- The protesters accuse the government of having selfishly allowed large, politically motivated rallies before the June 21 elections.
- “The health system in Belgrade is close to breaking up,” Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said.
- Thousands of citizens demonstrated against the restrictive measures by the coronavirus and the management of the crisis.
Serbian authorities imposed new restrictions on Thursday, key amongst them, the banning of meetings of more than ten people in Belgrade, after a significant spike in recent days of COVID-19 cases in the capital. These restrictions come after two nights of unrest and protests against the government’s management of the pandemic.
The protesters accuse the government of having selfishly allowed large, politically motivated rallies before the June 21 elections. The Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic, declared after a meeting with stakeholders that in closed public and commercial spaces, only one person will be allowed for every four square meters.
In addition, restaurants, cafes, shops, and shopping centers won’t be operational in full, but just for shorter times. That is, from 21:00 at night until 06:00 in the morning. “The health system in Belgrade is close to breaking up,” Prime Minister Brnabic said. “That is why I can’t understand what we saw last night and the night before.”
The Prime Minister said that the measures are necessary in view of the “critical situation in Belgrade,” where hospitals are being saturated with patients infected with COVID-19. Brnabic declared that the country “will pay dearly” for the massive protests of the last two days in Belgrade, which led to violent clashes.
Thousands of citizens demonstrated against the restrictive measures by the coronavirus and the management of the crisis. The prime minister asked for a stop of the anti-government protests to produce better times and protect the health system.
Brnabic explained that the weekend curfew has not been introduced, which President Aleksandar Vucic had advocated for, and which led to the demonstrations in the first place. She explained that the move is because the government prefers an “intermediate step for the economy and it’s citizens.”
The new measures are introduced after the government last week imposed an obligation to wear face masks in closed public spaces and to maintain a distance of one and a half meters between people. Belgrade, with 1.7 million inhabitants, is the most affected city in Serbia by the coronavirus pandemic, more so in the last three weeks, although the situation is also difficult in several other areas of the country.
Despite the high cases of the Coronavirus pandemic in the country, Serbia recently went ahead with general elections that were boycotted by the nation’s opposition. This gave President Vucic’s right-wing Serbian Progressive Party a green light to emerge as the overwhelming winner of the elections and continue its eight years of political dominance.
The opposition argued that participating in the elections during this coronavirus pandemic period, and without a free media in the Balkan country, would only legitimize what it described as a “hoax election.” Vucic, however, denounced the boycott, arguing that it includes parties that would not get enough votes even to make it into Serbia’s 250-seat parliament.
Owing to the recent increase in the number of the coronavirus infections in the country, the opposition has been laying the blame squarely on the government for having gone ahead with the campaigns and subsequent elections. Therefore, they believe, the government should take responsibility for the rise in cases.