Bosnian region eases lockdown on seniors, reopens some businesses

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SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnia's autonomous Serb Republic on Monday loosened restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, allowing seniors to leave homes for three hours each workday and some businesses to reopen.

Bosnia declared a nationwide state of emergency on March 17, after the Serb Republic and the Bosniak-Croat Federation, its other autonomous half, separately declared emergencies and introduced measures to limit transmission of the virus.

"The state of emergency will continue until at least May 11," the Serb Republic's Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic said.

He said social distancing and other protective measures still needed to be observed.

The Federation on April 24 loosened restrictions intended to stop the spread of the virus by keeping seniors and children from leaving their homes at all, after the top court ruled those restrictions violated the constitution.

The region's civil protection authority also lifted a night-time curfew and abolished obligatory quarantine, but said people would still have to self-isolate for 14 days at their homes.

Bosnia has officially recorded 1,565 cases and 60 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Epidemiologists in both regions said the pace of recoveries has been faster than fresh infections in recent days.

Even before the pandemic, Bosnia's health system was in poor shape. Large numbers of doctors and nurses have sought work in Western Europe, causing fears that the country may soon have too few medical staff to cope.

(Reporting by Maja Zuvela; Editing by Alex Richardson)