Serbia enforces COVID-19 masks in hospitals in wake of case bump

While for many Europeans the return of COVID-19 during the summer went unnoticed, new sub-variants of the Omicron version of the virus have been present since at least July, and this week the Serbian Ministry of Health reacted with a mask mandate for hospital workers and visitors, effective immediately.

The Serbian Ministry of Health’s Anti-COVID-19 committee noted that there has been increased incidence of COVID-19 among vulnerable cancer patients, with the threat increasing for elderly patients in general.

The decision is not unprecedented, as both in Europe and in the US increased incidence of Omicron sub-variants have been noted in hospitals and universities, and some experts worry about yet another harsh COVID-19 wave in the fall. The European Commission has okayed a new round of vaccines adapted for the sub-variants, and across the EU vaccination campaigns are getting under way.

A chief concern is that hospital systems will once again be put under strain by the combination of flu season and recurring COVID-19 waves.

Yet there seems to be little doubt that new waves are coming in part due to US developments where colleges and universities have faced serious COVID-19 spikes concurrent with the start of the fall semester. The University of Wisconsin-Madison was given as one example by US News & World Report, with that school having already placed 2,200 students in 14-day quarantine. Other universities have noted a 10 percent rate of infection among total enrollment

European stats are unclear at this time. Most reports indicate an uptick, but European states have allegedly grown lax in sharing information, which is a concern as the new BA.2.86 variant has shown a worrying number of mutations that could mean the ability to better evade a typical immune response.

Masks photo by Paju~commonswiki, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

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