In September 2021, there were approximately 6,000 infected persons and 40 deaths from Covid-19 in Serbia. Due to the deterioration of the epidemiological situation, and bearing in mind the experience of many European states, some Crisis Team members advocated for the introduction of Covid-19 certificates. Covid-19 passes were officially introduced on 23 October 2021, when 6,748 persons were infected with Covid-19 and 60 lost their battle against the virus. The pass was introduced for indoor areas of restaurants and cafes, including all catering facilities and, in facilities where entertainment and festive events are held (wedding halls, etc), from 10 pm to 6 am.
On 4 November 2021, the Crisis Team extended the time requirement for Covid-19 passes to 8 pm. It also extended the use of Covid-19 passes to casinos and betting facilities. The Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran, and Social Policy explained that it was introduced because of the high transmission of the virus in those areas, and because it would have a positive impact on vaccination among the younger population, reluctant to get their first shot. However, these decisions left some Crisis Team members unsatisfied, and they required the introduction of 24 hours-long Covid-19 passes, or at least their extension to additional public venues, such as cinemas, concerts, theatres, etc. These Crisis Team members also complained about the low vaccination numbers of communal service police officers, arguing that it would make it impossible to implement their latter request. They also feared public hostility and demonstrations similar to those in Austria, the Netherlands, or Canada.
Although this was not stipulated in the decision, these restrictions also apply to beneficiaries and providers of catering services, meaning that all employees also need to have Covid-19 passes. Consequently, many providers have been faced with a shortage of employees, and with the doubt of whether asking their employees about their vaccination status or forcing them to get vaccinated was legal and non-discriminatory. This issue is covered in the Labour Law, which does not provide that vaccination against Covid-19 can be prescribed as a condition for establishing an employment relationship or be considered a basis for termination of an employment contract. Therefore, the reaction of many providers was to shorten the working hours and close their business at 8 pm, which also impacted their businesses.
Is considered a Covid-19 certificate a document containing any of the following information:
1. A negative PCR test of less than 72 hours;
2. A negative antigen test of less than 48 hours;
3. A proof of either a second or third dose of a vaccine, which confirms that the vaccination dates back to not more than 210 days;
4. A positive serological test result issued by a publicly owned microbiological laboratory on the territory of the Republic of Serbia of less than 90 days from the day of sampling;
5. A positive PCR or antigen test, dating from at least 14 days and not longer than 210 days from the sampling date.
On 15 November 2021, the European Commission recognized Serbian Covid-19 certificates as valid. Although negative PCR tests are considered to be Covid-19 passes, the fact that only several public institutions are enabled to process the samples, and that the cost is unreasonably high – EUR 75 (9,000 dinars - the most expensive PCR test among the Western Balkan countries), led the Crisis Team to reduce the price of the PCR test to EUR 50 (6,000 dinars) on 14 January 2022.
A legal entity or entrepreneur is obliged to perform verification of the Covid-19 certificate’s validity and check the holder's identity by inspecting a valid photo document (identity card, travel document, driver's license, index, etc). A legal entity or entrepreneur is responsible for a person without a Covid-19 certificate staying in the facility from 8 pm until 6 am, including an individual who will be fined RSD 5,000 (EUR 42). Compliance with these measures is performed by the state administration body in charge of sanitary inspection and the bodies of local self-government units in charge of communal inspection and communal militia affairs, as well as other state bodies authorized by law.
After two months of use, Serbia is now experiencing a better epidemiological situation, with 976 Covid-19 positive individuals and 26 deaths on 26 December 2021. However, some Crisis Team members and the State Secretary of the Ministry of Health advocated for 24-hours-long certificates during the holiday season and until the end of January. This was justified in light of the surge in cases due to the Omicron variant. The highest number of newly infected people was recorded on 25 January 2022 (19,901 Covid-19 infected individuals). Although the number of hospitalizations and deaths did not peak as fast as the number of infected people, the number of seriously ill people inevitably increased, and an average of 60 people per day died in February. Bearing in mind that Serbia is entering an election period, with voting taking place in April 2022, many doubt that 24 hours-long certificates will be introduced.TWEET