EEC newsletter Q4/2021: covid-19 snapshot

About 55% of the Serbian population is currently vaccinated. Since there are no official government statistics on the percentage of vaccinated people, this rate is based on information published by the media[1].

Government policy FOR dealING with the COVID-19 pandemic

The Prime Minister of Serbia announced on 5 October 2021, that 53.7% of the population has been vaccinated with their first dose, 51.6% with a second dose, and 11.6% of the population has received a third dose of the vaccine[2]. By the end of October, more than 3 million adult Serbian citizens were vaccinated, according to an announcement from the Prime Minister.

  • Green certificate/vaccination certificate:

A green certificate in Serbia is a consolidated digital certificate bearing an electronic stamp and QR code, containing information about the holder’s vaccination status, or alternatively information about his/her Covid-19 test result (provided that the tests are carried out at a state-approved laboratory), or information about his/her recovery from Covid-19.

The QR code in the green certificate is meant to be scanned upon entry into certain areas, resulting in one of the following readings:

2 green status: meaning that (i) the holder has been vaccinated with the 2nd or 3rd dose of vaccine within the last 7 months, (ii) has tested negative to Covid-19 within the last 72 or 48 hours, depending on the type of test, (iii) has a positive antibody test taken within the last 90 days or (iv) has recovered from Covid-19 within the last 7 months;

2 red status: meaning that the holder (i) had his/her 2nd dose of vaccine more than 7 months ago, (ii) has tested positive to Covid-19 within the last 14 days or (iii) has recovered from Covid-19 more than 7 months ago.

Terms and conditions for obtaining a green certificate

The green certificate is issued free of charge via the government online administration system (eGovernment Portal). The application must be filed by the person who will be the holder of the certificate (i.e., an application by proxy is not allowed). The green certificate can also be obtained at selected post offices in Serbia.

Validity and use of the green certificate

The green certificate is valid, as long as it results in a green status reading, as outlined above. A valid certificate allows its holder access to all catering facilities (e.g. restaurants, cafés etc.) after 8 pm and can be used for traveling (although the validity of the certificate must be checked with the destination country).

  • PCR tests

If PCR tests are performed on a doctor’s instructions, they are free of charge. On the other hand, if PCR tests are performed by personal request (e.g. for travel reasons), they must be paid for and are not covered by health insurance.

The price of a PCR test is 9,000 RSD (approximately €75) for Serbian citizens, foreign citizens who have permanent or temporary residence in Serbia, as well as for members of foreign diplomatic or consular missions and for members of their families. For other foreign citizens the price is 18.000 RSD (approximately €150).

Testing can be scheduled online at more than 20 testing points across the country. It is possible to schedule a test for Serbian citizens, foreign citizens residing in Serbia, as well as for tourists.

  • Required/Recommended vaccine doses

For a valid green certificate, the holder must have received at least 2 vaccine doses. A 3rd “booster” dose is recommended and this can be effected with either type of “booster” vaccine, irrespective of the vaccine initially injected.

  • Documents required to enter the country

As of mid-November, green certificates issued in Serbia are recognized as a valid equivalent of the EU green certificate by decision of the European Commission.

In general, Serbian citizens, diplomatic staff and persons employed by international organizations, as well as foreign citizens residing in Serbia, can enter Serbia with one of the following documents:

  • Certificate of complete vaccination (i.e., two vaccine doses received within the last 7 months);
  • Negative test for Covid-19 (either RT-PCR test or Antigen FIA rapid test, if coming from the USA) within the last 48 hours; or
  • Certificate of recovery from Covid-19 (provided that no less than 14 days or more than six months from the first test).

Other foreign citizens can also present an EU digital certificate issued by the appropriate authorities of countries in the EU Digital COVID Certificate system.

In general, persons who cannot provide one of the above documents, when entering the country, are required to isolate for 10 days and have to report to the appropriate medical facility within 24 hours from the time they cross the state border. Certain specific rules might also apply depending on the reason of entering Serbia, as well as the country of departure of the foreign person travelling.

For specific cases, certain limitations and exclusions from these rules might apply. Hence, as part of planning a trip to Serbia, it is strongly recommended that the specific requirements for entering the country and the validity of certificates issued by foreign countries are checked, in order to avoid any problems at the border. This information is regularly updated on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website: https://mfa.gov.rs/en/citizens/travel-serbia/covid-19-entry-requirements.

 

  • Restrictions on public gatherings (e.g. in restaurants, malls, etc.)

The restrictions on public gatherings are subject to change, depending on the progress of the pandemic. Currently, green certificates are required in order to enter any catering facilities (e.g. restaurants, cafés etc.) after 8pm. There are also restrictions on the maximum number of people who may attend mass gatherings, and the number of visitors in restaurants, malls, etc., as well as sanitary requirements for organizing mass events.

  • Requirement for wearing masks

Masks are required in closed spaces (e.g. cinemas, shops, schools), in public transport and in open places, where it is not possible to maintain physical distance (e.g. in front of banks, pharmacies).

CORPORATE Challenges LINKED to THE COVID-19 pandemic

According to a survey by the Union of Employers of Serbia, in partnership with the International Labor Organization and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, more than 54% of companies deem that the epidemic has had a serious negative impact on their business[3].

  • Working from home – requirements and % of application

There is no official government data on what percentage of companies are currently allowing their employees to work from home but, in practice, a number of employees are still doing so (usually working part-time from home and part-time at the office), but this number is lower than at the beginning of pandemic. Employers have the discretion to regulate internally the conditions for working from home during the pandemic.

Companies have had to adapt, and are still adapting, to the new working conditions caused by the pandemic. As indicated, a number of employers introduced working from home for their employees (where this was a viable possibility). On the other hand, certain sectors suffered more, such as tourist and restaurant businesses, which had and continue to have difficulties keeping their businesses going.

  • Impact of online education on parents who work

Covid-19 introduced on-line schooling for children and created numerous challenges for teachers, children and their parents. A study conducted by UNICEF, in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), showed that the epidemic caused by the Covid-19 virus had a negative impact on the education of young people aged 7 to 17. As many as 66% of parents believe that distance learning has reduced children’s motivation, and as many as 60% believe that schooling during a pandemic will have a negative impact on their children’s further education[4].

  • Compensation/state aid to enterprises

The Government of Serbia has introduced 3 packages of measures to help companies deal with the pandemic. These measures include fiscal benefits, direct grants and loans to maintain liquidity, together with some specific targeted measures, for example for the tourism industry etc.

[1] https://www.slobodnaevropa.org/a/doktorka-beograd-vakcinacija/31547779.html

[2] https://www.glasamerike.net/a/vakcinacija-srbija/6262849.html

[3] https://www.poslodavci.rs/posledice-covid-19-na-privredu-u-srbiji-anketa-ups/

[4] https://www.unicef.org/serbia/en/press-releases/results-unicefs-survey-impact-covid-19-pandemic-families-children-serbia-presented

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