The Balkan country of Albania is mostly out of the woods when it comes to the pandemic. As of 23 June, they’ve had 1,995 confirmed cases, of which 1,159 recovered and 44 died.

On 10 June, the country’s Adriatic coast reopened to the beach-going public.

The government started easing lock-down measures on 1 June, by gradually reopening kindergartens, preschools, gyms, sports venues, cultural centres, museums, libraries and other similar facilities.

Malls, shops, hairdressers, dentists and other services also started operating again, but with strict physical distancing regulations.

Schooling for older students, however, continues online until the end of the academic year. High schools and universities are currently open only for graduating students, and even then in small groups and with added precautions.

How it all started

Following the confirmation of patient zero on 8 March, the Albanian government immediately closed schools, bars and restaurants and then instituted a lockdown. Only essential services remained open, including groceries and pharmacies, says Besar Likmeta, the editor for Albania at BIRN (Balkan Investigative Reporting Network).

He explains that the government cracked down with steep fines for patients breaking quarantine and business that operating illegally outside of lock-down.

In spite of a pretty stable situation, some restrictions continue even after lock-down. All public transportation is limited indefinitely and public-facing government offices still provide service only through e-Albania and other online platforms.

All events and public gatherings with more than two people remain banned. Travel in and out of the country is still off-limits for now, as well.

Talking Drones

The Albanian police used drones to enforce strict lock-down rules in larger cities. According to Voice of America, the drones patrolled above the streets of Tirana, where people were not to go outside without authorisation.

When encountering a pedestrian, they would “play a recorded message warning people the police are about to arrive and they should keep their distance“, describes the VOA article.

People, in general, did respect the measures enforced, conscious of the weaknesses of their local health system. Many knew all too well that hospitals would struggle if people did not help to flatten the curve themselves, says Likmeta.

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