Albania lifts curbs on driving, slashes curfew in green zones

Benet Koleka
An Albanian national flag is pictured on a balcony as Albanian authorities take measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Durres

By Benet Koleka

TIRANA (Reuters) - Albania had its lowest daily infections from the new coronavirus in eight weeks on Monday as half its 2.8 million people began enjoying more freedom in green zones and life went on almost as normal in the other half.

With its economy heading for a recession of up to 5%, or 6.9% if most of the economy starts working by late summer, Albania has begun over the last two weeks to gradually re-start parts of its economy each week.

Just four new infections were traced in the last 24 hours, the lowest number of daily infections in the last eight weeks, said Eugena Tomini of the Health Institute in her daily update.

Data showed the new coronavirus's effective reproduction rate since April 24 had gone down below the critical limit, she added.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has killed 31 Albanians and infected 872, with 650 recoveries.

Monday marked the day when citizens could walk and drive without permits in the capital Tirana and some towns deemed as red zones until 5:30 p.m., when a curfew goes into effect until 5 a.m., making Tirana look like it was living a normal day.

Most of Albania's territory of 28,000 square kms and home to half its people are now green zones, having had either very few cases or none at all. People can walk and drive until 9 p.m. in those areas but carry only two family members in their cars.

Those wearing face masks and gloves stood out among most who did not and police seemed not too keen to enforce the curfew any longer given the low numbers of infections.

"We cannot stand this any longer," a pensioner called Llaqi, who was outside when he should not be, told Reuters of the lockdown that started on March 15.

Barbers, hairdressers and dentists handled the wave of clients by having them either wait outside their shops or come by appointment, with some warning prices would rise due to extra hygiene measures.

With cafes and bars, very popular haunts, opening next week on condition they only serve customers outdoors, many queued outside bakeries offering takeout coffee.


(Reporting by Benet Koleka; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)