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Lock-down life: One country, three stories

Ivana Nikolic June 2, 2020
Lock-down life: One country, three stories

Each of the three entities comprising Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) had their own ways of dealing with the covid-19 pandemic.

In the Republika Srpska, measures were mostly ‘copied over’ from Serbia; in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FB&H), from Croatia, while the Brcko District adjusted to one or the other, from case to case.

There were very few measures taken jointly. Even the lock-down and state of emergency had three different end dates: 21 May for Republika Srpska, 22 May for Brcko District and, finally, 31 May for the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I interviewed Dalibor Mrdic, news producer and presenter at TV N1 in B&H, about the pandemic in this head-strong Balkan state.

How it all started

B&H recorded the first case of coronavirus on 5 March, in Banja Luka, Republika Srpska, after a man had recently returned from Italy.

In the Federation of Bosnia & Herzegovina, the first case was recorded on 9 March, also in a citizen flying home from Italy. On the same day, all public gatherings were immediately banned.

Controlling the spread of the virus

Citizens were informed through public media on how to protect themselves from the virus. Advice included hand washing, keeping a physical distance from others and wearing protective equipment, such as masks and gloves.

As early as 15 March, classes in schools and universities were suspended.

A day later, a mandatory two-week quarantine was introduced for anyone returning to B&H from abroad, along with a ban on entry into the B&H for citizens of countries affected by the virus.

The Federation of B&H then declared a state of emergency on the same day.

The Federation of B&H and Republika Srpska simultaneously introduced a curfew on 21 March, but with slight differences in timelines.

The first death from coronavirus in B&H occurred on 21 March in Bihac.

In B&H’s capital, Sarajevo, the first case of coronavirus was recorded on 24 March. On 28 March, Republika Srpska imposed a state of emergency and suspended the National Assembly, transferring all powers to the Crisis Staff.

Image by Chris Spencer-Payne from Pixabay

The authorities communicated guidelines and measures mainly through press conferences broadcast on public service radio and television.

In the Federation of B&H the Civil Protection Crisis Staff held press conferences twice a day. Meanwhile in the Republika Srpska, people stayed up to date with morning press conferences from the Minister of Health and occasional addresses by members of the Republika Crisis Staff.

Throughout the pandemic, freedom of movement for people under 18 and over 65 was especially limited. For almost a month, they were completely banned from going out.

In Republika Srpska, citizens were forbidden to leave their municipalities. This rule only covered April weekends, when the weather might have tempted vacationers and would-be barbecue enthusiasts.

The end of the ordeal?

By the end of May, Bosnia & Herzegovina had 2510 recorded cases of coronavirus. Of those, 153 died and 1862 recovered.

Citizens generally complied with all adopted measures and the very small number of sanctions given for violations confirms that. Together, it seems these measures prevented a larger-scale infection.

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