COVID-19: Serbian Soccer Star Arrested For Violating Curfew; Tajik Soccer Season Kicks Off

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The global death toll has passed 60,000 with over 1.1 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.

Serbia

Police in Serbia say that Serbian soccer player Aleksandar Prijovic has been arrested for violating the country’s public-health restrictions over the coronavirus pandemic.

National Police director Vladimir Rebic told Serbia’s state-run RTS television that Prijovic was arrested on April 3 “along with several other people.”

Rebic said the group has been summoned to the Prosecutor-General’s Office in Belgrade.

“They violated the curfew as they were having drinks in the restaurant lobby of a Belgrade hotel after the 5 p.m. deadline and there were more than five people present in total,” Rebic said on April 4.

“The hotel is also responsible because the measures also prohibit serving food and drinks…except if home delivery is feasible,” Rebic said.

Serbia’s government has imposed a daily 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew during weekdays and a more stringent weekend ban starting at 1 p.m. on Saturdays until 5 a.m. on Mondays in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.

The government has also told residents to avoid picnics, leisure activities and all forms of public gatherings in a bid to limit the outbreak.

Serbia has so far registered 1,624 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 44 deaths, a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University said on April 4.

Prijovic, who plays soccer for the Saudi team Al-Ittihad, is the second Serbian player to breach the country’s coronavirus measures after Real Madrid striker Luka Jovic was caught violating a quarantine.

Criminal charges were pressed against Jovic on March 19 after he left his apartment in a Belgrade suburb, where he was ordered to stay in a mandatory 28-day self-isolation after returning to the country from Spain.

Tajikistan

Tajikistan’s soccer league has started a new season despite competitions in most other countries around the world being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The small Central Asian country of nearly 9 million has not reported single coronavirus infection — prompting suspicions that the authorities are not accurately reporting information about the pandemic in their country.

Tajik officials allowed the country’s season-opening Super Cup to be played on April 4 between Istiklol Dushanbe and Khujand.

Istiklol Dushanbe won the game with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory.

The game was played without fans due to emergency public-health restrictions. A large banner reading “Stop coronavirus” in the Tajik and Russian languages covered part of the empty stands.

Players and staff from both teams mingled freely after the final whistle before officials hung medals around the necks of the players and shook their hands.

In the midst of the global pandemic, professional soccer is continuing in only a few countries, such as Belarus, Nicaragua, and Burundi.

The 10-team league is scheduled to play three games on April 5 without any fans present.

Tajikistan was widely criticized for organizing large parades, concerts, and sporting events to celebrate Norouz, the Persian New Year, in March, ignoring World Health Organization (WHO) warnings about large social gatherings.

The Tajik Health Ministry insists there has not been one confirmed case of coronavirus in the country.

But Tajik authorities also have taken measures to prevent journalists from reporting about the government’s handling of the pandemic.

The Health Ministry says that since February 1, 6,272 people have been placed under a mandatory two-week quarantine upon their arrivals in Tajikistan from other countries.

WATCH: Caretakers of public cemeteries in Dnipro, a city in southeastern Ukraine, have been ordered to dig 600 graves and thousands of body bags have been ordered for potential coronavirus victims.

Russia

Russia has recorded 582 new cases and nine deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of recorded cases to over 4,700 and the overall death toll to 43 early on April 4.

Critics believe the real number is higher and have accused Russian authorities of underreporting the extent of the outbreak in the country.

Iran

In Iran, the worst-hit country in the Middle East, the death toll climbed to 3,452 on April 4, with 158 more fatalities recorded over the past 24 hours, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said.

The real numbers of infected and dead are believed to be significantly higher.

WATCH: The national flag flew at half-mast throughout China on April 4, and all forms of entertainment were suspended. The country observed three minutes of silence.

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