North Macedonia to re-open international airports to travellers

North Macedonia is today set to reopen its Skopje and Ohrid airports after they were closed in March to limit

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Photo: REUTERS/OgnenTeofilovski

North Macedonia is today set to reopen its Skopje and Ohrid airports after they were closed in March to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Despite the introduction of new safety measures—such as mandatory social distancing, protective masks and airport arrivals at least three hours ahead of departure—travellers to North Macedonia are no longer required to be tested or quarantined upon entry, which has led to a marked increase in new cases across the country.

Leadership is currently struggling to weigh the risks associated with the re-opening of key domestic industries. Manufacturing exports—which accounted for 60% of the 2018 GDP—are expected to face a second quarter contraction of 11.5%, while the service and tourism industries face similar downturns. Projections for 2020 growth currently rest well below zero, while North Macedonian officials have already pledged to spend 2% of GDP on household and private sector assistance.

While the return of commercial aviation may boost short-term tourism inflows, the associated increase in contacts will undoubtedly lead to further cases of infection, the severity of which will depend largely upon official precautions. A safe balance between economic re-opening and COVID-19 mitigation is essential to the national recovery.

All Western Balkan states are expected to face similar economic downturns and have thus received offers of emergency support from the IMF. China, which has already invested in the region via its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), may pivot and refocus new projects around its Healthcare BRI, thereby stimulating economic activity and boosting the resiliency of regional healthcare systems.

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