Policy responses for Bosnia and Herzegovina - HSRM

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Policy responses for Bosnia and Herzegovina

1.3 Isolation and quarantine

Suspected cases without symptoms are ordered to self-isolate. Those with symptoms are evaluated by primary care/family physicians who refer to COVID-19 testing.
The first confirmed cases were admitted to a designated COVID-19 unit in hospital for a week. Those with mild symptoms were either sent home to self-isolate (RS, Banja Luka) or to designated facilities for self-isolation (FBIH, Zenica), under strict infection prevention and control measures. Mandatory quarantining/self-isolation at home of people under epidemiological surveillance, introduced in both RS and FBIH, has been respected in most cases, although some people who were found by the authorities to violate this measure were ordered to complete quarantine/self-isolation in repurposed collective facilities in the respective communities. BIH Personal Data Protection Agency reacted against publishing the names of the citizens who violated self-isolation on 25 March.
In both FBIH and RS, temporary facilities for quarantine of repatriated persons and persons under epidemiological surveillance have been set up. On the ground border crossings, tents for mandatory 14-day entry quarantine have been erected; in Sarajevo, student centres have been repurposed for the quarantine of persons entering the country by air transportation, exceptionally approved for repatriation by crisis management authorities in BIH. Designated facilities for isolation of confirmed cases were prepared in RS and in FBIH. In RS, Student Centres in Banja Luka and Bijeljina were repurposed to host mild COVID-19 cases from 25 March. In FBIH, persons held in mandatory quarantine in repurposed facilities (Tuzla, Mostar, Zenica, Sarajevo) started to complain about living conditions and lack of access to medical care and requested home self-isolation. After a series of protests which culminated in hunger strikes and individual lawsuit threats (20 April, 86 persons in Zenica and around 70 persons in Sarajevo quarantine), persons from Sarajevo student centre quarantine were released for home self-isolation on 21 April. As of 1 July, isolation of COVID-19 patients in repurposed facilities in RS has been discontinued. On the same day, the Prime Minister of RS noted that RS was actively preparing for the second wave and a possible situation in which COVID-19 would intensify together with the seasonal influenza, by refurbishing additional facilities and isolation areas to accommodate patients.
On 2 April, the first shipment with equipment for a mobile hospital landed to Banja Luka from Germany. The RS Government directly purchased this hospital, reportedly worth BAM 3.6 million, and capable of accommodating 500 beds on 6000 square metres, with lab facilities, an Intensive Care Unit, showers and toilets, and a kitchen. On 4 May, the purchasing procedure for this hospital started to be questioned in public, as it was still unknown who/which company or entity provided parts for the hospital, which is yet to be registered as the property of RS Government. After a heated parliamentary debate, the Prime Minister of RS confirmed that the contract for purchase of this hospital was terminated, with a full refund to the Public Health Institute of RS which had paid the private company supplier in advance (8 June). In Sarajevo, as of 26 March the Faculty for Architecture was repurposed with 200-250 beds for moderately-ill COVID-19 patients, where they can be supported by medical teams with oxygen and other necessary treatment, followed by a number of facilities repurposed for cohorting COVID-19 patients across the cantons and municipalities in FBIH.

These facilities were not used in April and May when there was no need for additional isolation capacities, and in the case of Sarajevo Faculty, were dismantled in the first half of May.

On 24 April, the FBIH Crisis HQ abolished mandatory quarantine upon entry, replacing it with mandatory home self-isolation, supervised by the respective FBIH authorities. This decision was made without consultations with the RS Crisis HQ, being strict in keeping mandatory quarantine at the points of entry in RS/BIH, and provoked strong reactions from RS authorities (the Head of the team for monitoring and implementation of measures in RS called this ‘an insane and completely irresponsible move, professionally and epidemiologically unfounded’ on the side of the FBIH Crisis HQ, https://www.nezavisne.com/novosti/drustvo/Nenad-Stevandic-Ukidanje-karantina-u-FBiH-lud-i-neodgovoran-potez/596205) and many back-and-forth allegations (‘communication issues’, ‘capacity issues’) followed between FBIH and RS crisis management authorities. In RS, mandatory quarantine upon entry and quarantine in local communities was abolished as of 12 May, and replaced with mandatory home isolation, supervised by the respective RS authorities.

Since 20 May (FBIH) and 21 May (RS), mandatory self-isolation (14 days) at home upon entry into the country has been abolished.