1.2 Physical distancing
On 20 April, the government decided, in accordance with the current epidemiological situation and the opinion of experts, to alleviate certain measures that had been imposed to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Starting from 21 April, shops that offer services will be allowed to open, such as car mechanics, tire shops, shoemakers, tailors, dry cleaning, driving schools, as well as retail shops such as bookstores, motor vehicles dealers, etc. Green markets (both those in open and closed spaces) will be also open again as of 21 April, with obligatory application of all protective measures. All employers and the market administration are obliged to provide workers with protective equipment (masks, gloves and disinfectants) and work must be done by respecting physical distancing. Those who are still not allowed to resume their business activity are those whose work involves gatherings of a large number of people, such as shops of various types located in shopping malls. Also, reopening is not allowed for activities that involve close physical contact and therefore hairdressing salons, beauty salons, gyms and fitness centres will remain closed.
The government made a decision on April 24 to further relax COVID-19 restrictive measures. Starting from April 27, the work of green markets in closed space is allowed, as well as the work of hairdressers’ shops, beauty parlours and fitness centres and gyms. These facilities must perform work with the compulsory use of protective equipment – masks, gloves and disinfectants. Some of them, such as gyms and fitness centres, must make additional disinfection of the space and regulate their functioning through specific protocols, such as booking systems to use the gym or attend fitness sessions, in order to ensure respect of social distancing and avoid having many people in a closed space.
As of 27 April, persons over 65 are allowed to go for a one-hour walk each day in the interval between 18:00 and 01:00.
On 4 May, the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister submited to the Serbian parliament a joint proposal to lift the state of emergency on 7 May. The proposal has been made following a detailed study that states that active epidemiological surveillance of infectious disease COVID-19 had been established and there has been a decrease in the intensity of viral activity. Taking into account all the current parameters, the proposal submitted to the Serbian parliament states that COVID-19 can no longer be considered a disease of relevance to public health with the highest degree of risk, that is a public danger that threatens the survival of the state and its citizens.
On 6 May, the parliament of the Republic of Serbia lifted the state of emergency. The parliament also abolished 11 decrees that were in force during the state of emergency (among others, the Decree on organizing the work of employers during a state of emergency and others mostly related to financial regulations) (http://www.pravno-informacioni-sistem.rs/SlGlasnikPortal/eli/rep/sgrs/skupstina/zakon/2020/65/1/reg). On March 7, the government made a decision that all citizens and businesses were obliged to adhere to protective measures throughout the entire duration of the risk of spreading of the infectious disease COVID-19.
The suspension of teaching on the premises of the institutions of higher education, secondary and primary schools, as well as the suspension of work of these institutions is in force as long as the danger of the spread of COVID-19 lasts. Certain educational activities can be organised on the premises of these institutions, with the application of all protective measures.
When visiting parks and public areas intended for recreation, citizens are obliged to maintain a distance of two metres from each other.
Those employers engaged in retail trade activities, the establishments serving food and beverages and the owners of shops in shopping malls are required to take all preventive measures to combat COVID-19. This implies a limited number of people in the same space, disinfection of facilities, use of protective equipment and disinfectants (http://www.pravno-informacioni-sistem.rs/SlGlasnikPortal/eli/rep/sgrs/vlada/uredba/2020/66/1/reg).
On 21 May, the number of people allowed to participate in public gatherings (indoors and outdoors) was increased from 50 to 100. For indoor gatherings, protective measures, including hand disinfection, use of face masks and 2 meters distance, are obligatory. For outdoor gatherings, a distance of 2 meters between participants and the use of face mask are obligatory. (http://www.pravno-informacioni-sistem.rs/SlGlasnikPortal/eli/rep/sgrs/ministarstva/naredba/2020/66/1/reg)
The crisis response team decided on May 27 that outdoor sports competitions in the presence of the audience will start from June 1, provided that there is distance of one metre between spectators. Also, public gatherings in the open air from June 1 will be allowed with a maximum of one thousand people.
The Crisis Response Team decided on June 5 to remove the restriction on the number of people allowed at open-air gatherings, while a physical distance of at least one metre must be applied. For closed space meetings, the maximum number of participants increased to 500 people, instead of 100. The Team also issued a recommendation for the wearing of personal protective equipment, masks and gloves to be mandatory only in public transport.
Following the deteriorating epidemiological situation, the COVID-19 Crisis Response Team of the Serbian government decided on 23 June 2020 to impose an obligatory use of protective masks in the city and intercity transport. The team also recommended to all citizens to always wear masks in all closed spaces, in particular in post offices, banks, public institutions, shops and shopping malls. It was also decided to temporary ban hospital visits (visits to patients admitted to hospitals).
On June 29, the COVID-19 Crisis Response Team adopted new measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and protect the health of citizens. Taking into account a different epidemiological situation in different cities, it was decided that the measures will be gradually adopted in certain cities, which can be made stricter at any moment if they are not respected or prove to be insufficiently effective. Starting from 30 June, the use of masks on public transport and in all closed spaces is obligatory in Belgrade, without any exception. All visitors of shopping malls, cafés, restaurants, night clubs, beauty parlours, gyms and the like are obliged to wear protective masks while in those closed areas.
Regarding the rest of Serbia, the Crisis Response Team urged all citizens to wear protective masks on public transport and in all closed areas, keep a distance, use disinfectants and wash their hands regularly (https://www.srbija.gov.rs/vest/475671/od-sutra-u-beogradu-obavezne-maske-u-prevozu-i-zatvorenom-prostoru.php).
Considering new COVID-19 cases within nursing homes, the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs has suspended its instruction of June 9 on controlled visits and has issued a new one as of June 29, temporarily banning all visits to nursing homes until further notice. (https://www.minrzs.gov.rs/sr/aktuelnosti/vesti/zabranjene-posete-korisnicima-na-smestaju-0)
On July 3, the Government of Serbia approved new stricter public health measures in Belgrade after Mayor Zoran Radojcic declared the emergency situation in the capital to cope with the worsening situation with the coronavirus epidemic. New measures include:
- Mandatory wearing of protective masks in all indoor public places and in public transport. Persons who violate this measure will be sanctioned with a fine of 5,000 RSD (around 42 euros).
- Ban on gatherings of more than 100 people in indoor spaces and no more than 500 people outdoors. Physical distance of at least 1.5 meters is mandatory during the gatherings.
- Night clubs, cafes and restaurants have to be closed from 23:00 to 06:00 next morning.
A Covid-19 emergency situation was also declared on June 29 in the municipalities of Kragujevac, Novi Pazar, Tutin and Vranje, with similar measures.
Following a deterioration of the epidemiological situation, 14 more municipalities declared an emergency situation and by July 7, 18 local governments in total had implemented stricter public health measures under a declared emergency situation. Measures were similar in all locations and they included a ban on gatherings and celebrations, mandatory wearing of face masks indoors, limited working hours for bars and restaurants, limiting to 2 the number of persons sitting at tables in restaurants, and a mandatory distance of 2 meters between customers.
On July 9, the Crisis Response Team adopted new measures for the City of Belgrade as a consequence of the unfavourable epidemiological situation. New measures include:
- Ban on gatherings of more than 10 people in indoor and outdoor spaces.
- In indoor spaces, at least 4 square meters must be provided for each person.
- All indoor facilities (hospitality industry, shops, shopping malls, hairdressers, gyms, bookmakers) can be open between 6a.m. and 9p.m.
- Facilities with a garden can work up to 11p.m., with maximum respect for all protection measures.
On July 16, the Crisis Response Team decided that all above mentioned measures would be valid throughout the Republic of Serbia, starting from July 17.
By August 4, the number of towns with a declared emergency situation increased to 37. The following towns and municipalities have declared the emergency situation: Belgrade, Kragujevac, Novi Pazar, Tutin, Uzice, Cacak, Kraljevo, Vranje, Leskovac, Sabac, Valjevo, Priboj, Lucani, Vladicin Han, Bogatic, Arilje, Ivanjica, Pozega, Sremska Mitrovica, Loznica, Kursumlija, Prijepolje, Nova Varos, Vladimirci, Aleksandrovac, Ruma, Smederevo, Bujanovac, Zajecar, Bor, Majdanpek, Presevo, Temerin, Sremski Karlovci, Kladovo, Ljig, Mionica.
On August 11, the Crisis Response Team adopted the Instruction for schooling for the upcoming school year, which defines and ensures safe models of behaviour in the context of the COVID-19 epidemic. Among other measures, it prescribes following: classes for those aged 1-4 will be held in schools, while for older students, a mix model of distance and in-person classes will be applied.
On August 21, the COVID-19 Crisis Response Team decided to allow cultural events with the presence of the audience, such as cinemas, theatres and concerts in cultural institutions, starting from Monday, 24 August, with restrictions that the organizers must strictly adhere to: the audience must not exceed five hundred persons; the wearing of masks is compulsory, as well as keeping a physical distance of 1.5 metres or one empty seat between people. A proper physical distance is mandated at open-air events too.
The Team made a decision to allow visits to nursing homes and similar log-term care institutions. The decision was made in order to preserve the mental health and social life of residents. Visits are allowed only with the strictest observance of all preventive measures and visits’ protocols.
Following improvements in the COVID-19 epidemiological situation, 19 towns and municipalities lifted the local state of emergency by September 1. As a consequence of the lifted measures in these municipalities, bars, restaurants and shops are allowed to return to their previous working hours and some municipalities allowed public gatherings of up to 500 persons.
The Crisis Response Team decided on August 28 to allow:
- Prolonged working hours of shops by 2 hours to last until 11pm
- Restaurants with outside seating may be open until 1am.
- The maximum number of persons allowed to gather indoors and outdoors was increased from 10 to 30.
On August 31, the Crisis Response Team sent letters to all mayors, reminding them that they are obliged to ensure that all epidemiological measures are adhered to, without exception. To this purpose, the Serbian government will task the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Interior with toughening the control over compliance with the measures, making a plan of joint inspections over compliance with all epidemiological measures in force.
On October 16, the COVID-19 crisis response team decided that wearing masks in the open is recommendable in addition to mandatory wearing of masks in closed public spaces. The team reminded the public that customers in hospitality establishments are obliged to enter the space with a mask on, and that customers are allowed to take down their mask only when they are seated at the table. As of October 16, all establishments that work with customers are obliged to have a designated person that is responsible for the strict implementation of preventive measures (https://www.srbija.gov.rs/vest/491971/od-danas-preporuka-za-nosenje-maski-i-na-otvorenom.php).
The Government adopted a Declaration on COVID-19 on 10 March (http://www.pravno-informacioni-sistem.rs/SlGlasnikPortal/eli/rep/sgrs/vlada/odluka/2020/23/1/reg) that was followed by a number of other measures:
• On 11 March, indoor public gatherings with more than 100 people were banned.
• On 13 March, the decision to ban gatherings at outdoor sports facilities was made and a decision to prohibit any visits to nursing homes (http://www.pravno-informacioni-sistem.rs/SlGlasnikPortal/eli/rep/sgrs/ministarstva/naredba/2020/28/1/reg). For any new person admitted to a nursery home, mandatory isolation of 14 days was introduced.
• On 15 March, a state of emergency (Martial Law) was declared (http://www.pravno-informacioni-sistem.rs/SlGlasnikPortal/eli/rep/sgrs/predsednik/odluka/2020/29/1/reg), implying the active deployment of the army, including at borders, and a substantive lockdown of public life, with the closure of all schools (http://www.pravno-informacioni-sistem.rs/SlGlasnikPortal/eli/rep/sgrs/vlada/odluka/2020/30/2/reg), kindergartens, universities and sports facilities. All foreign nationals were asked not to visit Serbia, except Chinese nationals who are invited to help with the COVID-19 related situation. All Serbian citizens returning from any country were put in mandatory 14-day self-isolation, and 28 days for those from COVID-19 hot spots (areas with intensive transmission), including Italy, South Korea, Iran, Spain, France, Germany, Greece, Switzerland, Romania, Austria and Slovenia. All indoor public gatherings with more than 50 people were banned (http://www.pravno-informacioni-sistem.rs/SlGlasnikPortal/eli/rep/sgrs/vlada/uredba/2020/31/1/reg). Working hours for coffee shops, restaurants and bars were reduced to the time period between 8am and 8pm. The campaign “Stay at home” was widely promoted on the internet and national TV channels.
• On 16 March, a Decree on the organization of work during the emergency was adopted, obligating employers to enable employees to perform work outside the premises of the employer (teleworking and work from home), at all workplaces where such work can be organized. In case that is not possible, the employer is obliged to organize shift work, so that as few employees as possible work simultaneously in one room, and to enable all business meetings to be held electronically or by other appropriate means (http://www.pravno-informacioni-sistem.rs/SlGlasnikPortal/eli/rep/sgrs/vlada/uredba/2020/31/2/reg). All public service counters were closed, except for the Tax Administration, Customs Administration and the Treasury Administration (http://www.pravno-informacioni-sistem.rs/SlGlasnikPortal/eli/rep/sgrs/vlada/zakljucak/2020/35/1/reg).
• Also on 16 March, the Government adopted a Decision on the temporary limitation of movement of asylum-seekers and irregular migrants accommodated in asylum and reception centres, which allows exiting these centres only with special permits (http://www.pravno-informacioni-sistem.rs/SlGlasnikPortal/eli/rep/sgrs/vlada/odluka/2020/32/1/reg). As of 18 March, troops were deployed around the migrant centres to enforce this decision. At the same time, law-enforcement authorities gathered over 2,000 migrants from public spaces and transported them to the nearest governmental centre.
• On 18 March, a strict curfew was imposed for all citizens from 8pm to 5am. For citizens older than 65 years in places with more than 5,000 inhabitants, and older than 70 years in places with less than 5,000 inhabitants, a total lockdown in their homes was imposed. They have the right to go to selected grocery stores once per week on Sundays between 3am and 8am in the morning (http://www.pravno-informacioni-sistem.rs/SlGlasnikPortal/eli/rep/sgrs/ministarstva/naredba/2020/34/1/reg).
• On 21 March, the curfew was extended to last from 5pm to 5am, a ban on public transport was introduced, the operation of all facilities and shops within shopping malls was prohibited, except for grocery stores and pharmacies. Spending time in all parks and public spaces intended for recreation and sport, as well as public gatherings in a closed space with more than 5 persons, was prohibited.
• On 27 March, the government recommended to churches and religious communities to perform religious rites in a safe manner and without the presence of believers (https://www.pravno-informacioni-sistem.rs/SlGlasnikPortal/eli/rep/sgrs/vlada/zakljucak/2020/43/1/reg).
• On 28 March, the curfew during the weekend was extended to last from 3pm Saturday to 3am Sunday and from 3pm Sunday to 5am Monday. Also, the self-isolation period was extended from 14 to 28 days. Guided by expert opinion, the Government decided to withdraw the decision on allowing walk with pets for 20 minutes between 8pm and 9pm. It has been decided to close all green markets, both outdoors and indoors, until further notice (http://www.pravno-informacioni-sistem.rs/SlGlasnikPortal/eli/rep/sgrs/ministarstva/naredba/2020/34/1/reg).
• On 1 April, the government decided to ban operations in all facilities as well as activities involving close physical contact, such as hairdressing, beauty parlors, fitness clubs and gyms. The decision was also made to close all bookmakers, casinos and slot machines.
• On 2 April, the government decided to ban gatherings of more than two people and over weekends, curfew will be enforced on Saturdays as of 13:00h, lasting until Monday morning 5:00h. Older people over 65 will still be allowed to do their weekly shopping on Sunday mornings (4:00h-7:00h) (https://www.srbija.gov.rs/vest/en/153206/increase-in-number-of-coronavirus-cases-expected-within-next-48-hours.php).
• On 9 April, the Government extended the duration of the curfew during the weekend. For all citizens of the Republic of Serbia there is a complete ban on movement from Friday at 17.00 to Monday at 05.00.
• To prevent mass gatherings during the Orthodox Easter Holiday, the curfew has been extended curfew, as announced by the President of Serbia. The complete ban on movement has been imposed from Friday April 17 at 17:00 to Tuesday April 21 at 05:00. The President advised that Easter services in Serbian Orthodox Church temples should be held without the faithful present.
The Government announced that as of April 20, citizens over the age of 65 would be allowed to go out three times a week for half an hour and 300 meters away from their home. It was also announced that children with autism and other disabilities and their parents will be allowed to have a walk during the curfew up to 200 meters away from home.