Hundreds of Bosnians staged a protest in the capital Sarajevo on Tuesday, demanding the resignation of senior government officials for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the failure to launch a nationwide vaccination program.
The protest came as the country reported 99 more deaths from COVID-19, the highest daily toll since the pandemic began last year and following a spike in infection rates in Bosnia over the past month.
Protesters marched through the city center carrying “Struggle for Life” and “Resignations and Vaccines” signs, while others drove in a procession, honking their cars in support. A Sarajevo police spokesperson estimated that around 500 people joined the march and at least 300 people were in the procession of around 150 cars.
Protesters briefly blocked off the area around government buildings in central Sarajevo.
The country’s death toll from COVID-19 has now reached 7,052, up from 5,228 a month ago, while a vaccination program has so far only been rolled out for health workers treating COVID patients .
Protesters called for the resignation of central and regional governments and the introduction of mandatory negative tests for COVID-19 to be produced by all visitors entering the country.
“This is a cry for help from Bosnian citizens,” Maja Gasalo-Vrazalica, one of the six women who organized the protest on Facebook, told reporters. “Our incapable government is playing with our lives every day of the coronavirus pandemic, and we are playing too if we keep silent.”
The protest was held in silence to honor those who died from the coronavirus, she said.
Sarajevo, which has a population of around 400,000, reported 389 deaths from the coronavirus in March, up from 80 the month before.
Bosnian authorities have failed to provide vaccines to the country’s 3.3 million people. They ordered 1.2 million doses under the COVAX program for the poorest countries, but the first batch of 50,000 did not arrive until last week. The supply of 900,000 additional vaccines agreed with the European Union has not yet arrived.
Bosnia, however, has received around 100,000 donated vaccines from Serbia, Turkey and China, in addition to around 40,000 ordered from Russia.
“That’s enough,” said Emilija Heleta, a 45-year-old business owner, who joined the protest. “Those in power must take responsibility, and if they are not able to do so, they must resign.”
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