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Business owners in Serbia demand government aid ahead of coronavirus lockdown

by Reuters
Wednesday, 2 December 2020 15:45 GMT

BELGRADE, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Owners of small businesses in Serbia on Wednesday demanded government aid as the country prepared for its first weekend coronavirus lockdown since May.

Several dozen people, including restaurant owners and travel agents, protested in front of the Finance Ministry.

A crisis committee, made up of doctors and members of the government, has proposed a weekend lockdown for all except food stores and green markets.

The government is expected to formally adopt the measure - which will see cafes, restaurants, hair salons, shopping malls, gyms, swimming pools and other businesses close at the weekend - on Thursday.

Vladanka Rakic, owner of a small travel agency in the western town of Uzice, said: "We (travel agencies) are on ventilators, we have not been working since March.

"We are asking the government to help us, to relieve us from some of our commitments just to be able to work," she said, saying she faced bills of 8,500 euros ($10,000) just to be able to stay open next year.

Serbia on Wednesday reported 7,919 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours and 52 deaths. Hospitals are running at full capacity and 2,500 doctors and nurses are infected.

Neighbouring Croatia, which reported 1,916 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday and 55 deaths, in late November closed restaurants and bars in an effort to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases.

(Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; Additional reporting by Igor Ilic in Zagreb; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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