Serbia closes bars, shops to fight virus surge

Medical workers wearing protective suits and people suspected to have coronavirus disease (COVID-19) stand in front of the Hospital for Infectious and Tropical Diseases of the Clinical Center of Serbia in Belgrade, Serbia

Serbia will close down all nonessential shops, bars and restaurants this weekend as the Balkan country faces a surge in coronavirus infections.

The government-appointed crisis body said Friday said the measures will take effect on Friday evening and last until Monday. Authorities will decide on Monday how to proceed, officials said.

The decision is expected to be formally endorsed by the government later Friday.

Serbia has recorded more than 4,000 new infections daily in the past week as doctors have warned that hospitals are rapidly filling up and that medical staff are exhausted after a year of the pandemic.

Senior health official Zoran Gojkovic says the government hopes that it vaccination program will also get infections under control in the coming weeks. He says new measures also include children in higher primary school grades switching to remote classes next week.

A wave of new infections is sweeping across the countries of Eastern and Central Europe, driven mainly by new virus variants that are more contagious.

Serbia has vaccinated more than 1.5 million of its 7 million people with at least one shot from China’s Sinopharm, Pfizer-BioNTech, Russia’s Sputnik V or AstraZeneca, which is among the highest rates of inoculations in Europe.

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