Coronavirus surge in eastern Europe prompts new restrictions

Updated 13 Jul 2020

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We see worrisome signs about an increase in the number of cases in the neighbouring countries, Europe and the whole world, said Gergely Gulyas, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbans chief of staff. — AP
We see worrisome signs about an increase in the number of cases in the neighbouring countries, Europe and the whole world, said Gergely Gulyas, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbans chief of staff. — AP

BUDAPEST: Countries in Eastern Europe are facing rising waves of coronavirus infections, leading to riots in Serbia, mandatory face masks in Croatia and travel bans or quarantines imposed by Hungary.

The new restrictions come as the World Health Organisation reports that daily global infections hit over 228,000 last week, and the US confirmed over 66,600 new cases on Friday, another record, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Virus deaths are rising in the US, especially in the South and West, with the seven-day rolling daily average increasing from 578 two weeks ago to 664 on Friday still well below the heights hit in April according to an analysis of data from Johns Hopkins. Daily infection records were hit in at least six states.

Its consistently picking up. And its picking up at the time you’d expect it to, said William Hanage, a Harvard Unive­rsity infectious diseases researcher.

Researchers expect US deaths to rise for weeks, but some think the count will not go up as dramatically as it did in the spring.

Hungarian authorities said on Sunday they have sorted countries into three categories red, yellow and green based on their rates of new coronavirus infections and will impose restrictions, including entry bans and mandatory quarantines, depending on which country people are arriving from.

We see worrisome signs about an increase in the number of cases in the neighbouring countries, Europe and the whole world, said Gergely Gulyas, Prime Minister Viktor Orbans chief of staff. Now, we have to protect our own security and prevent the virus from being brought in from abroad.” Foreigners from countries in the red category including Albania, Ukraine, Belarus and practically all of Asia, Africa and South and Central America are banned from entering, while Hungarian citizens arriving from those locations will have to quarantine for two weeks or until they test negative twice, 48 hours apart.

Both Hungarians and foreigners arriving from countries in the yellow category which includes, Britain, Russia, Serbia, Japan, China, the United States, Bulgaria, Portugal, Romania and Sweden will have to quarantine for two weeks, but will be allowed out if they test negative for the virus.

Gulyas said the new rules take effect on Wednesday and will be reviewed at least once a week.

Serbia reported 287 new infections on Sunday, although there have been increasing doubts about the accuracy of the figures. Officially, the country has over 18,000 confirmed infections and 382 deaths since March. Health authorities are warning that Serbian hospitals are almost full due to the latest surge. Sunday’s report of 11 coronavirus deaths was the country’s second-highest daily death toll.

Serbian police clashed with anti-government protesters for four nights last week, demonstrations that forced the Serbian president to withdraw plans to reintroduce a coronavirus lockdown. Many of the increasing infections have been blamed on crowded soccer matches, tennis events and nightclubs.

Romania announced a record-high number of infections on Saturday, with 698, while 456 new cases were reported on Sunday.

In Bulgaria, authorities reintroduced restrictions lifted a few weeks ago because of a new surge in cases. Indoor facilities at nightclubs and discos were ordered to close Friday, with outdoor locations limited to 50pc of capacity. Wedding and baptisms have been limited to 30 people, while sporting events can be held only without spectators.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2020