9 measures that are unprecedented in the framework of the package for economic recovery:

– Facilitating access to finance,

– Reduction of tax burden,

– Measures for employment support,

– Agriculture,

– Measures to stimulate aggregate demand,

– Support for public enterprises for regular operation and capital investments of strategic importance,

– Review of the budget for 2020 and relaxation of fiscal restrictions and public debt,

– Supportive measures for the economy by the financial sector,

– Mobilization for the financing of measures, (Epoka e Re, 2020).

Until 28th of June Kosovo has registered 2,542 infected, 47 dead and 1,148 have been cured from coronavirus. Since March, when the first cases of Covid-19 were reported in Kosovo, 2,542 people have been affected by this pandemic. But 1,148 have been completely cured and 47 have died (Lajmi.net, 2020). The country is facing another increase in cases of COVID-19 only in June, there are close to 1,400 positive cases of COVID-19 and 17 victims have been recorded. From February 8 until today, 22,930 suspicious persons have been tested with COVID-19 (Albinfo.ch, 2020).

The Government approved the easing of some restrictive measures, according to which citizens entering Kosovo through land borders are not obliged to self-isolate for seven days but will be subject to medical examinations (Epoka e Re, 2020). The International Airport of Prishtina „Adem Jashari“ has announced that from 28th June, the full operation of regular flights is allowed (Telegrafi, 2020). Public gatherings indoors are also allowed. While Prime Minister Hoti has warned that we can return to full isolation if the cases with COVID-19 continue to grow and if the recommendations of the National Institute are not respected. If we have so many infected people, the Infectious Diseases Clinic will be blocked and doctors will be forced to choose which ones to help first (Kastrati, 2020).

While the country is facing increased positive cases with COVID-19, the country’s institutions must be committed to managing the situation. Since the health system cannot cope with a large number of infections, if the number of cases continues to increase, there is a risk of a health system collapse.

During the period when the country was in isolation against pandemics, the sector that suffered the most was the economy. The country needs an economic recovery, a successful drafting of the plan for economic recovery. Kosovo faced political problems during the pandemic, remaining with the Government in office until the Assembly voted for a new government. The political class must be cooperative and unique in understanding the situation of Pandemic and especially the economic recovery. Currently, the Assembly failed to vote in favour of the international financial agreement. The delays that are being created in the ratification of international agreements will discredit the process of overcoming the economic and social problems created by the COVID-19 pandemic, economics experts point out.

Author: Fitore Fejza

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