Coping with a global pandemic crisis is never an easy-going task. For European microstates, i.e. countries with a population below a million, it may be a significant challenge due to constrained financial and human resources. Take, for instance, Montenegro, a country in the Southeastern part of Europe. Its GDP per person comparing to other microstates is minuscule. In 2017 according to the World Bank, it was $7,669.57. By contrast, Malta’s GDP per person was $26,945.98, Iceland’s $70,056.87, Liechtenstein’s $168,146.02 (2015) and Luxembourg’s $104,103.04. Its healthcare spendings are approximately 5.3% of GDP, which is below the EU’s average 9.9%.
Human resources are a more vital challenge at present. Each year thousands of skilled workers, among them healthcare workers as bellwethers, apply for the job in the Western parts of Europe. Research publications by the European Movement in Montenegro (EMIM), a non-governmental organisation, reports a high level of emigration to Germany where most of the healthcare workers tend to apply.
On March 17 the first two cases in Montenegro were reported by the Institute for Public Health, a state agency. For several days Montenegro enjoyed the status of the only European covid-19 free country. There was plenty of time to consider all potential strategies to weather the crisis. Two weeks after, around 678 persons were tested for the covid-19, among which 109 confirmed as positive cases. In the fortnight’s time of other European microstates, after the first case was reported, some 2,469 persons (73 positives) were tested in Malta, 1,087 (51) in Liechtenstein, 1,380 (47) in the Faroe Islands and 1,147 (122) in Iceland. Luxembourg is the only microstate that tested fewer people than Montenegro in the first two weeks after the outbreak.
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Fewer tests mean more risk for the economy and its outlook as the state of emergency could be prolonged indefinitely. Tourism which counts for approximately 23% of GDP, ranked 30th globally according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, might be afflicted at most. Thousands of jobs are at stake, as well as the destiny of hospitality properties and facilities.
Forthcoming two weeks are essential for Montenegro. Increased testing could secure more inclusive control over the situation, but it would also allow decision-makers to plan the return of life and business gradually. Authorities claim that newly imposed measures that restrict freedom of movement, from 7 pm to 5 am on working days and from 1 pm on Saturday until 5 am on Monday, are necessary as society enters the most challenging period in the prevention of covid-19 spread – or the peak. Yet, everyone is still sceptical, and the peak is nowhere on sight.
a) Data for Andorra, Monaco and San Marino are not available.
b) Data are used from Institute for Public Health (ME), The Board of Patient Safety (DK), The Directorate of Health and The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management (IS), Government of Malta (MT), Government of Luxembourg (LU), Government of Liechtenstein (LI)