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Second Cycle: Second Session of Working Group 4 – Justice, Freedom and Security (Chapter 24) „The pandemic and security. What to do next“

As a part of the second session of Working group 4 (Justice, freedom and security –  Chapter 24) of the National Convention of the European Union in the Republic of North Macedonia(NCEU-MK)  today, 21.10.2020, a video conference on the topic “The pandemic and security. What to do next?” took place.

During the session, the crucial questions that present a security challenge to modern society, such as the freedom of movement and the necessary limitations, migrant flows amid a pandemic, border protection and other significant questions relating to healthcare, education, sports etc.

The leading experts from Macedonia and Slovakia, who participated in the debate came to the conclusion that the pandemic completely changed the way society functions and uncovered weaknesses in many sectors, first and foremost in healthcare.

„For years healthcare expenses have been cut and what we are seeing is a result of the restrictions to almost every budget“, said Ivo Boskoski, a consultant gastroenterologist at the Foundation of the University polyclinic “Agostino Gemelli” in Italy, who participated in the debate in real time. Because of that, he said, „the overflow of patients in Italian hospitals in March caused an atomic bomb effect. When the pandemic outburst occurred we literally had no masks to fight it, so a large number contracted the virus and died, as did nurses and technical staff“.

Eight months after the COVID-19 pandemic was pronounced, the fight still rages on in the hospitals, especially now at the beginning of the second wave. „The most optimistic expectations are that the vaccine won’t be viable until March, so we won’t be rid of the masks for another year and a half, and they need to become a part of our culture. The Italian government has an obligation to enforce mask wearing and social distancing, without lowering the quality of life, otherwise we are facing a catastrophe, said Boskoski, adding that Italy now has 11.000 cases on a daily basis.

Boskoski, like several other participants, warned that a possible second lockdown will be an economic disaster, and most European countries are already in the middle of an economic crisis.

It is clear today that it is necessary to make long-term adjustments, was noted. An important factor in stopping the pandemic in hospitals, stores, schools, sports, entertainment and restaurants, but also in the families and other segments of private life is security and the security sphere.

„The pandemic is not just a national problem and it imposes a need for a coordinated approach at an international level. The pandemic limited our movement and opportunities, but it didn’t relieve us of the obligations that we as a Ministry have towards our citizens, the state secretary in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Magdalena Nestorovska, stated.

As she indicated, criminals didn’t disappear due to the pandemic, they adjusted and changed their modus operandi. According to her, the most common criminal acts during this period were ones relating to armed robberies and domestic violence, but there was also an increase in threats to safety of children online, online thefts, migration. Despite the border shut down and the travel ban, according to Nestorovska, a 55% increase in illegal migration was noticed in Macedonia. The constant stream of incorrect information also became a staple during the pandemic, with the goal of undermining citizens’ trust in the government institutions.
“Hence, the essence of the pandemic is dealing with the threat to public health, but also threat to national security“, said Nestorovska.

When asked “Where do we go from here?” a part of the participants suggested that it is necessary to build trust, citizen proactivity and obeying the implemented measures.
„We need support from the Government and all the state institutions. Wearing a mask has to be obligatory. It is one of the most effective means of protection. It is enough for a surgical mask, which is cheap and accessible to all, to be worn to stop the spread of the virus,” Boskoski supplied.

The slovak expert, Juraj Mesik, added that it has been known for hundreds of years that masks provide protection, because that’s how long surgeons have worn them. His assessment is that the number of dead due to the pandemic will double by the end of this year and that Macedonia won’t be spared.

According to his analyses, aside from wearing a mask and social distancing, the essential workers need to be protected by bolstering the immunity with vitamin D and zinc, because they proved useful in dealing with the illness, to close down schools and hold online classes, to limit people clustering, to protect the vulnerable categories of people and to reorganize the work week, so that there will be five working days and nine non-working, instead of the two weekend days we have now.

He also addressed the medicine therapy that is currently being used to tread COVID-19, noting that there is no scientific confirmation about the usefulness of the medication “remdesivir”, which costs $2.100, so he remarked that no one is lobbying for the cheap medicine, like they are doing for the expensive ones. From an economic standpoint he predicted that countries will be dealing with the money printing crisis and that will possibly lead to devaluation of the currency worth.

At the end of the discussion, the national coordinator of NCEU-MK, Prof. Mileva Gjurovska, gave a summary, in which she highlighted the need for systemic solutions for all sectors to enforce so that the tragedy can be somewhat mitigated.

According to her, the enormous expenses going into treatment of the virus can be significantly lowered if more attention was focused on preventative measures. The human resources issue, Gjurovska noted, is symptomatic of our community, not just in healthcare and MIA, but in all the other areas as well.

“To employ people in the key sectors is the most cost-effective investment. So the solution lies in the proper management of human resources, especially in public healthcare,” she concluded.