On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared a Coronavirus pandemic due to an ongoing global outbreak of Coronavirus disease, called COVID-19 (which represent an abbreviation of Coronavirus Disease 2019). In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the first case of COVID 19 was recorded on March 5, 2020. To date, 39 cases have been confirmed in the territory of BiH, i.e. 29 cases in the territory of the Republic of Srpska and 10 cases in the territory of the Federation of BiH.
In the Republic of Srpska, on 16 March, the Government issued a Decision declaring a state of emergency. A day later, at the proposal of the Ministry of Security, the BIH Council of Ministers issued a Decision declaring the state of natural or other disasters in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Authorities at the state and republic levels, as well as at the level of the local self-government unit, have undertaken a number of measures and activities to prevent the spreading of disease caused by Coronavirus. A brief review of the measures taken as of March 3, 2020, can be found below.
1.Health care measures and restrictions on freedom of movement and gatherings
- At borders, Federal inspectors are issuing a Decision on placing in isolation for 14 days to all BiH citizens entering the country (decision effective since March 16, at 06.00 hours);
- By order of the RS Minister of Administration and Local Self-Government since March 16, the local self-government units were ordered to ensure control of persons who had been assigned home isolation by the communal police.
- Foreign nationals are forbidden to enter Bosnia and Herzegovina if coming from areas with intensive transmission of Coronavirus, especially from: the provinces of the People’s Republic of China (Wuhan), South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran, France, Romania, FR Germany, Austria, Spain, Switzerland and Belgium;
- The prescribed restrictions related to the entry into BiH, in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, will not apply to diplomatic or consular staff accredited or resident in BiH.
- All public gatherings in BiH are banned and all sporting events are cancelled.
- On March 13, the RS Minister of Health ordered disinfection of all public buildings, public areas and public transport.
- Elderly and chronic patients are advised to reduce movement and stay at home and thus avoid exposing themselves to danger.
- Disinfection of residential buildings in Banja Luka has been ordered.
- Health Centre Banja Luka has opened three new hotlines where citizens can get all the necessary information regarding the Coronavirus. Association of Psychologists of the Republic of Srpska provides psychological support to people in hospital or home isolation via so called blue telephone number 0800 50 305. The Outpatient Clinic at the Banja Luka Polyclinic is used only for the examination of patients with acute respiratory infection while the Outpatient Clinic in the Dolac in Banja Luka will examine patients at the request of the Hygienic-Epidemiological Service or the Doctor of Family Medicine for all those who have been in contact with persons who have been exposed to the Coronavirus
2. Traffic and transport
- All border crossings to the Republic of Serbia and Montenegro are closed, while the crossing is allowed only to nationals of these countries, foreigners with registered residence, as well as truck drivers.
- Border crossings to the Republic of Croatia for citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina are opened, with the exception for travellers who have resided in the last 14 days in the territories of countries and areas of high risk (China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Bahrain, Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, England, the Netherlands, Sweden and the Bela Krajina region in Slovenia), which will be kept in 14-day isolation;
- Additional requirements for entry into BiH, as prescribed by the BiH Council of Ministers Decision related to the entry of foreigners from certain countries into BiH, will not apply to truck drivers and co-drivers when performing international transport of goods in road transport, as well as to crews and cabin crew of aircrafts whose final destination is BiH;
- Upon arrival to Bosnia and Herzegovina, drivers of vehicles in international transport shall be issued a Decision by the Republic or Federal Inspector on the isolation for the duration of stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina specified by the driver, which implies a period from entry to Bosnia and Herzegovina until departure to the next transportation. In the case of a driver of a vehicle in international transport who is a foreign national, the Republic or Federal Inspector shall issue a decision on isolation for a period of 14 days according to the place of residence indicated by the foreign national in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The driver of a vehicle who is not a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina is obliged to carry out the isolation in the vehicle while the citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina is obliged to stay in the isolation at the address of residence.
- In the case of international transit of goods by road, the stay of a cargo vehicle crew in BiH is limited to a maximum of 12 hours.
- The airline company “Ryanair” has cancelled all flights from Banja Luka until March 29 due to the epidemiological situation caused by the Coronavirus, while “Air Serbia” cancelled all scheduled flights Banja Luka-Belgrade by Sunday, March 22.
- Most airlines reduced flights to and from Sarajevo, while “Wizz Air” suspended all flights from and to Tuzla from March 17 to April 3, 2020.
- The Ministry of Communications and Transport of BiH issued a statement on March 12, stating that any suspension of passenger transport on international bus routes will not be treated as a misdemeanour until March 31, 2020, and that any suspension of transportation by that deadline should not be notified in advance;
- Railways of the Republic of Srpska reduced local passenger traffic and, as of 19 March 2020, only the first morning and last evening train of the Railways within the Republic of Srpska operate, while inter-entity train traffic has been cancelled until further notice.
- The number of public and suburban bus departures is reduced during certain periods.
3. Catering, trade and crafts
- In the Republika Srpska, until March 30, all catering establishments of all categories, wedding salons, fitness centres, swimming pools, wellness and spa centres (separately and within hotel accommodation), children’s playrooms, markets, private dental clinics, games chance organizers, sports organizations and sports schools (including organizing training and competitions for athletes of all categories) are forbidden to work;
- Restricted work: In the shopping malls may operate only to food/consumer goods stores, pharmacies and agricultural pharmacies located but in the period from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm; grocery/consumer goods stores, animal feed and wholesale from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm; drugstores and business entities engaged in the production of bread, pastry, fresh pasta and cakes (solely with respect to the sale of their products) from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm; provided that all the said entities have to organize the work in accordance with Government measures (related to the maximum number of customers in the facility, fast flow and distance between customers);
- The work is permitted to business entities engaged in the following activities: technical inspection and insurance, warehouses of building materials, delivery of equipment to public companies (stationery), vulcanizers and car mechanics, mobile operators, kiosks, butchers, funeral equipment.
- Hotels and hostels may only provide catering services for registered guests of these facilities.
- Gas and fuel stations have no restrictions when it comes to the sale of fuel, other petroleum products and gas, but the part of the gas station that houses the retail outlet can operate from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm.
- Pharmacies and agricultural pharmacies operate without changing operating hours, with the necessary measures being taken.
- Public kitchens work over the counter without serving food within the facilities.
4. The work of state and republic bodies, companies and other business entities
- State bodies, republic administrative bodies, bodies of local self-government units and other entities exercising public authority are obliged to establish their work in the following manner: with a minimum number of on-site executors required, other persons will be sent to work from home, limited number of persons who can enter and stay at the premises at the same time, prevention of the longer stay in the premises and long rows, maintenance of the necessary distance between the citizens indoors, taking measures of disinfection and enhanced hygiene;
- In judicial institutions, the hearings scheduled for March were cancelled, the number of employees was reduced, and the receipt and dispatch of the letters operates via regular mail and not by direct receipt.
- Official travels of employees of state institutions will be delayed, except for those directly related to the implementation of measures to protect the life and health of citizens caused by the Coronavirus.
- On March 17, 2020, the BiH Public Procurement Agency issued a statement regarding the current developments regarding the Coronavirus in BiH and procurement necessary to prevent its spread and mitigate its effects, and emphasized that in a situation of extreme urgency, when regular public procurement procedure is not possible, but there is still sufficient time, may use the negotiated procedure without the publication of procurement notices under the conditions prescribed by law, and emphasized that tenderers should act in accordance with market circumstances with no attempt to abuse the said situation, as the competent authorities will be informed thereof.
- Employers are advised to organize the work process with a minimum number of on-site executors and to introduce enhanced measures of workplace disinfection.
- In the FBiH, one of the employed parents of children up to ten years old can be absent from work and stay home with the child.
5. Economy, Finance and Banking
- On 16 March, the Government of the Republic of Srpska adopted the Decree on the Return of Prices to the previous level, which were in force on 05 March 2020, for the following products: all types of flour, all kinds of bread, pastries and other bakery products flour and cereals, milk and milk products, eggs, and egg products, sugar, salt for human consumption, rice, pasta, all kinds of fresh meat, fish and their preparations, fruits and vegetables, canned meat, canned fish, water for beverages, oil, lard, butter, margarine, infant formulas and post-breastfeeding formulas, processed cereal-based foods and baby foods for infants and young children, nutritional supplements, special medical foods, gluten-free products, disposable diapers for children and adults, sanitary napkins, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, soap, water, space and hand disinfectants (including concentrated alcohol), toilet paper, toothpaste, protective overalls and other protective and medical clothing and footwear, goggles and visors, safety gloves, shoe covers, surgical face masks, face shields FFP2 and FFP3 and linen and other health care linen;
- The Market Inspectorate was ordered to control prices, in accordance with the Republic decision to limit price mark-up.
- The FBiH Government, at its extended session on March 16, also decided that the prices in force on March 5, 2020, shall remain unchanged.
- On March 13, 2020, the RS Government’s Crisis Unit adopted a Proposal of measures for mitigating the adverse effects of Coronavirus on businesses in the Republic of Srpska, including delayed payment of corporate income tax and all other obligations for 2019 accounts until June 30, 2020, as well as the ability to pay in instalments, prompt payment of tax refunds and contributions for increase of salaries in 2019, reduction of parafiscal levies in the final phase, which according to the proposal will be realized in April 2020, while the most vulnerable business entities working with countries most severely affected by the Coronavirus are subjected to a single status analysis;
- Investment and Development Bank of the Republic of Srpska a.d. Banja Luka has granted beneficiaries of loans and direct placements approved from the funds managed by RBI RS, a three-month moratorium on their repayment, starting on April 1, 2020.
- The FBiH Tax Administration has extended the deadline for filing tax returns until April 15, 2020.
- On March 16, the RS Tax Administration invited all taxpayers to make full use of the electronic services provided by the Tax Administration and informed them that electronic filing for the Small Business Tax Return, Income Tax Advance Payment and Annual Tax Returns on income will also be enabled;
- The Indirect Taxation Authority of Bosnia and Herzegovina has announced that all business processes within this institution are proceeding completely normally and without any interruption, that all customs offices in Bosnia and Herzegovina are operating full time, and import and export customs procedures are completed in shorter possible period with due regard for legal regulations.
6. Education and culture
- In the Republic of Srpska, all elementary and secondary schools, as well as public and private facilities/universities, will be closed by at least 30 March; in the FBiH, schools and faculties/universities are closed for a period of 15 days starting from March 12.
- All kindergartens have been closed, with the exception of one kindergarten within the RS Centre for Pre-school Education for the accommodation of children for whom there is no alternative to home care.
- The Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Srpska and the Republic Pedagogical Institute, in cooperation with the Radio Television of the Republic of Srpska, organize, from March 17, 2020, distance education via television transmission for students from the first to the ninth grade of elementary schools in the Republic of Srpska, and television BHT1 daily broadcasts “Homework”, with material for elementary school students, while online teaching has also been introduced in some cantons in the FBiH;
- All performances in theatres, as well as other cultural events in BiH, were cancelled by the end of March 2020.
Note: The above information is designed to provide an overview of measures and activities taken by the competent authorities. The information does not constitute detailed legal advice on a case-by-case basis