Serbian officials send mixed messages on lockdown after thousands protest

Copyright Marko Drobnjakovic/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved


Serbian officials have been accused of sending mixed messages over new lockdown restrictions after protesters filled the streets of Belgrade.

Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić had announced on Tuesday that new lockdown measures would be reintroduced later in the week, prompting demonstrators to gather in front of the parliament with some chanting "Resignation! Resignation!"

But on Wednesday, the president appeared to backtrack on his comments after thousands of people protested and clashed with police.

Vučić said that he had thought about imposing a second lockdown following a new wave of cases.

But, he continued, "we would have no chances of surviving economically and we need to live with this, and we need to take all precautionary measures but we need to keep on working, to keep on working very hard just to protect our business community and our workers."

The country's chief epidemiologist, Predrag Kon told Serbia's cable news channel N1 that a curfew was still being discussed and that the protests showed how people felt about the lockdown.


Clashes had erupted between groups of protesters and police, who fired rounds of tear gas, according to AP, on Tuesday.

Several people attempted to storm the building, briefly managing to enter, but were pushed back by riot police.

Protesters reacted by throwing projectiles including flares, stones, bottles and eggs at authorities.

"Our good president lifted the state of emergency because of the election, and now he wants to impose it again," one protester told AP, but Vučić has denied this claim.

President Vučić had made the lockdown announcement earlier in the day as the Balkan country reported its highest single-day death toll from the coronavirus.

He called the situation relating to the virus in the Serbian capital "alarming" and "critical" as the city's hospitals neared their capacity limits.

Vučić said a curfew would be reimposed from Friday "probably" from 6 pm until 5 am on Monday.

He added that people would not be allowed to gather in groups of more than five.

As many as 299 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in 24 hours in Serbia on Tuesday and 13 people had died, according to the country’s Health Ministry.

Serbia went from having one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe to near-complete reopening at the beginning of May.

The country's total confirmed cases on Tuesday stood at 16,719 with 330 virus-related deaths.

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