Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić backtracked on a plan to enforce a second lockdown amid increasing coronavirus cases after protesters filled the streets of Belgrade.
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!”
Protests began on Tuesday and continued the following day with several people injured outside parliament as clashes erupted between groups of protesters and police, who fired rounds of tear gas.
But Vučić said on Wednesday that without a state of emergency, he wouldn’t be able to enforce a curfew, in an apparent backtrack on his plan to impose a curfew from Friday to Monday to curb the spread of the virus.
He said the country’s crisis team, prime minister and health minister would “probably decide tomorrow to introduce harsher measures, but without introducing a curfew.”
The country’s chief epidemiologist, Predrag Kon, told Serbia’s cable news channel N1 earlier in the day that the protests showed how people felt about the lockdown.
Several people had attempted to storm the parliament building, briefly managing to enter, but were pushed back by riot police on Tuesday.
Protesters reacted by throwing projectiles including flares, stones, bottles and eggs at authorities.
Vučić’s critics have said that he lifted the state of emergency in order to hold an election, which he has denied.
Vučić called the situation relating to the virus in the Serbian capital “alarming” and “critical” as the city’s hospitals neared their capacity limits.
At least 357 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in 24 hours in Serbia on Tuesday and 11 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 17,076 with 341 virus-related deaths.__EuroNews