Serbian Orthodox church head tests positive for virus

Serbian Orthodox Church says Patriarch Porfirije tests positive for COVID-19

Belgrade, Serbia — The head of Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Porfirije has tested positive for COVID-19 amid a surge in infections in the country and other parts of the Balkans, the Church said on Tuesday.

The statement said Porfilier had “very mild symptoms of the virus” and remained in home isolation. It added that Porfirije performed administrative duties with absolutely no problems.

On Sunday, Poffirier participated in a mass ceremony in neighboring Bosnian Serb-run Republika Srpska, where few people wore masks.

Serbia reported nearly 9,000 new infections in the country of 7 million on Monday. The number of new daily cases rose sharply after New Year’s festivities including open-air concerts and the relaxation of anti-virus rules.

Experts say the current rise in cases is being driven by the fast-spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus, and it could get worse. On Monday, epidemiologist Predrag Kon criticized the authorities’ virus policy.

“Nothing organized should happen,” Kang said. “Belgrade broke out after the new year and now it’s spreading to the rest of Serbia.”

Serbia has recorded more than 1.3 million infections since the start of the pandemic, while nearly 13,000 people have died from COVID-19.

In neighbouring Croatia, where the number of infections has been rising, authorities began to further restrict gatherings on Tuesday, expand the mandatory use of masks and urge companies to organize work from home where possible.

Croatia’s neighbor Slovenia has tightened entry rules, while Bosnia and Montenegro are also seeing rising virus infections.