Date: 12/06/2020

AmCham holds second online roundtable with Covid-19 scientists

The discussion centred on the evolving pandemic and predictions for Serbia and the region

The panellists, Professor Dr Zoran Radovanović, epidemiologist, and Professor Dr Vladimir Petrović, epidemiologist, member of the Government’s Crisis Response Committee and head of the Vojvodina Institute of Public Health, spoke with AmCham members about the current situation and future expectations for the Covid-19 pandemic, and made recommendations for how businesses can adjust their organisational arrangements.

The scientists said Serbia had weathered the first wave of the outbreak, and the number of new cases reported daily was not particularly significant since all showed either minor symptoms of the illness or none at all. Very few of the new infections required hospitalisation. Given these developments, the best solution seemed to be to apply an approach patterned after the Swedish model, with isolation required only for groups most at risk (which have now been identified, unlike at the start of the pandemic). The doctors explained the main reason for this strategy was to build herd immunity so the country was able to prepare to face the second wave of the pandemic, which was expected to occur in late autumn.

The government scientists emphasised that strong collective immunity would lessen the risk of the health service being inundated by the second wave of the outbreak, with more knowledge of the illness and better preparation also playing a part. Any new measures should thus be far less restrictive than previously.

Face masks and gloves, together with good personal hygiene, and continued social distancing, were sufficient precautions for both companies and individual members of the public. Nevertheless, the doctors recommended that employers consider adjusting these measures depending on the age and health status of their staff. To ensure appropriate distancing, each employee should be allowed four square metres of space; temperature measurements were seen as superfluous as Covid-19 is not always accompanied by symptoms. The government and inspection bodies, it was said, had limited capacity to enforce these measures, so compliance would largely be driven by individual willingness and sense of civic duty.

With the region and Europe opening borders to salvage the summer tourist season, many new security and health concerns were emerging, the panellists said. Travel increases the risk of infection, and staying home was the safest option given how well prepared the health service was to care for those who may become ill. Some European countries have announced they would not cover the cost of Covid-19 treatment for foreign nationals, and hotels have to comply with a raft of security measures to ensure their guests are safe. The experts concluded that travel for tourism should be postponed if possible or kept to a minimum.

The panel heard companies’ preparations for the second wave of the crisis mainly relied on their own judgment and individual risk assessments based on the latest available information. By contrast, the government was expected to take a much more cautious approach to any future lockdowns and ensure any restrictions on movement caused as little disruption as possible.

The event was moderated by Sandra Marinković of MSD, AmCham Untitled Governor, and Nemanja Isajev , Head of Clinical Research at NovoNordisk Pharma.

Click here to watch the entire event.