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Western Balkans cautious amid surge of COVID-19 infections

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By AP
Pedestrians wear face masks through Mother Teresa square in Kosovo's capital Pristina.
Pedestrians wear face masks through Mother Teresa square in Kosovo's capital Pristina.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu
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A number of countries in the western Balkans have taken new precautions following a surge of COVID-19 infections.

On Tuesday, Kosovo postponed the beginning of the school year for students by two weeks following a rapid increase in cases due to the Delta variant. Albania and Serbia have also imposed similar restrictions.

Perparim Kryeziu, a spokesman for the Kosovo government, told the Associated Press that classes will be postponed until September 13 under "new restrictive measures".

Kosovo will also impose a nightly curfew, while restaurants and bars can only offer outdoor service and masks will be mandatory.

The moves have been welcomed by teachers and parents who fear that the Delta variant has created a more dangerous situation for students and families

Kosovo saw more than 2,000 new infections a day in August, ten times what it was less than a month ago. That is posing a rising danger, as less than 20% of its 1.8 million citizens are vaccinated.

In neighbouring Albania -- where around one-third of the population has been vaccinated -- school has also been postponed until September 27.

The Tirana government is urging people to get their vaccine shots, otherwise, the vaccines may be compulsory for health workers, teachers, professors and students.

Meanwhile, in Serbia, teachers protested outside the parliament building in Belgrade on Tuesday, demanding fewer students in classes and better salaries.

Schools in Serbia will start as normal on Wednesday, except in the southwest of the country where some classes will be held online due to the rise in new coronavirus infections.

Some 50% of the population has been vaccinated in Serbia and authorities have started administering a third booster dose to people who had received jabs at least six months ago.