Photo: Pescanik
Photo: Pescanik

After the session of the pandemic Crisis Committee on Sunday, September 13, its representative Darija Kisic Tepavcevic announced that mandatory health surveillance of travelers returning to Serbia from abroad would be introduced in exactly five days, at 6 pm.

Let us take this opportunity to stress once again that the state body for implementing epidemiological measures on whose behalf Kisic Tepavcevic addressed us, known to the public as the Crisis Committee, does not really exist, and is not legally authorized to make decisions. Although this body exists only in the imagination of the president of Serbia and his loyal minions, such as the prime minister, Kisic Tepavcevic is not a member of this body even in that imagination, but merely its outside associate, which has already been discussed on Pescanik.

Despite that, she used this opportunity to, on behalf of the Crisis Committee, call “all those in neighbouring countries to return by Friday.” We assume that by “all those,” representative Kisic Tepavcevic refers only to Serbian citizens, and not truly every person that is currently in a neighbouring country since, surprisingly, there are in fact people other than Serbian citizens in those countries. The representative of the non-existent Committee also remained vague about what, exactly, constitutes a neighbouring country. She explicitly mentioned Montenegro, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. But those are not the only neighbouring countries.

The fact that the instruction, or rather the ultimatum, was given by an unauthorised person who was not even a member of the unauthorised body she was speaking for, matches up perfectly with the unclear nature of the instruction itself – it is unknown who should return, or from which countries. The only thing that those someones from some countries need to know is that they have to return by Friday at 6 pm or be placed under health surveillance. Why that particular day and that particular time were chosen also remains unknown.

Perhaps it is time to repeat that the Law on Protection of the Population from Infectious Diseases provides for mandatory health surveillance for all persons entering Serbia from countries where there is an epidemic of an infectious disease – travelers are obliged to check in at the border crossing where they are to be given the decision on health surveillance, further implemented by a public health institute at the place of travelers’ residence.

This rule applies throughout the coronavirus epidemic and to all travelers arriving from countries where the epidemic has been declared. The hallucinations of the Crisis Committee about some travelers, some countries, and some Friday at 6 pm are – let’s say this quite openly – a case of serious insolence.

No one, including the non-existent Crisis Committee and its alleged representative, can decide when the laws of the Republic of Serbia will be applied and when they will not. It is clearly stated here – and each citizen can review this in Articles 30 and 31 of the Law on Protection of the Population from Infectious Diseases – that the rule on health surveillance for passengers arriving from infected areas is in effect since the law was passed in 2016, until today, without pause or exception.

There are no Fridays and no 6 pm, except in the minds of confused epidemiologists, who haven’t had a clue what they are talking about for a long time now.

Darija Kisic Tepavcevic even dared to say that “if we want to travel abroad, we need to think carefully, because the situation almost everywhere else is worse than in Serbia.” Is the situation so much worse in other countries compared to Serbia, perhaps, because Serbia refuses to test adults, and as of recently even children that show possible symptoms of the coronavirus? I believe that everyone reading this knows someone in their social circles who in recent weeks has been told in COVID clinics that they would not be tested and that their case was “some other virus.” Those who were returned home, while incidentally infected with the coronavirus, would spread the infection further, but who cares as long as “the situation almost everywhere else is worse than in Serbia.” As the chief clown of the national epidemic said some time ago: the less we test, the fewer cases there are. By using such methods, it is really easy for Serbia to point the finger at someone else’s “worse situation.”

Dr. Predrag Kon also exhibited signs of complete disorientation in a statement he gave on the same subject. He stated that the health surveillance as of Friday “indeed is a kind of health surveillance, but not the health surveillance defined by law because it would not be possible outside a state of emergency.”

We feel the need to inform Dr. Kon that the only possible health surveillance is the one defined by law. Any other is not and will not be possible, which shall be confirmed by judicial authorities if and when these issues arise in court proceedings.

It will not be possible to introduce this hybrid form of health surveillance, not even if it’s devised by the so-called Crisis Committee, announcing smugly at the same time “that there will be penalties.” It is really difficult to take seriously the statement that health surveillance as provided by the law is not possible outside a state of emergency. Since March, Predrag Kon has not been able to learn when the Law on Protection of the Population from Infectious Diseases is applicable. The correct answer is – it is always applicable, the state of emergency has nothing to do with it. It is always uncomfortable to listen to Dr. Kon’s statements whenever they touch on issues of law, because they typically have nothing to do with the truth.

Indeed, how long do the representatives of the non-existent Crisis Committee plan to harass us? Ladies and gentlemen of the Committee, either enforce the law, including the health surveillance measures, within the public health institutes where you work, or resign. Stop fabricating measures, deadlines and countries that can or cannot be entered; stop trying to institute health surveillance that in any way differs from what has long been prescribed. Apart from being completely unprofessional and arrogant, this approach inevitably leads to continuous uncertainty, which further damages the mental health of the population.

A piece of advice for anyone entering Serbia, regardless of whether it is a Friday and regardless of the time of entry: if you are coming from a country where an epidemic was declared, check in at the border crossing in order to get the decision on health surveillance, and then also report to your local public health institute. Follow the law and do not succumb to ultimatums and panic sowed by an unauthorized group that has long since lost control not only of the epidemic, but of themselves as well.

Translated by Milica Jovanovic

Pešč, 24.09.2020.

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Sofija Mandić je rođena 1986. u Novom Sadu. Diplomirana je pravnica, posrednica u mirnom rešavanju sporova i aktivistkinja za ljudska prava. Radi u Centru za pravosudna istraživanja (CEPRIS), a prethodno je bila angažovana u Beogradskom centru za bezbednosnu politiku i Nacionalnom demokratskom institutu. Generalna je sekretarka Peščanika, sa kojim sarađuje od 2007, kao učesnica u radijskim emisijama, a zatim i kao autorka tekstova. Autorka, koautorka i urednica je brojnih analiza o vladavini prava, stanju ljudskih prava u Srbiji i njihovoj perspektivi. Neke od skorašnjih su: Izbori pred Upravnim sudom 2022 – pregled postupanja i odluka (ur. CEPRIS, 2022), Izveštaj o javnosti rada Visokog saveta sudstva i Državnog veća tužilaca (CEPRIS, 2022), Sloboda izražavanja pred sudom (ur. SĆF, 2021-2022), Rad sudova tokom epidemije zarazne bolesti COVID-19 (OEBS, 2021), Ljudska prava u Srbiji (BCLJP, 2018-2021), Naša urušena prava (FES, 2019), Uslovi za izbor i napredovanje sudija i tužilaca u pravnom obrazovanju (CEPRIS, 2018), Skorašnji Ustav Srbije – rodna perspektiva (ŽPRS, 2017). Kao predstavnica civilnog društva učestvuje u procesu izrade komentara i mišljenja na izmene Ustava iz 2022, kao i zakona koji proizlaze iz ovih promena.

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