Although 2020 had shaped up to be a good year for North Macedonia, it too did not prevent spread of the new coronavirus onto its territory. A diagnosis of a 50-year-old woman on 26th March 2020 marked the first noted case on Macedonian territory, largely at the same time as in the other Balkan countries. From 6th March on, the number of diagnosed has been increasing daily. As of 26th April 2020, the North Macedonian Ministry of Health reports 1,386 sick, with 61 deaths and 500 recovered.
The state of emergency was enacted in North Macedonia on 18th March, expanding the government’s powers and enabling them to enact decrees in the absence of Parliament – the Parliament had been disbanded due to planned snap elections. The president announced prolonging of the state of emergency for another 30 days on 16th April.
Measures have been imposed on the whole country to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from abroad as well as within the country. Borders and both main airports are closed due to travel ban. Individuals are prohibited from leaving their homes from 4 pm to 5 am on weekdays while a complete ban of movement applies to weekends. Children below the age of 18 can leave their homes only from 1 pm to 3 pm on weekdays while citizens 65+ should not leave their homes outside of 10 am to 12 am. Additionally, the government enacted a ban on public gatherings. Face masks are mandatory in public places where the two-meter distance cannot be maintained from 23th April onwards.
At the end of March, North Macedonia contacted several countries and international organizations with a plea for help (financial, technical, material), and country such as Hungary, Norway, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic or the European Union have responded, providing financial, technical and/or material support.
Due to relative success in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, the prime minister announced a gradual loosening of restrictions on 20th April. Two days later, the first changes were enacted in regard to the restrictive curfew, shortening the times by approx. 3 hours each workday and replacing the overall weekend curfew to a movement ban from 3 pm on Saturday to 5 am on Monday.
The country faces a number of consequences. In terms of domestic politics, the fact that the elections were postponed and the country is governed by an interim government composed of both the party-in-government (Democratic Socialists) and the opposition already creates friction. The Economist Intelligence Unit also underlines the likely economic recession as a result of limited export opportunities and decline in tourism, two major sectors of North Macedonian economy.
The State enacted numerous means of support to protect its economy. Among others, to support local business, the state offers subventions for net salaries (in the amount of EUR 235 per employee per month); pecuniary allowance to citizens who lost their jobs due to the crisis. Additionally, the government banned the ability to open bankruptcy proceedings.
Written by Kristýna Haráková, April 2020.