April 24, 2020 / 11:50 AM / a month ago

Bosnian region eases lockdown on seniors, children after court ruling

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnia’s autonomous Bosniak-Croat Federation on Friday loosened restrictions intended to stop the spread of the new coronavirus by keeping seniors and children from leaving their homes at all, after the top court ruled those restrictions violated the constitution.

As of Friday, people older than 65 will be allowed to leave their homes from 0900 to 1300 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Those younger than 18 will be allowed out on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 1400 to 2000, the region’s crisis staff decided.

In a response to an appeal by a group of citizens, Bosnia’s Constitutional Court concluded this week that their rights under the country’s constitution, as well as the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, had been violated.

Social distancing and other protective measures still needed to be observed, it added.

The Federation civil protection authority also lifted a night-time curfew and abolished a measure of obligatory quarantine but said people would still have to self-isolate for 14 days at their homes.

Protesters across the region went on hunger strikes earlier this week over their treatment in confinement. Many complained they had not been tested for the virus, or had not been given their test results.

Under emergency measures, the Federation authorities had been putting people arriving from abroad into quarantine for 28 days.

Bosnia has officially recorded 1,421 cases and 55 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

The crisis staff said it could also soon take moves to partly re-open the economy, provided there was no surge in new cases, hospitalisations or use of intensive care units. Lockdown measures could be re-applied if necessary.

Even before the pandemic, Bosnia’s health system was in poor shape. Large numbers of doctors and nurses have sought work in Western Europe, causing fears that the country may soon have too few medical staff to cope.

Bosnia declared a nationwide state of emergency on March 17, after the Federation and the Serb Republic, its other autonomous half, separately declared emergency situations and introduced measures to limit transmission of the coronavirus.

Reporting by Maja Zuvela, editing by Larry King and Steve Orlofsky

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