Photo: Predrag Trokicic
Photo: Predrag Trokicic

I can’t decide who’s more irresponsible, the heads of the Serbian Orthodox Church or the heads of the Serbian state. They are neck and neck when it comes to brutal inability to understand and accept reality. But neither is the former really a church, nor the latter really a state. Nothing is left of their original selves. The church officials, stuck in their ways and blind to both reality and human lives, on the one side, and state officials, stubbornly incompetent and also blind to both reality and human lives, on the other. SPC’s absolutely idiotic request to allow a liturgical gathering of believers over the Easter weekend was met by the state’s absolutely idiotic extension of the curfew by one more day – from 60 to 84 hours. 

Besides, if SPC thinks that God will preserve the assembled believers from Covid 19, then that same God should be able to overcome such mortal restrictions as the law. Such a powerful church shouldn’t have to ask anyone for permission with God watching over it and its believers. If it doesn’t care about Covid 19, this church should not care about state bans. Its part is to call believers to church for liturgy; it is up to the believers, if they truly believe, to respond and come; and it is up to their God to protect them both from Covid 19 and from prosecution.

But let’s leave the church and its priests to the faithful, and deal with the worldly issues of contagion and the curfew as an effective defense against it. No credible evidence was provided by experts that the curfew affected reduction or increase of the number of infections. If one looks at the contagion curve and the test curve, a clear correlation between the increase in the number of tests and the number of infected is clear – the more people get tested, the more infected are counted.

This simply has nothing to do with the curfew or its violations. The connection between the number of tests and the number of infected people is also important because it is the only reliable data we have. Everything else is mere speculation. If the test results take from a few days to a few weeks, then no one can know when and why the number of infected people has decreased or increased. The only thing we know for sure is that one day we received more results, so we registered more infected.

When we add to this the fact that large groups of infected people come from institutions – nursing homes, armies, hospitals – the curfew seems even more pointless. Take the example of Nis Elderly care center: more than 150 people were infected there. Even on the day with the most new registered infected people, these people from Nis made up more than a third of the total number of infected. The curfew neither helped nor harmed them. They were infected because other, far more reasonable and expedient measures were violated. The curfew does not resolve this.

Finally, Serbia has implemented the most rigorous measures compared to other European countries, but the numbers of infected and deceased are within the confines of the disease curve in most other countries where there is no curfew. The fact that the data on the disease in Serbia doesn’t significantly differ from the data from other countries can only mean one of two things: either the citizens of Serbia are more susceptible to Covid 19 than the citizens of other countries, or the health system of Serbia is in such disarray that the most rigorous measures achieve only average results.

The first assumption just doesn’t make sense; so, the second one might be true. The latter thesis is supported by the numbers of people who were infected within the institutions. If we exclude doctors and healthcare workers in general who are disproportionately more affected than others all over the world, those infected in the military or in nursing homes speak of the extreme porousness – let’s call it that – of the institutional defense system. The impression is that the curfews are introduced and expanded precisely to hide and compensate for these institutional weaknesses.

With very poor economic measures, severely affected health system and inexplicably strict emergency measures and prohibitions, Serbia has become a laughing stock and a cautionary tale for neighboring and other European countries, even though they’ve been telling us for years that we’ve never been more respected. And Vucic at the helm of the state seems to only be able to turn to his brother Xi without being ridiculed. With a church like this and a regime like this, if you think about it, maybe the priests are right in a very twisted way – only God can save us now.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 18.04.2020.

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Dejan Ilić (1965, Zemun), urednik izdavačke kuće FABRIKA KNJIGA i časopisa REČ. Diplomirao je na Filološkom fakultetu u Beogradu, magistrirao na Programu za studije roda i kulture na Centralnoevropskom univerzitetu u Budimpešti i doktorirao na istom univerzitetu na Odseku za rodne studije. Objavio je zbirke eseja „Osam i po ogleda iz razumevanja“ (2008), „Tranziciona pravda i tumačenje književnosti: srpski primer“ (2011), „Škola za 'petparačke' priče: predlozi za drugačiji kurikulum“ (2016), „Dva lica patriotizma“ (2016), „Fantastična škola“ (2020) i „Srbija u kontinuitetu“ (2020).

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