Group of Bosnians quarantined over coronavirus go on hunger strike

SARAJEVO (Reuters) – A group of Bosnians quarantined for more than two weeks in a student dormitory in the capital Sarajevo to stop the spread of the coronavirus went on hunger strike on Monday in protest over their treatment, officials said.

The Sarajevo police and firefighters said they had to intervene after one woman threatened to set herself on fire and jump through the dorm’s window.

“She gave up after talking to a physician in charge,” the police said.

About 50 protesters, out of a group of 80 people held in the dorm, said that many of them had not been tested for the virus while others had not been given their test results. Some also said they have not been receiving medicine they need for other conditions.

Under emergency measures authorities are ordering people entering Bosnia from abroad into quarantine for 28 days.

In Bosnia’s Serb Republic they are allowed to continue their quarantine at home after two weeks unless they develop COVID-19 symptoms, while in the Bosnia’s Bosniak-Croat Federation, the country’s other autonomous half, they are held in public facilities for the whole period.

“I went on hunger strike despite the fact that I am breastfeeding my baby and have another child. We are locked in one room for 24 hours and I cannot explain to my child what is happening. I am exhausted and I am losing strength,” said Jasmika, who returned to Bosnia from Sweden and tested negative.

Aida Pilav, head of the Sarajevo crisis team, asked people for understanding and patience, saying that the quarantine order had been issued by the Federation Health Ministry.

But she added that, according to the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), the measure could be trimmed to 14 days.

So far 1,309 people in Bosnia are confirmed to have been infected with the virus and 49 of them have died.

Even before the pandemic Bosnia’s health system was in poor shape. Thousands of nurses and hundreds of doctors have left the country seeking work in Western Europe, causing alarm among health officials that Balkan country may be left without enough trained medical staff in the near future.

Reporting by Maja Zuvela; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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