Coronavirus, Albania in lockdown

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 10, 2020 13:19

Coronavirus, Albania in lockdown

TIRANA, March 12 – Albania registered the first death case from coronavirus on Wednesday. The ministry of health announced that a 73 years-old woman, hospitalized in the coastal city of Durres, passed away. She tested positive for Covid-19 and died due to cardiac and pulmonary complications.

The ministry said the number of people infected with coronavirus in Albania is 23, as of Thursday. Health authorities announce the test results on a daily basis. They decided to hold press conferences without the journalists present, in order to avoid gathering of large crowds of people in one place.

Extreme measures announced

The government has announced extreme measures in order to prevent the spread of Covid19.

Prime Minister Edi Rama sent a text message to all of the mobile subscribers in Albania on Thursday telling them to wash their hands, stay home and be cautious of fake news, among other things. The message was sent after he announced that cars in Tirana and Durres, and other major cities will not be allowed on the roads, as an extreme measure of preventing the spread of coronavirus in Albania. The ban starts on Friday at 06:00am and ends on Sunday midnight.

"Staring Friday 06:00am to Sunday midnight, the circulation of private cars and those of interurban public transport vehicles, between Tirana and Durres will be banned. From Friday 06:00 to Sunday midnight, the circulation of private vehicles and public transport vehicles in Shkodra, Lezha, Elbasani, Lushnja, Fieri and Vlora will be banned. Traffic in these areas will be allowed only for ambulances, vehicles of the public administration and those used for goods' transportation. These extreme measures are necessary protecting every citizen, every family and even Albania itself from the aggressive worsening of the coronavirus situation," PM Rama wrote on Facebook. Earlier on Thursday, public transportation was shut down.

The police and military forces are patrolling the streets of Albania to make sure self-quarantine protocol is observed by those who traveled to Italy, Greece or other countries with the coronavirus outbreak. Fines up to 5000 euros are to be applied.

Rama announced at an emergency government meeting on Monday that all educational institutions will be closed for two weeks.

"It should be very clear to everyone that, based on all the global statistics published so far on the developments of the coronavirus situation, the youngsters are less at risk, however, due to the fact that they have to go to school, or to kindergartens and that they are carriers, they can transmit the virus to others," Rama said.

All educational institutions will reopen on March 23.

The government announced stricter measures on Tuesday. Bars, restaurants, gyms, discos and venues with live music were ordered to close. The police are supervising the implementation of the measures. Among the government's measures are a bonus for medical staff up to 1000 euros and 500 for sanitation workers and drivers, while the retired will get the monthly pension delivered at their homes, free of charge.

The country's Assembly cancelled the plenary session, planned on Thursday.

Air and sea links with Italy suspended

Albania suspended flights to all the destinations in Italy on Tuesday due to the coronavirus outbreak. The ferries to and from Italy were also suspended. The country has close economic and social links with Italy, the European hotspot for the disease. About 600,000 Albanians live there permanently and thousands more travel each day by plane and ferry.

On Monday, flights to and from Milan Malpensa (MXP), Milan Bergamo (BGY), Bologna (BLQ), Florence (FLR), Genoa (GOA), Perugia (PEG), Pisa (PSA), Rimini (RMI), Venice (VCE), Verona (VRN), Ancona (AOI) and Turin (TRN) were suspended, while the flights not affected by this decision on Monday were, to and from: Rome (FCO) and Bari (BRI)

Now, all the flights to and from the Italian destinations are suspended. The government will allow special planes or ferries for the evacuation of the Italian citizens out of Albania, provided they enter the country with no passengers.

''I want to specify that the measure only concerns the transport of passengers. Commercial vessels will be able to continue their activities as normal while crews will go through medical checks,'' minister of infrastructure Belinda Balluku said in a press conference on Tuesday.

Many passengers were affected by the flight cancellations. In this situation, Albania's Civil Aviation Authority (ACAA) informed that: According to the specific directives "On the compensation and assistance of passengers in the case of denying boarding and cancellation or delay of the flight", they are entitled to a new itinerary (a later flight) by the air carrier or they can cancel their tickets and get a full refund.

The passengers must contact the airline via email or telephone and if they get no reply, they should contact ACAA.

Being cautious

The disinfection of the public places is underway all over the country.

Erjon Veliaj, the mayor of the Tirana, the densest city in Albania, said that the municipality is disinfecting everything.

President Ilir Meta said on Wednesday that there is no room for panic.

"Rigorous implementation of the health protocols is imperative! Together we can protect the health of every citizen," Meta said after meeting the head of World Health Organization in Tirana Raul Gonzales.

Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha appealed to the citizens to be cautious.

"Governments come and go, but those who remain are you, in the hands of the citizens. We have one of the best medical staff, today we have to give them the means and funds needed to cope with this situation. The more you talk today about the epidemic, the quieter the citizens will be," the opposition leader said.

The U.S. Embassy in Tirana sent a press release saying "this is a time for calm, sensible action by the public and swift, responsible action by all leaders. In this respect, the Embassy will also be following WHO recommended measures for basic protective measures against COVID-19, including practicing social distancing and increasing personal hygiene measures, such as frequent handwashing."
"We will continue to support the efforts of the Government of Albania to lead a coordinated and transparent response that keeps all people in Albania as safe, healthy, and informed as possible," the press release reads.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 10, 2020 13:19