The number of COVID-19 patients admitted for hospital treatment is on the rise, Health Minister Venko Filpche told a press conference on Saturday and called on citizens to respect measures and practice social distancing to curb the spread of the virus.
“The number of new cases and patients admitted for hospital treatment has significantly increased in the past few days. Infectious diseases wards in hospitals throughout the country are slowly filling up. Patients from Kumanovo, Strumica and Veles had to be transferred to Skopje on Friday due to overcrowd. Five patients were admitted at Skopje-based “8 September” hospital and 13 at the Clinic for Infectious Diseases. Only 10 beds are still available at the latter due to which the modular hospital is now being prepared to take on patients. We can manage hospitals capacities, but it’s crucial we have curb this upward trend,” the Minister said.
He added that the new set of restrictive measures and giving inspectors greater authority will produce results and allow to avoid implementation of curfew.
“The next step would be complete lockdown, but that’s still a distant possibility,” Filipche told reporters.
Stakeholders, he noted, will discuss another set of measures over the weekend, which could possibly be adopted at the government’s next session on Tuesday.
“A new set of restrictive measures will be proposed to the government, to try to stop the increase in new cases, a trend which has affected both Europe and the region,” Filipche stressed.
The Health Minister told reporters that the ban on indoor gatherings of over four people is due to possible rise in family gatherings over the upcoming period, which could contribute to increase in number of clusters.
“Public health protection is key, but it’s up to lawmakers to decide what form this measures takes and how its implementation will be monitored. We can’t turn a blind eye to what’s happening, when other countries are already limiting gatherings,” Filipche said.
Regarding mandatory use of face masks outdoors, he noted that North Macedonia is following in the footsteps of other countries.
“The epidemiological situation in Italy improved significantly after face masks became mandatory outdoors. We believe this measure can lower new cases. Otherwise, we’ll be forced to implement additional restrictions, including limit public transportation capacities, as well as those of businesses and catering facilities. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that and this second set to restrictive measures produces results,” Filipche noted.
Data, the Minister stressed, shows that highest COVID-19 death rate occurs in older patients and those suffering from comorbidities.
Regarding the VAT-free weekend, he added that it won’t cause a spike in increactions if stores and malls abide fully by protocols.