Serbian state secretary dies from coronavirus

  • World
  • Wednesday, 01 Apr 2020

BELGRADE (Reuters) - A senior official in Serbia's government died from the coronavirus on Wednesday, a health official said, the second death of a public figure from the disease in the Balkan country.

Branislav Blazic, 63, a state secretary with the Ministry for Environmental Protection, died only days after being hospitalised with symptoms of the coronavirus infection, said Daria Kisic Tepavcevic, the deputy director of the Institute for Public Health.

"Sadly it is true, he (Blazic) died," Kisic told a news conference in Belgrade.

Serbia has so far reported 1,060 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 28 deaths, in a total population of 7 million. Milutin Knezevic, a bishop in the Serbian Orthodox Church, succumbed to the disease on Monday.

Blazic's work colleagues and family members were all quarantined after he was diagnosed with the disease, Environment Minister Goran Trivan said last week. He did not say how Blazic contracted the infection.

Blazic, a surgeon by profession, also served as minister for the environment in the now-defunct Yugoslavia in 1999-2000 and 2000 and as a parliamentary deputy of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party. In 2008 he joined the Serbian Progressive Party of Aleksandar Vucic, now Serbia's president.

To curb transmission of the virus, Serbian authorities have declared a state of emergency, shut down all restaurants and cafes, imposed a curfew from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. and closed the country's borders.

President Vucic said on Sunday the state could consider a two-week, 24-hour lockdown in the coming days.

(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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