‘Get vaccinated in Serbia, the trip is organized by us!’ Visitors to the website of an agency in the Italian city of Bologna are met with this welcome message, which claims to already have more than 500 reservations for the visits it is organizing to the Balkan country, where tourists receive free of charge the Covid-19 vaccine. They are even allowed to choose between Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sputnik or Sinopharm sera, the four purchased by the Serbian authorities, which have made their country one of the most advanced in Europe in the vaccination campaign.
39% of the elderly inhabitants of Belgrade, the capital, have already received at least one dose, while 27% have received the two injections, according to Goran Aleksic, Serbian ambassador to Italy, reported on Thursday. “At the end of April, 40% of the population of the entire country will be vaccinated and we hope to achieve herd immunity by the end of July,” said the diplomat.
How has this ex-Yugoslav republic of 7 million inhabitants and with a GDP similar to that of Castilla-La Mancha managed to overcome the countries of the European Union, much further behind in the immunization campaign? “We have sought bilateral agreements to obtain vaccines, buying two in the West (the American Pfizer and the Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca) and two in the East (the Russian Sputnik and the Chinese Sinopharm). It is the result of the hard work of our president, Aleksander Vucic, who has had no problem speaking directly with Putin and Xi Jinping, “Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic explained to the Italian agency Nova.
- Anticovid vacation.
It is estimated that there are already more than 50,000 foreigners who have requested to be inoculated using a form
It is estimated that there are already more than 50,000 non-resident foreigners in the Balkan country who have requested to be vaccinated, for which they must fill out an official form, which is only available in Serbian, and wait for the authorities of the country to give them an available date. The Bologna travel agency that has seen a seam in the ‘anti-Covid holidays’ in Belgrade offers assistance to fill in the form and book the hotel, as well as a guide during the stay and insurance.
The cheapest package costs around 500 euros per person, not counting the cost of the plane ticket, although some prefer to travel in their own car. Italians can circumvent the confinement between municipalities, now in force throughout the country, arguing that they move for medical reasons, although upon their return to Italy they have to comply with a fourteen-day quarantine.
Despite the knock-on effect caused by the decision to vaccinate tourists, the Serbian authorities say they are not using the sera as a lure to attract foreign visitors. “The Government has done everything possible to protect our population first, but it has also wanted to help the countries of the region. Then the Serbian Chamber of Commerce proposed to offer the drug to foreign entrepreneurs doing business in Serbia. It is not about geopolitics, but about having a gesture of goodwill and helping others in a very difficult moment, ”Ambassador Aleksic commented in a meeting with foreign correspondents in Rome.
In his view, it is “incorrect” that there is already at least one travel agency offering tour packages in Serbia including vaccination. “We have not made a business of this,” says the diplomat, for whom Belgrade’s ability to buy the serums and inoculate its population is an excellent cover letter in the EU accession negotiations. “We have shown that we are an organized country, that we are absolutely at a European level and that we are worthy of being a member of the European Union.”
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