Much of Macedonia’s most populated areas will be placed under a full quarantine in a few hours, that will last until Monday morning. The capital Skopje – Macedonia’s by far largest city – as will as other major population centers – Kumanovo, Tetovo and Stip, will be closed down because of the major spike in new coronavirus cases over the past 10 days, most of them linked to violations of the curfew perpetrated during the Muslim month of Ramadan.

Skopje had the bulk of the new cases, focused mostly in the majority Muslim parts of the city. Some of the rural areas around Skopje, such as Ilinden, Zelenikovo, Aracinovo and Petrovec, are left out of the curfew, while rural areas such as Bogovinje, Brvenica and Tearce, which are also seen as at risk, are added to the Tetovo quarantine.

The rest of the country will be under a quarantine on Friday, but citizens there will be allowed outside until 16h on Saturday and Sunday. This prompted a major evacuation of the capital this afternoon, as citizens fled to their weekend homes in the country. Some popular tourist resorts, such as Ohrid, are in panic that this will spread the epidemic from Skopje to their city. Ohrid town hall decided to order renters in the city to keep their properties closed during the weekend, under threat of criminal charges and fines of at least 2.000 EUR.

Cemeteries are off limits to all citizens for the duration of the weekend, except for funerals. This was ordered because of the holiday of Pentecost, during which Christian worshipers visit the graves of their loved ones. The Government is warning that this could help spread the virus, but some churches are saying they will defy the order. This has caused angry comments in the public, given that the Government largely stayed out of enforcing the coronavirus restrictions during the Muslim month of Ramadan, where the massive, night long feasts held every day are believed to be the reason for the current spike.

SDSM party Vice Presiden Kosta Petrov got flak for his comments in the social media where he insisted that “Macedonia is a secular state and the rules must apply to all, including the religious leaders”.

Nobody can be above the law. The religious communities won’t dictate policies in this country!, Petrov tweeted out.

In response, citizens asked him why was the SDSM led Government not implementing the same restrictions during Ramadan. Another SDSM party Vice President, Muhamed Zekiri, who leads the party’s Albanian faction, is currently hospitalized with his family after contracting the virus, reportedly while attending iftar dinners in violation of the curfew. Zekiri’s hospitalization cascaded through the party, especially as he chaired meetings for the coming elections which SDSM still incredibly insists will take place on July 5, and now dozens of top SDSM and Government officials are also infected or in preemptive isolation.

Macedonia had the most newly infected patients reported in a single day today, with 120 diagnosed patients. While the death toll – two patients died – was relatively low today, it was as high as seven on Monday, which is also the worst daily report for the whole epidemic.