North Macedonia has reintroduced tough restrictions on movement after a resurgence in coronavirus cases.
The Balkan nation of around 2 million on Wednesday reported the highest number of new cases since the start of the crisis. As a result, citizens in the capital Skopje and 15 other towns and villages won’t be allowed to leave their homes between Thursday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 5 a.m.
A daily nighttime curfew has been imposed for the rest of the country from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Friday is Pentecost, a national holiday in North Macedonia, and people are banned from making the traditional visit to the graves of loved ones.
The government scrapped its coronavirus curfew only last week and allowed bars and restaurants to reopen their outdoor areas. Since then, the number of new cases has begun to rise, with 101 new cases reported on Wednesday, the country’s highest-ever daily figure. Some 2,492 people have been infected since the first case was reported on February 27, and 145 people have died.
“This new wave is a direct consequence of non-compliance with the clearly prescribed measures, but also of the delayed or weak punishment by the ministry,” said Health Minister Venko Filipche during a press conference, referring to the interior ministry led by Nakje Chulev of rival party VMRO-DPMNE. “The virus is not a joke. We should not allow ourselves to understand the danger of the virus only after we get sick.”
The rise in infections further complicates the timing of national elections, which were initially scheduled for April 12 but had to be canceled due to the pandemic.
Parties have been at odds for weeks on when to reschedule the vote, with the socialist SDSM party in favor of elections as soon as possible and VMRO-DPMNE insisting on a longer delay.
The leader of SDSM, former Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, said Monday that the election will be held on July 5. However, government officials acknowledged that the date is not set and will depend on how the situation evolves.
Yet pre-election mode has already begun. VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski was accused of breaking the rules by having lunch inside a restaurant in downtown Skopje.
Mickoski admitted he was sitting inside the restaurant, but blamed authorities for providing insufficient information on the rules and accused SDSM of having people follow him.
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