Kosovo Leaders Feud Over COVID-19 Outbreak in North

Reports of an outbreak of new COVID-19 cases in Serb-run northern Kosovo have sparked in-fighting among politicians in Kosovo and accusations of negligence.

On Sunday, the main hospital in the Serb-run north, in the divided town of Mitrovica, confirmed 26 cases in the three northern municipalities of Mitrovica North, Zvecan and Leposavic.

Prime Minister Albin Kurti, whose government recently lost a no-confidence vote, blamed the spread of the virus on a wedding ceremony held in Zvecan.

"The Ministry of Health has declared a quarantine in … Mitrovica North and Zvecan. But we did not want to bang a drum [about it] so as not to deepen one health crisis with another one," Kurti said in a TV message recorded on Sunday.

President Hashim Thaci on Saturday accused the Kurti-led government of "negligence and irresponsibility", calling the situation in the northern municipalities unacceptable.

"The government cannot allow the northern municipalities to function out of the control of [Kosovo] institutions and relevant bodies for prevention of the COVID-19 pandemic, thus creating illegal room for Serbian authorities inside the territory of our state," Thaci said. "As President of Kosovo, I am following with great concern the situation in the north," he added.

One problem facing Kosovo institutions in the current pandemic is that, 21 years since the war of independence from Serbia, health and other systems in the Serb-majority municipalities in the north continue to be run de facto by Serbia.

The Belgrade-funded parallel health system in the north has been sending its COVID-19 test results to Serbia, for example, with very little or no collaboration with Kosovo's own institutions.

Bypassing established Kosovo health institutions,...

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