Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) was among the European countries which managed to contain the second wave of COVID-19 quite early, with January to February average number of daily infected being at 350 or 10 infected on 100K people (for more details see our previous Economic Insight: Bosnia and H. second wave contained)
However, March and April brought a substantial spike in COVID-19 numbers, showing how one of the loosest containment policies in Europe at that time (open borders with no tests required, only people gathering limited to 30 and curfew from 23 to 5 am, while all services were working), could bring dramatical developments amid winter tourism season.
As a result, the second half of March and the first half of April brought new record high numbers not only in daily cases of infected (1,433 daily or 42 on 100K of people in this timeframe) but also in terms of fatality rate (46 casualties daily or 3.9% fatality rate) which was the second-highest in Europe after Hungary. In that period the most affected was Canton Sarajevo with casualties numbers being on daily basis higher than during the four-year war and siege of the city back in the '90s.
Hence, at the end of March both bh. entities, Republic of Srpska (RS) and Federation of B&H (FB&H) introduced tighter measures in the most affected cantons including a longer curfew from 9 pm to 5 am, cafés and restaurants being closed. Primary schools were shifted again to remote along with high schools and universities. Companies have been shifted also to work remotely wherever possible. These measures have brought remarkable improvement in the last ten days in COVID-19 trends in the country. However, it is too early to be too optimistic with still quite a loose approach of policymakers to COVID-19 situation which is best illustrated through the “vaccination delivery saga” and extremely slow vaccination pace in B&H.
B&H has only lately started the immunization process with the first delivery of COVAX program vaccines to the country, after the State ministry escalated the issue to the COVAX about late deliveries. Only on March 25th, the country finally managed to receive the first vaccines dispatch from the WHO — COVAX program. Earlier the country has started with the vaccination of the health workers from donated vaccines from other countries. So far, the country received 142 thousand vaccines, out of which 49.8 thousand are from COVAX (Pfizer+Astra Zeneca) while the rest are donated vaccines (Serbia, Turkey — Astra Zeneca and Sinopharm). In April the country has received written commitments for additional deliveries from COVAX of 100.6 thousand until June. Also, additional donated 105 thousand vaccines (from China, Malaysia and Slovenia) are announced for May followed by the first delivery of 240 thousand of Pfizer (EU — IPA Fund). Hence, until June the country should receive in total 587.6 thousand doses of vaccines, enough for vaccination of 8.4% population which is still strongly behind other SEE and CEE countries.
After the COVAX program proved to be very slow and inefficient (the country paid in September 2020 for 1.23 mn vaccines while until June it would receive only 150.4 thousand, 12% of the amount paid), the entity level governments FB&H and RS started direct negotiations with Western suppliers (Pfeizer, Astra Zenecca) and with Russia for deliveries of Sputnik V (cca. 600K vaccines) with progress expected sooner for Russian delivery. The country also expects 892 thousand of already paid vaccines through the EU channel — IPA Fund. If the above-mentioned deliveries are realized and vaccination progress speeds up in Q2 and Q3, the country could reach a vaccination level of 20% people until the end of Q3 — still lower than CEE peers. Only in the case that the COVAX, the EU-IPA and direct purchases negotiations are implemented in the country at a higher speed, the country could reach the vaccination of 45% of people until the autumn. With the current level of recovered people from COVID-19 this could be sufficient for reaching some level of herd immunity. However, this scenario is quite tight to the downside.