Prishtina. Photo: Fatrion Ibrahimi/BIRN.

The Ministry of Health has confirmed that three more patients have tested positive for coronavirus, increasing the number of people infected in Kosovo to five.

The Ministry of Health announced through its Facebook page on Saturday evening that two more people have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to five.

The ministry also stated that there are currently 67 suspicious cases being tested, while a total of 207 samples have been tested to date according to information from the National Institute of Public Health.

The announcement followed a press conference earlier on Saturday in which Minister of Health Arben Vitia notified the public of a third person infected with coronavirus, following two confirmed cases on Friday.

Three of the five cases are residents of the village of Stublla near Viti, which was reported to have been put into quarantine on Friday night.

A 77-year-old man was one of two confirmed cases on Friday, while a 39-year-old relative was the confirmed case announced at the press conference on Saturday. A 42-year-old man from the same village was also confirmed as testing positive for the virus by the Ministry of Health’s announcement on Saturday.

The other case confirmed on Saturday evening was a 37-year-old Kosovo citizen that lives in Brescia, Italy. According to the Ministry of Health, the individual entered Kosovo on March 1 at Prishtina International Airport and resides in the village of Bubavec, near Malisheva.

Mayor of Malisheva, Ragip Begaj, told BIRN that the municipality had assembled emergency teams, as well as police. “The village is expected to be isolated, but we should also look at coordinating with the Ministry of Health,” Begaj said.

The Kosovo Government approved a number of measures on Friday evening following the first two confirmed cases, including closing Kosovo’s land borders and ordering the closure of cafes, bars, restaurants and shopping centres.

It was also announced on Friday that flights from Prishtina International Airport will be suspended from 00:00 on March 16, with an exception being made for aid and military services. However, while all arrivals to the airport will be suspended, the possibility of some one-way outbound flights remains.

A spokesperson for Prishtina International Airport, Valentina Gara, told Telegrafi on Saturday that passengers should “contact airlines to learn more about the possibility of passenger flights in one direction only (i.e. only from Prishtina).”\

The Kosovo Government also intends to approve the budget for 2020 on Saturday through an extraordinary session of the Kosovo Assembly, which began at 15:00. The budget is aimed to be approved on the first read, with members of the coalition government citing the need for emergency measures to be taken in response to the first confirmed cases of coronavirus in Kosovo.

A proposal to set aside ten million euros from the Kosovo budget to address issues related to the global pandemic was made by the Ministry of Health earlier this week.

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti has justified speeding up the procedure to approve the new budget, noting the pressing need to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“We ourselves did not want the budget to be approved in one day, but there is no guarantee that a session can be held in the upcoming days or weeks, as we do not know what will happen with the virus,” Kurti said at the extraordinary session. “We cannot have an emergency budget without a new budget.”

An early mayoral election in the Municipality of Podujevo that was scheduled for March 15 was also delayed on Saturday by Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, who said that the new date of the election will be announced at a later stage.

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