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Bosnians protest over government’s pandemic handling

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Over 1,000 people marched through the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, on Tuesday to demand the resignation of the government over what they say is poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Authorities said 99 people have died with COVID-19 in Bosnia in the past 24 hours, a record for the country of 3.3 million people. Bosnia has reported around 7,000 fatalities from the new coronavirus which is among the highest per-capita deaths rates in Europe.

The protesters blocked traffic in a key central street in Sarajevo while hundreds more joined in from their cars, honking horns through the city. The protesters were wearing face masks and carrying banners reading “Don’t play with our lives,” or “Resignation!”

Many Bosnians have blamed the government for the high death rate and because it failed to acquire vaccines early enough. The country has recently started limited vaccination with donations from abroad and a shipment provided by the international COVAX mechanism.

“This should be a proud country and not one that is taking donations,” said protester Nedzad Hadzibajric. “The right to vaccination is a universal right.”

Also on Tuesday, the prosecutor’s office said it was looking into a lawsuit filed against top officials over alleged failures in the handling of the pandemic.

Protest organizers gave the current authorities two weeks to resign, pledging more protests. They said new authorities should present a clear plan to tackle the pandemic in the country whose health system is still reeling from the 1992-95 war.

“We want resignations because they have not performed their jobs properly, for which they are well paid,” said Alma Abdagic. “This literally is a fight for lives.”