Serbian Orthodox Church leader has the virus

Patriarch Porfirije, head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the church, amid an upsurge in infections in the country and elsewhere in the Balkan region.

Porfirije has developed “very mild symptoms of the viral infection” and remains in home isolation, the statement said.

He added that Porfirije carries out his administrative duties without any problem.

The 60-year-old patriarch became the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church after the death of the previous patriarch, Irinej, in November 2020 after contracting the coronavirus.

Porfirije attended a mass ceremony on Sunday in Republika Srpska, the Serb-ruled part of neighboring Bosnia, where few people wore face masks.

Serbia on Monday reported nearly 9,000 new infections in the country of seven million people.

The number of new daily cases rose sharply after the New Year celebrations which included outdoor concerts and relaxed anti-virus rules.

Experts say the current increase in cases is due to the rapidly spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus and is likely to get even worse.

Epidemiologist Predrag Kon criticized the authorities’ virus policy on Monday.

“Everything that was organized shouldn’t have happened,” Kon said.

“Belgrade exploded after the New Year and now it is spreading to the rest of Serbia.”

Serbia has recorded more than 1.3 million cases of infection since the start of the pandemic while nearly 13,000 people have died from COVID-19.

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