1.2 Physical distancing
Weddings in the country will be allowed again soon, and detailed directions will be provided to economic activities. Protocols have already been prepared for public transport and for holding courses or lectures in closed spaces, while protocols for the work of restaurants, schools and kindergartens are currently being developed.
To strengthen the COVID-19 protection of vulnerable people and to reduce queues in the banks, the recipients of financial assistance for social and child protection are divided into four groups (by their last names) and will be able to receive funds in the banks over the next four days, starting on 4 May 2020.
The restriction of movement during the weekends is shortened, starting on 9 May:
o People can move between 05:00 and 19:00 on Saturday and Sunday
o People over 67 years can move between 05:00 and 12:00 on Saturday and Sunday
o Young people up to the age of 18 can move between 13:00 and 19:00 on Saturday and Sunday
However, the Minister of Health has appealed to citizens to refrain from gatherings and to abide by the government measures for physical distancing and hand hygiene.
As of 11 May 2002, the Government is drawing up a plan to normalize life. The Prime Minister informed the public on 8 May that work was ongoing on new protocols about how to open kindergartens. He emphasized that it was important for citizens to trust the Government. The draft Plan for Relaxation of Restrictive Measures for the Prevention of the Spread of Coronavirus developed by the Commission for Infectious Diseases envisages a gradual lifting of restrictive measures, accompanied by continuous monitoring and evaluation. The plan highlights that it is especially important to recognize that it is necessary to maintain measures for physical distance. The draft is based on WHO guidance for the relaxation of restriction measures Due to the nature of COVID-19, it is difficult to understand the impact of any relaxation of restrictions until 10-14 days have passed. The withdrawal of restrictive measures is expected to lead to an increase in the number of new cases infected with coronavirus, which would then lead to adjustment and re-introduction of new measures.
The COVID-19 transition phases are as follows as of 12 May 2020:
• The government has drafted a Transition Strategy, that was shared with WHO for feedback before it is adopted by the government.
• The criteria are grouped into three relevant areas: epidemiology, health system, and public health surveillance:
o There are indications that the epidemic is brought under control.
o The health system is able to deal with the recurrence of cases that may occur after adjusting some measures.
• The draft Plan for Relaxation of Restrictive Measures for the Prevention of the Spread of Coronavirus, developed by the Commission for Infectious Diseases, envisages a gradual lifting of restrictive measures, with continuous monitoring and evaluation of the situation after their withdrawal. The plan for relaxation of measures is a process that would be implemented in three phases according to the development of the epidemiological situation.
o The first phase refers to the current operation of economic activities during the declared state of emergency and the restricted movement of the population on the entire territory of the country, with a gradual reduction of the period of time when movement is prohibited.
o The second transitional phase refers to the initial establishment of work activities, while complying with the recommended measures and strict work protocols in implementing measures for preventing the occurrence and spread of COVID-19.
o The third phase envisages a complete re-establishment of regular work processes, while complying with the basic preventive anti-epidemic measures for maintaining personal hygiene (frequent hand-washing, good respiratory hygiene) and physical distancing.
• Bars and restaurants will not be allowed to re-open for the time being, and the authorities will present a plan for them next week.
• Starting on 13 May 2020, new work protocols will be introduced in education and training centres, outdoor exercise of individual sports, betting houses and close shopping malls.
• Selected Government officials will be allowed to take business trips abroad but will be required to adhere to social distancing measures and boards managing public companies can begin holding meetings. All businesses that include holding meetings and conferences can do so for at most six hours and will have to take mandatory breaks and have all participants wear masks and other protective equipment.
On 13 May 2020, the Government adopted the following protocols as part of the second phase of the COVID-19 transition plan:
o Protocol for opening and working of the payment points in betting shops
o Protocol for organization of work meetings, training, courses, and seminars
o Protocol for holding meetings of governing bodies and conferences
o Protocol for opening and operation of shopping malls
o Driver training protocol
The Commission for Infectious Diseases drafted a protocol on conducting elections:
o Regarding the pre-election campaign, the maintaining of all party activities should be conducted in compliance with the measures on physical distance, mandatory wearing of face masks or other protective equipment.
o The number of participants should be in accordance with the size of the space where all activities will occur.
o Regarding door-to-door campaigns, wearing protective equipment is mandatory, the physical distance requirement must be respected, and activities should not occur inside the households.
o It is recommended all party activities to take place outside or in closed spaces but limited to two hours at the most and the place should be disinfected and ventilated.
o On election day, members of voting boards should keep physical distance of 2 metres or, if that is not possible, to wear protective masks and gloves.
o In the room where the voting will occur, the number of voters must equal the number of voting booths. Voters should wait outside and should keep physical distance and upon entering they should disinfect their hands, remove briefly the mask in order to be identified with their personal ID card and when the voting is over to disinfect themselves again.
On 16 May 2020, the state of emergency was extended for an additional 14 days.
The Government adopted a Protocol for exit and entry at the state border of North Macedonia for elected Government officials. According to the protocol, each business trip should be approved by the Main Coordinating Crisis Headquarters, subject to the business trip being related to COVID-19 and to the Euro-Atlantic processes in the country.
As of 16 May 2020, curfew hours were adjusted for young people up to the age of 18 and people older than 67 years. All citizens, regardless of age, can move between 05:00 and 19:00.
After the announcement of the opening of borders in Europe and the region, the Minister of Health met with the Greek Minister of Health on 15 May 2020. North Macedonia and Greece are to prepare harmonized protocols for travel in the region and these protocols should facilitate and speed up the transit of travelers.
As of 18 May 2020, the Ministry of Interior extended all permits and visas for foreign citizens in the country until the end of August 2020.
Catering facilities are to open on 25 May 2020, if the Infectious Diseases Commission made a respective decision on 22 May 2020. Regarding the opening of borders, the Minister of Health informed that it is still early and that such a decision should be coordinated with neighboring countries.
The Government implemented a 48 hours lockdown over the holiday weekend 24-25 May, with curfew lasting from Sunday at 11:00 to Tuesday at 05:00, the reason being that non-compliance with protection measures over the previous few days, primarily as a result of family gatherings, resulted in an increase of cases.
As of 27 May 2020 the Government relaxed multiple restrictive measures, including the curfew. The curfew is no longer in force. The measure exempting various categories from work is no longer in force, with the exception of those with chronic diseases and children up to pre-school age until they start going to kindergarten.
The government published on 27 May 2020 the protocol for reopening and operating catering business objects and facilities, like restaurants and cafés, which opened on 28 May 2020. According to this protocol, only capacities in the open will be allowed to function, as well as terraces and other areas which are open from at least three sides and with a roof construction over them. Guests must keep a distance between themselves of at least 1.5 metres, and only two people will be allowed on a table for four, the only exception being people of the same family, which will be allowed four on a table for four. A maximum of 12 people is allowed at joined tables, once again with a distance between them of at least 1.5 metres. The entire staff must wear protective equipment like masks and gloves all the time, and tables and other equipment must be regularly disinfected. Restaurants and cafés will work every day between 08:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.
On 30 May 2020, the Security Council extended the state of emergency for an additional 14 days .
By government decision, disinfection, observance of the minimum required distance while waiting in line, masks and gloves will be necessary while visiting shopping malls and other trade facilities for an additional 200 days after the end of the state of emergency.
The payment of May pensions starts on 27 May 2020 and will be realized in four groups, depending on the amount of the pension, for a second month in a row to provide greater protection for retired people.
Skopje Zoo was opened on 26 May 2020, but a new movement protocol was introduced – visitors will have to wear masks, the waiting line distance of 1.5 meters is neatly marked, summer cottages and playgrounds must not be used, and the number of visitors will be limited.
The MOH is monitoring the figures in the coming period and will propose in the coming days potential localized quarantines. The Health Minister stated on 2 June 2020 that restriction measures could return to some areas if epidemiological trends demand such actions. This was concluded by a meeting of the Infectious Diseases Committee, and they will carefully monitor the situation in the coming days. According to the Minister of Health, the fact that citizens do not respect the recommended measures of wearing masks and keeping distance is a concern, as are other public order issues such as disobeying isolation and quarantine orders, group gatherings, providing false information and addresses. He announced harsher controls and requested higher involvement and sanctions by MoI.
Free public transport for retired people is canceled as of 2 June 2020. The maximum occupancy of the public transport must only be up to 50% of the capacity of the vehicles. With the new change, companies providing public transport services on the territory of Macedonia must limit the number of passengers in the vehicles to 50 % of the total capacity. Besides this, all passengers and drivers are obliged to wear protective equipment over their faces, like masks, scarves etc., and all vehicles must be disinfected more often.
All public administration employees are back to work starting with Tuesday 2 June 2020.This regulation excludes employees in education institutions like schools and kindergartens. All chronically ill people, as well as those with disabilities, pregnant women, single parents, those with children under 10 or children with disabilities remain relieved from work due to the coronavirus pandemic but are encouraged to work from home, if possible.
The Director of the State Market Inspectorate reported that inspectors encountered significant problems when trying to control the work of restaurants and cafés under the new conditions and protocols, after they were reopened last Thursday. These businesses were closed for 66 days due to the governmental measures against spreading of the COVID-19.
On 2 June 2020 the Government adopted a Protocol on preventive measures for all jobs, aimed at preventing COVID-19 transmission. These preventative measures are binding for all persons in the workplace – employers, managers, employees, contractors, clients and guests. The protocol incorporates measures relating to personal hygiene and protective equipment, recommendations for respiratory hygiene and physical distancing in the premises, as well as reducing work-related travel and advice for specific organizations when required. The protocol also includes recommendations and measures for regular cleaning and disinfection of the work environment, continual communication, training and education on risks, and management protocols for staff who show COVID-19-like symptoms.
On the 30 May the President declared an extension of the state of emergency by another 14 days to June 13 due to the recent increase in coronavirus cases in the country.
As of 5 June 2020, a curfew has been introduced for all Skopje municipalities, Kumanovo, Lipkovo, Stip, Tetovo, Bogovinje, Brvenica, Tearce, Zelino, and Jegunovce lasting from 21:00 on Thursday to 05:00 on Monday. In all other cities, the curfew will last from 21:00 on Thursday to 05:00 on Friday, as well as from 16:00 to 05:00 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Friday was declared a non-working day for all citizens.
When it comes to the Christian holiday of Pentecost, there is a ban on going to cemeteries throughout the whole country, except for funerals. The Government made the decisions upon a proposal of the Infectious Diseases Committee, which had recommended for measures to be stricter in response to the increase in number of COVID-19 cases. Health Minister called on Bishop Agatangel to close the churches for the holiday weekend after the Bishop called on the faithful to visit churches and pray for their loved ones on Pentecost.
Work in textile and leather factories in Shtip was prohibited during an extended holiday weekend (5-7 June).
On 9 June 2020, the Government decided to introduce intensified controls and monitoring in targeted areas of the city of Skopje and the municipalities of Arachinovo, Studenicani, Ilinden, Petrovec and Zelenikovo, as well as the municipalities of Kumanovo, Lipkovo, Shtip and Karbinici, and Tetovo municipalities Bogovinje, Brvenica, Tarce, Zelino and Zelistrano – areas in which a larger number of new cases were registered.
o The Ministry of the Interior, the Inspection Council and the Financial Police are to develop special action plans to control, prevent and sanction the non-compliance with the protection measures.
o In each isolation decision issued by the State Health and Sanitary Inspectorate will be included the mandatory download of the application StopKorona for greater oversight and control over the spread of the virus.
Also on 9 June 2020, the Government passed changes to the Decree on implementation of the law for the population’s protection from contagious diseases during a state of emergency. According to the Decree, if a person refuses to accept a decision to self-isolate, provides false personal information or false data related to persons they had been in contact with in previous days, or fails to implement the measure of home self-isolation, they will be required to undergo 14-day strict isolation (quarantine) in facilities designated by the Government of North Macedonia, with the accommodation costs being covered by the person concerned.
During the 82-hour long curfew over the 5-7 June weekend 22 criminal charges were filed against accommodation businesses and facility owners for violating the regulations and protocols for protection from COVID-19. Of these, 8 criminal charges were filed for objects in Ohrid, 4 in Struga, 5 in Bitola, 3 in Dojran and one in Ponikva and Mavrovo. Many citizens from the municipalities that were put under lockdown during the weekend decided to go to the touristic centers around the country right before the start of the curfew, with the State Roads informing that over 20,000 vehicles left Skopje on Thursday evening.
On 12 June 2020, the state of emergency was lifted. As per a declaration by the President of the Republic, even without a state of emergency, there were still legal grounds to maintain such preventive measures as curfews, quarantines, or crisis situations in parts or in the whole of the country. However, the state of emergency was reinstated on 15 June 2020 (see below).
On 12 June 2020, measures were extended to relieve from work the parents of children up to 10 years of age or in fourth grade, chronically ill and pregnant women, single parents, parents of children with disability who use the daycare center service, as well as persons who go to work accompanying completely blind people, people in wheelchairs and people with moderate and severe intellectual disabilities, with the possibility, if it is feasible, to perform their work assignments from home.
On 12 June 2020, the Government adopted the following protocols:
- Protocol for the operation of camping sites
- Protocol for acting during the qualifying testing of students who are interested in enrolling in high schools in classes where German is taught with six hours per week, in the classes in which bilingual classes are realized and in the class in which the program for International Matura is realized in the High School of the City of Skopje Gymnasium "Josip Broz Tito", in the academic year 2020/2021.
2,746 people need to pay over 5 million euros to the state budget for violating the measure against protection from COVID-19. The Public Prosecutor's Office (PPO) is proposing 2,746 people to be fined for violating coronavirus protection measures. According to the data of the Public Prosecutor's Office, 2,597 persons did not respect the curfew, 111 citizens did not adhere to self-isolation and 37 natural and legal entities were serving guests as caterers although that was forbidden. These are data on issued criminal orders from all 22 basic prosecutor's offices in the country and refer to the period from March 17 to June 8, 2020. All these citizens are punished according to Article 206 of the Criminal Code, that is, because they did not act in accordance with the health regulations during the epidemic.
Increased controls in catering facilities started on 12 June 2020 by the State Market Inspectorate (SMI) together with the Financial Police, which will identify the guests and check whether they respect the protocols for staying in restaurants and coffee bars. According to these protocols, four people can sit at about one table only if they come from the same family and this will be determined by legitimizing the guests; inspectors performed in the past 6 days 3,154 controls, of which 80 percent were checks whether the protocols are respected in the restaurants. 15 buildings received criminal charges, and 20 who did not comply with the protection measures received misdemeanor charges.
The Commission for Infectious Diseases reviewed and agreed on the submitted plan and protocol of the organizer of the athletic race of Chronometer to be held on 13 June 2020, between 06:30 and 09:30, on the track on the quay of Vardar. The registration of the participants in the race is organized electronically. The organizer provided all the prerequisites for the normal functioning of the race, while all epidemiological recommendations for preventing close respiratory contact between participants will be observed. The protocol includes prevention of close contact between the participants before and after the end of the race, i.e. the start of the participants is organized every 30 seconds, as well as the submission of results will be done electronically.
On 15 June 2020, the President introduced a state of emergency for a period of 8 days (15-22 June 2020), upon a proposal submitted by the Government. An agreement is reached to hold elections on 15 July and in this regard the decision to declare a state of emergency is aimed at enabling the smooth preparation of the elections, in particular the implementation of measures to protect public health during the election process.
The protocol for a safe election process is prepared by the Commission for Infectious Diseases and it is based on medical and epidemiologic arguments and on maintaining distance, frequent disinfection and wearing protective equipment.
The Ministry of Health is considering to announce publicly the names of those who should be in self-isolation, as many people who need to self-isolate refuse to accept the self-isolation decisions due to various reasons.
The working hours of the malls are back to normal (10:00-22:00) as of 12 June 2020, except for Sunday which remains a non-working day.
The Government adopted the protocols for the re-opening of hotels and other accommodation capacities around the country on 16 June 2020.
o Hotels will officially be re-opened on 22 June, with the recommendations for people to wear masks over their mouth and nose and to keep a distance between each other of at least 2m.
o Guests will have their shoes disinfected on the main entrance of the objects, and the number of guests allowed to be present at the same time in the dining halls will be limited.
o Guests will be handed out flyers with recommendations on how to avoid getting infected or transmit to others the virus.
o A maximum two persons will be allowed per room, with the exception of members of the same family or household, which will be allowed up to 4 in one room.
o Disinfection products will be distributed in each room, as well as the hotel lobby, the dining hall etc.
o Dispensers for drinking water or coffee or other beverages will be out of order.
On 19 June 2020, the Government adopted the Protocol for opening swimming pools to swimming clubs only, not for recreational purposes.
On 11 August 2020, the Government accepted changes in the protocols for intercity and international passenger transport, which instead of using up to 50% now allows for using up to 75% of the total capacity of the vehicles.
Election Process Protocol:
The protocol consists of four parts, which cover the pre-election activities, the conduct of the campaign, the holding of party meetings and the day of the elections. On election day, all members of election boards and observers must wear protective equipment, sit with open windows or ventilate the room frequently. There must be disinfectants at each polling station, and voters must be at a distance of two meters from each other and disinfected before entering the polls. They should remove their mask only for identification purposes, and after the voting they should disinfect their hands again. The protocol stipulates that there will never be more voters in the room than the number of ballot boxes. If there is a possibility, it is recommended to increase the voting time by two hours for major congestion to be avoided. In the pre-election period, it is recommended for party gatherings to be held outdoors and all activities to be held with respect to physical distance, mandatory wearing of a protective mask and mandatory frequent hand washing. It is recommended to take into account the number of participants, and the participants of the campaign "from door to door" to wear protective equipment and not to enter the households, but to go only to the door or in the yard. It is envisaged that the mobile stands for advertising material do not have more than two citizens on one stand, and the party transport will take place with the means for public transport with a maximum of 50 percent of capacity. In addition, it is mandatory to wear a protective mask, and carriers must provide disinfectants.
On 19 June 2020, the Government amended the protocol for the operation of hospitality facilities and the Protocol for operation of cafeterias, upon a proposal from the Infectious Diseases Commission, and they will be open according to their regular hours, instead of up until 22:00.
The 8-day state of emergency declared on 15 June 2020 by the President expired on 22 June 2020.
The national election campaign will be launched on Wednesday 24 June. Heads of the MP candidates signed the Code for fair and democratic election and stressed their commitment to abide by COVID-19 protective measures to ensure public health safety. According to the election timetable, COVID-19 patients, people in isolation and self-isolation will vote on 13 July, while the homebound, infirm and aged on 14 July. 15 July is Election Day, starting at 7 am and ending at 9 pm.
As of 26 June, the hospitality facilities will be able to work inside the facilities through an appropriate protocol for operation, gyms will be allowed to open and shopping malls will be able to stay open on Sundays.
The Infectious Diseases Commission is to meet with the mayors of the municipalities in Skopje to discuss the engagement of the local self-governments in the response to COVID-19.
The Islamic Religious Community will not organize a pilgrimage this year after announcements that Saudi Arabia will receive a limited number of believers as a result of the COVID-19 risk.
Elections: The State Election Commission teams are in the field checking and documenting the actual situation in the pooling stations and finding appropriate solutions that would meet the safety and health protocols and measures for protection of voters and electoral bodied on the day of the early parliamentary elections as of 23 June 2020. Checks are made at polling stations throughout the country.
The Commission for Infectious Diseases approved on 29 June the protocol for organizing public events, which was proposed last week by representatives of the association of musicians and event planners. The protocol will allow organizing public events; however, venues should only be filled to up to 50% of their capacity and there should be controlled entry at events. In addition, tickets will be sold online in advance, and wearing protective masks will be mandatory.
On the 29 June, the Minister of Health confirmed that kindergartens will not be reopened any time soon because of the rising surge in new COVID-19 cases.
Regarding elections, the State Election Council is forming separate election boards made of a health worker and a party representative for any citizens infected with SARS-CoV-2 or in self-isolation who will vote on 13 July. About 100 special election boards have been formed. Board members will be provided with personal protective equipment that they will change after each voter has voted at home, and 500 medical personnel have already been deployed to special election boards.
Between the 28 and 29 June, 475 people were caught without mandatory protective equipment (face masks). The Ministry of Interior urged citizens to comply with government measures and protocols on protection against COVID-19.
Over 3,100 citizens of North Macedonia received fines ranging from several hundred to several thousand euros, primarily for illegal movement during curfew or for breaking self-isolation. An analysis of court cases in Kavadarci and some other courts showed that more than half of the citizens will be released from liability or will receive suspended fines. In the 43 cases that the court has completed or which are in process, the fines requested total EUR 53,500 and the state will collect about EUR 21,000.
On June 30th, the Government adopted the Protocol on the operation of museums, galleries and exhibition spaces, the Protocol for implementation of measures for protection from COVID-19 in organizing events, promoters, rental companies, video and audio productions and technical support of these events, the Protocol for enrolment of students in public dormitories in the academic year 2020/2021, the Protocol for the work of dances and ballet clubs and the Protocol for intercity transport.
On June 30th, the Government decided to terminate the ban on sports competitions in collective sports provided there is a strict compliance to preventative measures and the lack of an audience.
On 7 July 2020, the Government adopted the protocol for operation of Day Care Centers for Children and Adults with Disabilities.
The regulation that allowed citizens with children under the age of 10 to stay and work from home is officially annulled since the school year 2019/2020 offended on 7 July 2020. The original decision was adopted back in March 2020, when schools and kindergarten all over the country were closed due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Simulation for COVID-19 safety during the election on 8 July 2020: The State Election Commission (SEC) called on everyone involved in the election process to abide by health measures, guidelines and protocols. The election observers were invited to monitor the simulation, including OSCE/ODIHR, representatives of the Ministry of Health, of embassies and of political parties, and the simulation was attended by the Health Minister. The simulation covered the entire election process, starting from the arrival of citizens at the polling station with the mandatory wearing of a masks, waiting, entering, disinfection, identification, and voting.
Elections: Persons who will test positive to COVID-19 or placed in self-isolation after 8 July, will not be able to register to vote. 742 COVID-19 patients and people in self-isolation 9,465 homebound, frail and people with chronic illness have registered at the State Election Commission (SEC) to vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections. 120 health workers have asked to be exempted from the electoral boards organized to assist with the voting of these groups of people.
On 14 September 2020, the Government decided that, starting on 23 September 2020:
- Employees with chronic conditions who were released from work should go back to work. Exceptions to this decision are employees in which there is an exacerbation of the health condition and those with malignant conditions; these employees will need to provide a statement from their doctor.
- Employees on extended maternity leave should go back to work
- Taking into consideration that kindergartens have beenopen since 9 September 2020, the parents of children up to the age of 6 should go back to work.
- Parents of children up to the age of 10 attending school (either in person or online) should get back to work
On 14 September 2020, the Government decided outdoor events to be organized with 50% of the space capacity and a limited number of visitors up to a maximum of 1000 people, and indoors events with 30% of the site capacity and also maximum of 1000 people.
Physical distancing, evening curfew and further movement restrictions were instituted in the country gradually, beginning with the closure of educational institutions, to curfew hours during the day and evenings, on weekends and mobility hours separating young from older people. Official decisions on more stringent movement restrictions were taken after the declaration of the President of a state of emergency countrywide for one month.
Lock-down was imposed in the cities with large community-wide spread. On 13 March 2020, the municipalities Debar and Centar Zhupa were declared in emergency status and have been under total lock down since then. On 26 March, Kumanovo was also isolated. All public transportation to and inside these cities are stopped and all shops except food stores and supermarkets are closed. The Government recommended manufacturers and trade markets on the territory of Kumanovo that have large production and sales capacities to adjust their operations to abide by distancing restrictions in the cities or to completely shut down.
Countrywide, on 13 March 2020, all public and private gatherings were banned, regardless of the number of participants. All stores, shopping malls, restaurants, and other public gathering places were closed, except for food stores, supermarkets and pharmacies – business online is encouraged. All cafes, bars, clubs, casinos and betting agencies were completely closed. All cinemas, theatre shows, sports events and concerts were cancelled. All kindergartens, schools and universities were shut on 13 March 2020. In order to support the families, the Government made a decision that one parent of children under the age of 10 (or enrolled in the 4th grade) is allowed to stay at home to watch the children during the time when the schools are closed. This measure is not applicable to people working in health facilities, army, fire department and police workforce. On 13 March 2020 a temporary stay at home was also announced for all employees with chronic illnesses and for pregnant women. Diplomats were not exempted.
On 15 March 2020, the Government recommended all employers (managers) in North Macedonia to allow employees to work from home, depending on the type of work and without interrupting the regular functioning of the institution. The Ministry of Health recommended to the textile industry to organize the work process applying preventive measures, such as an appropriate distance between employees.
On 18 March 2020, the office of the Skopje Orthodox Diocese, in addition to the recomendations by the Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric for the territory of Skopje’s Orthodox Diocese, adopted the following measures:
• All religious practices of parish priests prior to and during the Easter holidays should be stopped or postponed. Those that cannot be postponed should to be conducted in small numbers.
• Funerals and memorials should be performed only with the closest family members in the open or at graveyards.
• The use of church halls and clerical offices for meetings, religious lessons, board meetings and other irregular activities is prohibited.
• During worship services, attendees are advised to keep the recommended distance between each other.
• The monastaries should not allow in worshippers, unless there is a specific need.
• Sunday’s and festive holy liturgies should be held outdoors.
On 20 March 2020, the Government decided to ban for a period of 14 days access of persons and vehicles to the Forest Park "Vodno" after 18:00, as well as gatherings of more than five people in parks and other public places, and classes, training and exams at driver training schools. The Government obliged the Ministry of the Interior to intensify controls on private houses and villas that organize parties and gatherings (in the municipality of Sopishte and in the village of Sonje) in order to take measures to prevent such gatherings. Both the owner of the building and the persons present in the premises would be subjected to appropriate legal measures for disregarding the recommendations of the Government.
On 22 March 2020, the Government began implementing restrictions on the movement of all citizens (curfew). People have initially been forbidden to move around outside between 21:00 and 06:00 every day. On the 24 March 2020, the curfew was revised to end at 05:00 am to reduce crowding on public transport during commuting hours. Public transport across the country was discontinued between 21:00 and 05:00.
As of 25 March 2020, the movement of citizens older than 67 years was allowed only between 05:00 and 11:00 and for citizens up to 18 years between 12:00 and 21:00.
On 26 March 2020, a ban on the movement of all citizens during the weekend (Saturday and Sunday) was introduced for the time between 16:00 and 05:00. On 30 March 2020, the Government adjusted the curfew hours during the weekend– movement is allowed for pet owners and their pets between 20:00-20:30 up to 100m from the place of residence.
The authorities have also adopted a measure that all markets, pharmacies, banks and post offices should have entry barriers to regulate the distance between people inside the premises, which should be at least 2 metres, and guards to regulate the number of people entering each place.
On 23 March 2020, the Government adopted a decision regarding teaching and the assessment of primary, secondary and higher education. The Government ordered schools and faculties to find ways to teach, test and evaluate pupils and students online. A National platform for e-learning is operational as of 27 March 2020. As of 8 April 2020, the Ministry of Education is considering the possibility to cancel the state graduation examination for all high school students throughout the country.
North Macedonia has a large textile industry constituting a considerable economic sector for the country. On 23 March 2020, the Government adopted a recommendation for the organization of work in factories in shifts for all companies in the country, issuing several directives:
• The number of employees in a certain facility should be limited so that there is a distance of at least 1.5 metres between each of them
• Employees should be provided with protective and disinfection equipment
• Working premises should be disinfected at least once a week
• Employees from different departments should avoid physical contact with each other as much as possible
• All meetings should be conducted via telephone, video-link or e-mail
• If any employees have been in contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, they must be put in 14-day isolation at once.
On 25 March, the government banned the movement of citizens during weekends in the following days: Saturdays and Sundays from 16.00 to 05.00 am the following day with an increased presence of the police in order to prevent the clustering of individuals in groups of more than 5 persons. All previous measures remained in force.
On 26 March, people who have pets were advised to leave home up to 200 m from their address for 30 minutes within 16:00-21:00 on weekends.
On 31 March 2020, the Government called upon all public institutions and bodies and recommended to the private sector to exempt from work all people who may need assistance – completely blind people, people with wheelchairs and people with moderate and severe intellectual disability due to the higher risk of COVID-19 complications.
On 3 April 2020, movement restriction hours were extended in Kumanovo, with a curfew during the weekend (21:00 on Friday to 05:00 on Monday) and on workdays (from 16:00 to 05:00).
These new restrictions are not applicable to the police, the army and health professionals (in the public and private health sector and including family doctors). The pharmacies will also be operational. For agricultural activities, movement within the territory of the villages is permitted exclusively for working purposes.
On 6 April 2020, the Government announced that new decisions restricting the movement of all people on the entire territory of the country will take effect on Wednesday, 8 April 2020 at 16:00:
- The movement of people on the entire territory of the country is prohibited between 16:00 and 05:00 from Monday to Friday. Only people in need of emergency medical care, with life-threatening conditions or dialysis patients, accompanied by up to two persons, will be excluded.
- During the weekends, movement is prohibited from Friday 16:00 until Monday 05:00 for all citizens.
- Citizens above 67 years of age can move only between 10:00 and 12:00 from Monday to Friday.
- Young persons under 18 years old can move only between 13:00 and 15:00 from Monday to Friday.
- Citizens are not allowed to move in public places in groups of more than two people – a parent can be in a greater group with their children who are under the age of 14.
- Farmers can move only within the territory of their village, exclusively for working purposes, e.g. agriculture activities.
- The police, the army, health workers, and markets and restaurants that deliver products are excluded from the ban.
- Pet owners and their pets can move between 20:00-20:30 from Monday to Sunday and between 08:00-08:30 and 15:00-15:30 during the weekend, up to 100m from the place of their residence.
The Government instructed public institutions and bodies to adjust working hours to meet the curfew starting at 16:00 on workdays (Monday-Friday). The Government instructed the Municipal Crisis Headquarters to designate economic operations (grocery stores) to provide essential groceries during the curfew.
Some municipalities are concerned about the Orthodox Easter holidays period: the municipality of Ohrid (with 4 known cases so far) is asking for special measures to ban the entry of residents from other cities on the territory of Ohrid and to limit visits for tourism and recreational purposes in the holiday period. In Ohrid and the surrounding coastal settlements there are several weekend apartments and houses whose owners use them during the Easter holidays. Although there is no reported case from Kichevo, the mayor of the municipality, Fatmir Dehari, asked the Government to declare the municipality of Kichevo "a sterile zone", which would mean special measures for this city, with check points at the entrance and exit of Kichevo and strict controls on restaurants.
North Macedonia will be in total lock-down from Friday, 17 April at 16:00 to Tuesday, 21 April at 05:00. Movement in all picnic places, parks and forests is prohibited from Thursday, 16 April, at 16:00 to Tuesday, 21 April, at 05:00. The remaining movement restrictions are still in place.
The period of crisis in the municipalities Debar and Center Zhupa will be discontinued as of 12 April 2020. The Government concluded that this measure yielded the expected health results. No new COVID-19 cases have occurred in Debar in the last 7 days.
People in Prilep, Kumanovo and Tetovo will have to wear masks, scarfs, shawls or similar pieces of clothing to cover the mouth and nose, as of 22 April 2020. Organized transport of passengers, namely entry and exit from Tetovo and the surrounding municipalities, is banned as of 21 April 2020.Air, rail and road traffic between Greece and North Macedonia is suspended until 15 May 2020.
On 20 April 2020, all institutions, agencies and local offices in Kumanovo were instructed to reduce their capacities and enforce specific protective measures for the purpose of isolating as many people as possible during this period. The Government recommends that all citizens of North Macedonia, especially those living in Kumanovo, Prilep and Tetovo, reduce outings from their homes, as well as designate one family member responsible for buying groceries and medicines.
The Central Crisis Headquarters for COVID-19 will discuss the upcoming holy Muslim month of Ramadan in the next few days and the need for adopting decisions regarding this month.
The Prime Minister announced that the process for life to return to normal will begin after Labour Day (1 May) and highlighted that the process will not be fast, nor will it happen immediately, but will be implemented in several stages.
The Government adopted a Decree with Legal force for the application of the Law on Trade during the emergency for establishing order and discipline at the entrance and inside the facilities where trade is conducted, such as retail or grocery stores, markets, bakeries etc. during the state of emergency. The trader is obliged to provide security at the entrance and inside the facility, in order to maintain the minimum required distance between the people and to ensure implementation of hand disinfection. The trader is obliged to place appropriate markings indicating the direction of movement and observance of the minimum required distance. The markings are to be placed at the distance of two metres in front of each cash register and in front of the entrance of the facility. Retail business owners must regulate the circulation of people in their establishments, depending on the establishment’s size, i.e. to let inside one person for each 20 m2 of indoor space.
A Decree with legal force has been adopted for mandatory self-isolation during coronavirus testing. All domestic and foreign nationals, symptomatic and asymptomatic who have been tested for coronavirus, should be self-isolated from the moment of taking the test material until issuing the result. The self-isolation should last until negative test result is obtained.
On 27 April 2020 the Government decided to extend the validity of existing issued permits for movement of the employees, meaning employers will no longer need to issue new permits with each change in the duration of the curfew.
In order to strengthen the preventative efforts for older people during COVID-19 and to reduce gatherings in banks, retired people have been organized in four groups according to the pension level and the pensions will be distributed according to these groups, starting on 27 April 2020.
Starting on 23 April 2020, the Government adopted a set of changes in the duration of the curfew and the use of protective equipment by citizens:
- All movement is prohibited between 19:00 and 05:00 during weekdays across the entire territory of the country. However, during weekends, movement is prohibited from 15:00 on Saturday until 05:00 on Monday.
- During the weekdays, older people above 67 years old can move between 05:00-12:00 and young people up to age 18 can move between 13:00 to 19:00. On Saturday, older people can move between 05:00-11:00 and young people between 12:00-15:00.
- Mandatory use of masks, scarfs, shawls or similar piece of clothing to cover the mouth and nose at all enclosed public spaces such as markets, pharmacies, banks etc. has been introduced as of 23 April 2020. The same is applied on open spaces in situations when those areas are crowded.
- The ban of gatherings and groups of people and other restrictive measures regarding physical distancing on public spaces and parks to remain the same.
- Exceptions for wearing protective equipment are 1) if the person is staying in the yard of a residential family house, 2) rides a bicycle or is physically active outdoors, but keeps the required 2 meters distance, 3) when driving a passenger motor vehicle with persons with whom are living together, 4) when moving in public spaces and open areas and maintains the minimum 2 meters distance from the other people.
To support these measures, on 27 April 2020 the Commission for Infectious Diseases proposed that the Government implement sanctions for failing to abide by the mandatory protective equipment measures in public. Officials have put forward this proposal after an abundance of photographic evidence showing people not abiding to the mandatory protective equipment measure surfaced on social media.
As of 27 April 2020, the Kumanovo Crisis Headquarters will distribute 34,000 free protective masks to the citizens of Kumanovo. These masks were provided by the Government after the Municipal Crisis Headquarters in Kumanovo asked the Government to provide masks that will be distributed free of charge to the citizens.
The Commission for Infectious Diseases has proposed to the Government a full lockdown during the upcoming Labor Day 1 May holiday weekend (Friday 19:00- Monday 05:00).
The Government adjusted the curfew during the Labour Day (1 May) holiday weekend:
- The ban on movement on the entire territory of the country will be from 14:00 to 05:00 each day (Friday, Saturday and Sunday).
- People above 67 years old can move between 05:00 and 11:00 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
- Young people up to the age of 18 can move between 12:00 and 14:00 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday
As of 5 May 2020, 80 people were caught breaking the curfew in the past 48 hours – 62 of them were detained.
As of 6 May 2020, 55 people were caught breaking the curfew in the past 24 hours – 42 of them were detained.
As of 13 May 2020, 31 people were caught breaking the curfew in the last 24 hours, 19 of them were detained.
The Constitutional Court decided to annul the restriction of movement of young people up to the age of 18 and older people above 67 years old. The curfew will cover all citizens, regardless of age.