Bosnia & Herzegovina

BiH: New measures provoke protests in Banja Luka

After the latest measures to stem the pandemic in Republika Srpska went into effect, a large group of hospitality workers and workers from other closed enterprises gathered Monday morning to protest in downtown Banja Luka, the capital of RS and the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The measures, ratified at Sunday’s Crisis Management Headquarters session, provide for the closure of bars and restaurants, hairdressing salons, shopping malls and several other categories of facilities where large gatherings were frequent. Primary, secondary and university schools in Republika Srpska have been moved to online classrooms.

Measures have been introduced as the entire region is facing a dramatic increase in new coronavirus cases and medical staff are warning of possible consequences.

The new measures in this part of Bosnia and Herzegovina also ensure the closure of swimming pools, spas and wellness centers, betting shops and other businesses for a week, where direct contact is unavoidable.

The new measures caused concern mainly to hospitality workers who, as they say, will suffer a great loss and will not be able to recover. Several dozen of them gathered in Banja Luka, breaking epidemic measures over banning public gatherings.

“We want to work,” they shouted as police stopped them from reaching the Republika Srpska Palace, the seat of the unit’s president.

Vladan Šurlan, a member of the Board of Directors of the Employers’ Association in Hospitality and Tourism “Horeca RS”, told reporters that food suppliers have nothing against the decision of RS Crisis Management Staff, but they are struggling to establish food in their families “table

“Every country in which a blockade has been introduced subsidizes its economy. “In our country, only the real sector suffers,” said lanurlan.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, there were 14,000 employees in the hospitality industry, and now there are just over 10,000. “It is imperative that we sit down with representatives of line ministries as soon as possible and find a solution,” Šurlan said.

Meanwhile, the situation with the coronavirus pandemic in BiH is far from good. The country is struggling to get vaccines and real, mass vaccination is not even on the horizon. The health sector is close to breaking point in both entities, Republika Srpska and the Federation of BiH. The number of new infections and deaths is increasing every day. This is why health workers are disappointed with the protest and called on those who want to open restaurants and other places to join them in hospitals.

“We were often tempted to join demonstrations in front of your businesses, where (anti-epidemic) measures were being violated; parties in bars, guests without masks, without physical distance and so on, but we did not have time because we were working, we had to save lives “, it is said in a letter signed by the employees of the University Clinical Center, the main hospital of Banja Luka.

They also add that capacity has almost been increased, as more than half of the 421 patients currently hospitalized are in oxygen support.

“Health workers are on the verge of collapse and hospitals are facing a capacity of almost 100%. The medical staff is trying once again to warn about the seriousness of this situation and the fact that, if new cases continue to grow, we may reach a point where medical treatment cannot be adequately provided for both Covid and “not patient patients”, they emphasize.

Similar protests, but on a smaller scale, took place peacefully in East Sarajevo.

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