By DARKO VOJINOVIC – Associated Press
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) – Lively New Year’s celebrations kicked off on Friday in the Serbian capital of Belgrade where, unlike elsewhere in Europe, mass gatherings were allowed despite fears of the rapidly spreading omicron variant.
Large crowds gathered in the city for outdoor concerts, fireworks and a light show in a new Dubai-style glass tower that has become a flagship project of the right-wing populist government of Serbia.
With its many nightclubs and bars and relatively low prices, Belgrade has become a major attraction for most young revelers from neighboring Balkan states. Serbian public television RTS reported that around 100,000 visitors have flocked to Belgrade for the holidays, filling the city’s hotels and rented apartments. The restaurants and bars are packed.
Serbian officials have ignored warnings from medical experts who say the mass festivities should be suppressed as long as omicron travels the continent. Most European countries have imposed restrictions and banned New Year’s celebrations to contain the virus that has fueled a record number of new infections.
Serbian epidemiologist Zoran Radovanovic has compared the state-sponsored rallies to “premeditated mass murder”. Radovanovic has predicted that Serbia will experience thousands of new COVID-19 infections after the holidays.