Albania tightens COVID-19 measures as total number of confirmed cases reaches 70 with 2 dead
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Albania has reached 70 as of 20 March. A second person, a 66 year old man from Lushnje, died of the disease this week. 32 people are hospitalised, of whom three are in intensive care, while the others are self-quarantined and in stable condition. Among the confirmed cases are nine medical staff. The geographic spread of the confirmed cases is as follows: 50 in Tirana, 7 Fier, 5 in Durres, 2 in Lushnja, 2 in Elbasan, 2 in Rrogozhina, and 2 in Kavaja.
The government approved an emergency normative act with a number of new measures to contain the spread of the virus as well as serious penalties for their violation. Since 18 March, people have been allowed to go outside only alone (not accompanied) and only from 6:00 to 10:00 and 16:00 to 18:00. The closure of schools was extended to 3 April.
All land border crossings – with Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Greece – have been closed for most traffic since 15 March, while remaining open for the transport of goods. Commercial flights to and from Italy and the UK have been halted by the authorities. Most airlines operating in Tirana have suspended some or all of their flights in the course of the week. Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines suspended their flights to Tirana as of 19 March.
Most EU citizens wishing to leave Albania have done so over the past days. By the end of the week, around 35 EU citizens that wish to leave remained in the country, according to data shared with the EU Delegation by Member States, with most expected to depart shortly, mainly with the remaining commercial flights. At the same time, following the closure of borders and cancellation of flights, many Albanian citizens abroad are facing difficulties to return to Albania.
The Government appointed the Minister of State for Reconstruction, Arben Ahmetaj, as the national co-ordinator in charge of the COVID-19 emergency. Prime Minister Edi Rama announced a series of measures to stabilise the economy and avert social hardship (see economy and finance section). He also announced that the salaries of ministers, deputy ministers and Members of Parliament will be cut in half. President Ilir Meta followed suit and announced the same for his salary.
In a public address on 16 March, Rama declared that he would ask Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to exclude the Western Balkans from the EU export restrictions on medical supply. Deputy Minister of Health Mira Rakacolli said the Government has requested China’s support for medical staff and supplies. Albania should also receive support from USAID, which has committed USD 37 million for 25 countries.