Sunday, 16 August 2020

Alemka Markotic Reveals Earliest Moment Croatia Might Have Vaccine

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 15th of August, 2020, the director of the ''Dr. Fran Mihaljevic'' Clinic for Infectious Diseases, Alemka Markotic, was a guest recently on RTL Danas (Today).

When asked whether she expects further growth in the number of people infected with the new coronavirus, after there were 208 of them reported across Croatia today, she said that it is possible that this number will grow in the coming days.

"It's possible that it will be a few more days of this, since whenever some hotspots start up, then we have a period of 6-7 to 10 days of increased numbers. It's possible that there will be even more increased numbers. But after that, people usually react to it and remember all those instructions, requests and warnings that we've been giving out for almost eight months now. Then they react to them and we end up with slightly smaller numbers. I sincerely hope that it will be the same this time as well,'' said Alemka Markotic.

When asked if we can expect a larger number of infected people from the families of young people who first became infected, Markotic said that it depends on where they were at the time when they were infected. "If they were somewhere without their family and were detected as infected upon their return, they will then have been placed in isolation and it's to be expected that most of their families will be saved from contracting the infection. However, those who have stayed with their families in the same premises, well, then there's a possibility that the infection will be transmitted,'' she said.

"The numbers aren't good, it isn't good that there are more people becoming infected. But at this point, it's good that the clinical picture in such people is very mild, that the transmission of the infection is thus, perhaps, less. However, we shouldn't rely on that, but I'd like to appeal to young people to be responsible and to understand, although they may have a milder form of the disease, they can infect some of their elders, those they love, and cause severe forms of the disease and even death. So, we all have to be responsible, regardless of age,'' she explained.

When asked whether this growth is partly a consequence of the decision to let more than a million tourists into Croatia without any special restrictions, she said that the season has been going on for more than a month and a half. "Of course, with increased migration, the chance of the number of sick and infected people coming increases. However, according to the official figures we have, there are still no significant infections and illnesses among tourists,'' she said.

She said that the same thing we do, their countries do, in the sense of tourists being tested. “They stay here for 7 to 10 days or two weeks. And they don't have to be tested here. For one part it was proven that they arrived here sick or infected, and one part certainly contracted the infection here in Croatia. Then, when they get to their countries, if they develop a clinical form of the disease, they'll be tested,'' she said.

"What's going now is that there are a large number of younger people on vacation on the coast and in different places where they gather, even in the open, and there's not too much distance. Younger people are freer, relax easier and faster, and think less about the consequences. This is the result of such behaviour, whether they're from here or not. The increase in the number of infected people is going on in all European countries and it's the result of both vacations and more travel. Travel is always a risk, we have a whole branch of travel called travel medicine where coronavirus is now the most frequent infection. But you can also come into contact with a lot of other infectious diseases on your travels,'' she said.

Asked what she intends to do in autumn if the situation worsens, she said no country could withstand another closure.

"There was never a complete closure, but an attempt was made to solve the hotspots with gradual measures. We know much, much more about this virus now. We'll try to follow everything we've learned when autumn comes and try to follow the situation as it goes and expect people to behave much more responsibly when they're indoors, when they're not on vacation and when they are at their jobs and among their families. And with that, as we've managed all these months, we'll manage to keep, in essence, a very good situation. Croatia is still very good in terms of its epidemiological situation,'' she said, adding that there should be no complete closure, but it could occur where the hotspots appear.

She also answered a question about the European Commission, which negotiated the purchase of 400 million doses of the vaccine.

"We can expect the vaccine in Croatia at the same time as other European countries can. It is unlikely that any of these licensed vaccines will be available before mid or late spring. When all European countries will be able to get it, Croatia will also be able to,'' concluded Alemka Markotic.

For more on coronavirus in Croatia, follow our dedicated section.

Friday, 14 August 2020

Alemka Markotic Discusses Autumn with Coronavirus, Russian Vaccine

Alemka Markotic, who has become a real household name since the appearance of the new coronavirus in Croatia, commented on how the health system plans to differentiate between coronavirus and flu in autumn. She also touched on the Russian vaccine and stated that scientists learned through the media that the vaccine had suddenly appeared.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 13th of August, 2020, Croatia recorded its second biggest increase in newly infected persons over the last few days since the beginning of the pandemic. A large number of young people are among the new patients. Due to the new situation, measures for nightclubs are being tightened, and inspections will be intensified.

There will be celebrations of the Assumption throughout the country over the weekend, and when it comes to how the national headquarters plans to keep the situation under control, a reporter from Dnevnik Nova TV asked Dr. Alemka Markotic, the director of the ''Fran Mihaljevic'' Clinic for Infectious Diseases.

"It's good that there are not too many hospitalised people, but it isn't good that the numbers are increasing, because with increasing numbers, more severe forms of the disease can also appear. The tips are the same ones we've been repeating for months now - maintain a distance and keep up your hygiene. "The moment people think the numbers are smaller, they start relaxing," said Alemka Markotic.

She pointed out that there is nothing new in the recommendations for the operation of nightclubs and that everything has already been communicated with the owners of such facilities. Being indoors carries an increased risk and therefore it is better for everyone who can work outdoors to do so, she added.

Alemka Markotic also commented on the Russian vaccine and stated that scientists learned through the media that it had appeared. Expert data on the research behind the vaccine are lacking, she emphasised, especially data on the most important part, the third phase, in which the vaccine should be tested on thousands of people, so that we know that it is effective and we can become acquainted with any possible side effects.

She added that currently six vaccines are in the final stages of clinical research, two are from China and four come from other parts of the world.

Once a vaccine for the new coronavirus becomes available, preference will be given to people who are at the highest risk of serious illness and death if they contract the disease, and to healthcare workers, as well as those who are more exposed to the virus due to the nature of their work.

As for the beginning of the school year, Alemka Markotic said that the plan is for all children to go to school and to monitor how the situation develops as it goes, so that they can react quickly if an infection occurs.

"So far, according to scientific research and studies, it seems that children, especially the younger ones, aren't particularly significant carriers of the COVID-19 disease, so we expect children to go to school regularly," she said, adding that there is a slightly higher risk in high schools, because children of that age have typically already started going out and doing more adult things without the supervision of their parents.

If a child becomes infected, epidemiologists will assess each situation separately, she pointed out, because the possibility that the infection did not occur at school cannot be ruled out.

When asked how Croatia will differentiate coronavirus from the flu and virus in the autumn, when flu usually starts making its rounds, she replied: ''Clinically, it will be difficult to distinguish between the two, but doctors and the health system will do their best to define which disease it is. It will certainly be advised that those with milder respiratory problems stay at home, and that those with more severe symptoms come to the hospital,'' said Dr. Alemka Markotic.

For more on coronavirus in Croatia, follow our dedicated section.

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Alemka Markotic Announces New Measures, New Hotspots

August 9, 2020 - The director of the Clinic for Infectious Diseases "Dr. Fran Mihaljevic" Alemka Markotic was a guest on RTL Today, where she commented on the coronavirus in Croatia and the number of patients in recent days.

"The numbers are a bit better or worse, but the trend is downward; you'll see that we have a downward trend from the beginning of the second wave. Every couple of days, we have some new peaks related to different hotspots," she said, as reported by

She also commented on how tourists should behave.

"It's almost a month and a half into the season, and it's clear that we are a safe country. There were no major jumps among tourists, obviously, those who come are very responsible, and tourism workers are convinced that a lot depends on the season," she said, and added that the problem is in younger people who become infected by going out to enclosed spaces at night. Measures are planned to be taken in this regard.

"These hotspots are not that big; they are gatherings like weddings, bachelor and bachelorette parties and some nightclubs. We will try to introduce new measures and security checks in places where there are hotspots to prevent this from happening again," she added.

She also commented on the rise of young infections.

"These were larger private gatherings, such as weddings and bachelor and bachelorette parties, and individual nightclubs. We must take into account that there are hundreds of those who make sure that all measures are implemented properly. So we cannot punish everyone, but we will try in places where outbreaks appear, introduce additional security checks and see how to improve the situation so that new outbreaks no longer occur in those places," she said.

The age of the infected has also dropped, so there are more and more of them among the young.

"Young people are definitely not among the most at-risk groups. But a large number of them have now relaxed with the measures. There are a lot of movements, activities and the like. Of course, the higher the number, the greater the chances of serious infections. Young people must understand that they can contribute a lot and help the health system and each other. They have been the vanguard many times in difficult situations; I believe that young people will understand this, and you will soon see. A group of enthusiasts and professors from Osijek and Slavonia is preparing a very interesting school program that will relate to biosafety, biosecurity and COVID. I believe that young people will wholeheartedly accept it and help all of us in that," she said.

And to end - did the German graduates become infected on Pag?

"They had symptoms around the third day in Croatia, so it is unlikely that they became infected in our country. They became infected either during the bus trip or before," she added.

She also commented on vaccines and said that America and Russia are in the running.

For more news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.


Monday, 29 June 2020

Alemka Markotic: "We'll Return Anti-Epidemic Measures Where Necessary"

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 29th of June, 2020, Alemka Markotic, the director of the ''Dr. Fran Mihaljevic'' Clinic for Infectious Diseases in Zagreb said that the situation with the spread of the new coronavirus is continuously being monitored.

''We have two major hotspots, in Đakovo, where epidemiologists are coping very well with and so far we've not heard of any major problems, and in Zagreb. Zagreb is a big city and we can always expect that big cities have the largest number of patients. One focus is in the St. Ivan hospital, so far only one person has more severe symptoms. None of the patients is on a respirator and none of the lives of these patients are threatened, although almost 50 percent of the patients have come from the St. Ivan hospital and they're older than 60, so in a way, they're risk groups. So far, only two people are experiencing a more severe clinical picture, the others have a mild to moderate form of the disease, despite the fact that nine of them have pneumonia,'' she said.

Alemka Markotic concluded that the Croatian health system had shown itself to be stable and properly prepared.

In the first part of the epidemic of the new coronavirus, there were also more infected health workers, and as such she answered a question about the number of infected people working in health care.

''The crisis system is functioning, ready and organised. We have additional experience and our citizens can feel safe. The communication of experts in the country should be clear, correct and fair,'' she noted.

''Everyone's work is open for review. We've thought, corrected, and we're doing the same again now. The situation isn't critical, although we do need to be careful. It's important that the experts provide their opinions. The headquarters is not alone, there are a lot of people who are doing their jobs diligently,'' she added.

As for the critics, Alemka Markotic said that it would be good to state specifically what is good and what is not in their opinions.

''We gradually introduced some measures, then we gradually relaxed them, now we're going to need to return them where these critical situations have occurred,'' she said.

For more, follow our dedicated section on coronavirus.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Alemka Markotic Discusses 3 Golden Rules to Which We Should Adhere

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 27th of June, 2020, in the last 24 hours, 56 new cases of coronavirus infection were recorded. So far, a total of 2539 people have tested positive for the new coronavirus. 2,150 people have now recovered from the disease. 107 people have sadly died. Another 282 people are still being treated. As the situation rears its ugly head, Alemka Markotic has found herself in the public spotlight once again.

Alemka Markotic, the director of the ''Fran Mihaljevic'' Clinic for Infectious Diseases, spoke with an RTL journalist on the matter.

Due to the increase in the number of new cases, the question arises as to whether or not we really have control over the virus, are we still successful in fighting it?

I think we're keeping things under control, there have been more situations like this up until this point. Especially these two hotspots that have emerged, I think it's good that they've been identified quickly, that epidemiologists have taken all the measures they need to take that they will very quickly identify all the contacts that have been exposed [to infected individuals].

The profession struggles to come to a consensus. Some scientists say the virus has weakened, others say it hasn't, and these conflicting opinions are being sent out to citizens. Has the virus weakened?

It isn't a matter of coming to a consensus, but of monitoring the situation. Here, the profession and science should remain at the level of the profession and science. When we define some things, then it should be gradually communicated to the public. What's currently clear in Croatia and in some other countries is that it is currently visible that these are milder forms of the disease, but also that most of those cases relate to younger people.

Therefore, some situations we're monitoring now indicate that the situation is currently better than it was at the time when we had more severe forms of the disease with the same number of patients, but this isn't something we need to hold on to. What is important is what the public needs to know, and that is that these three golden rules should be followed - distance, hygiene, avoiding close contact - and then within that we can stop everything as well as we have so far. We had a great result for almost a month, and even before that we kept everything under very good control.

Close contact should be avoided. Let’s repeat once again, what exactly is close contact?

According to the definition of the European Centre for Disease Control, which was adopted by Croatia, close contact means if you have been with an infected person for more than fifteen minutes face to face at a distance of less than two metres or if you've been indoors with an infected person for more than fifteen minutes, of course, if you're not wearing protective gear or the like. So, it's a very simple definition, and these are methods that are easy to stick to. We've seen that our people have adhered to things very well, I see that they are returning to taking that responsibility upon themselves and that a lot of people are trying harder to maintain these measures because they've been really successful so far, they are important and they are simple [measures].

You mentioned that more young people were infected, that the coronavirus hotspots became clubs, and you introduced new measures. What measures are in question?

Rules within such clubs must be followed. Some shut down on their own in an attempt to try to solve the problem. In all areas, be it clubs, or in other enclosed spaces, a certain distance must be kept, there should be disinfection, in some restaurants and similar places staff should be wearing gloves and providing disinfectants, therefore, the same measures that we constantly promote and that really meet the needs of preventing the spread of viruses need to be upheld. People have to assess the situation for themselves, be responsible, don't go inside places where people don't seem to be adhering to the measures as in such cases they can endanger themselves and others. If you see it’s crowded somewhere - you won’t go in there, you won’t endanger yourself, and then you won't end up infecting people you know.

One of the decisions that provoked great reactions from the public, especially foreign citizens, is that the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and Northern Macedonia must necessarily isolate themselves upon arrival in Croatia. Will that decision change?

I understand all this, there are a lot of dynamics and exchanges of people and goods between those countries and Croatia, it's normal that this disturbs the lives of some. These are all short-term measures, they've been made in the same spirit as the other measures we've been bringing in and relaxing in light of situations at the time. This was, I hope, a short-term measure that should stop this situation, given that it was detected that the largest number of hotspots and infected people were associated with people from Croatia who were in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The situation will be monitored further. If it's seen that the responsibility of the population has increased, that measures have been adhered to, these restrictions will be lifted or imposed on some other countries, if such a situation recurs.

For more on coronavirus and Alemka Markotic, follow our dedicated section.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Alemka Markotic Announces Penalties for Not Wearing Masks

Alemka Markotic, the director of the ''Dr. Fran Mihaljević'' Clinic for Infectious Diseases in Zagreb has discussed coronavirus' behaviour, what might happen in autumn, and penalties for not wearing masks when using public transport.

''It's relatively simple. As long as we kept to the measure the situation was excellent. But it's human nature to relax things as soon as it seems that the danger has ceased. And as soon as people relax, the virus finds its place to survive. It needs a denser population and closer contact to survive,'' Alemka Markotic, who has become a household name since the pandemic began in Croatia, warned.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 25th of June, 2020, she warned that with the easing of the formerly stringent anti-epidemic measures and the good epidemiological situation, stories about fabrications were given more space, regardless of the fact that hundreds of thousands of sick people and deaths from the new coronavirus were and continue to be seen across the world. All this, she believes, gave us a false sense of security and an excuse to relax.

All those who were in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Northern Macedonia and Kosovo will have to go into self-isolation when arriving in Croatia. Masks have now been introduced as mandatory when using public transport.

''These are places where the virus is more easily transmitted. We had an excellent situation, now the situation is deteriorating both in our country and in the world - new measures had to be adopted,'' she added.

''We noticed that most of the imported cases of infection were from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and if it is noticed that the import of diseases from some European countries increases, then restrictions will be introduced for them as well,'' Alemka Markotic announced.

"The situation is better, although there will be more new cases"

Speaking about the tourist season and the hundreds of guests who are currently spending their summers in Croatia, she said that the current situation is better than it was before, although there will be more new patients.

"People are outdoors and are at a greater distance. We call this virus the ''family virus'' because it spreads mostly indoors. With social distancing, disinfection and wearing masks where they should be worn - we can deal with the virus,'' she assured.

Speaking about allegations that the virus is weakening, she said that it is not a matter of our immunity.

''Where they tried to create the herd immunity of the population, it failed. There are indications that the virus has undergone some changes, but this needs to be monitored for some time. We cannot specifically say that it has mutated. It's a concentration of the virus - indoors it is high and the strength and ability of the virus to penetrate the body is stronger. The virus settles in the mucous membrane of the nose or throat and needs a higher concentration to break into those cells,'' explained Alemka Markotic.

"We're looking at autumn with great caution"

''We saw that some people had a positive finding of the virus in their nose for sixty days, without it being able to penetrate the body and cause symptoms. When we did the serological tests there were no antibodies and those people were actually not protected. We'll also need to examine how equal the amount of the virus we find in the nose is to the transmission of the virus to other people. In this context, the situation is better when we're outdoors, but we're looking at autumn with great caution. The virus will certainly not go away by then, and there will be other viruses, which is a great challenge for experts,'' she warned.

The new coronavirus is much more virulent than SARS

She added that everyone hopes that the virus will gradually end up like SARS did, although coronavirus isn't really behaving like that. SARS took the world by storm, there were about 8,000 cases and then it simply disappeared. The new coronavirus has already infected eight to nine million people and is much more virulent.

''At this point, nearly 90 percent of people who contract the disease will experience only milder symptoms. The problem is when the virus enters sensitive places such as hospitals and nursing homes,'' Markotic said.

Will there be sanctions for those who do not wear masks on public transport?

''As soon as something is a provision, then certain penalties will have to be applied. However, we're talking all the time about why people should be punished in order to do something that is for their own good. It's easier to take, sew a mask or buy a mask for 5, 10 or 20 kuna than to it is pay a fine of 500 or 1000 kuna. It's safer to be responsible,'' concluded Alemka Markotic.

For more on coronavirus in Croatia, follow our dedicated section.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Alemka Markotic Discusses Potential Reintroduction of Coronavirus Measures

Alemka Markotic has discussed the potential reintroduction of certain coronavirus measures should the epidemiological situation alter once again.

The coronavirus pandemic has shaken an unexpecting world, and Croatia has rather surprisingly handled it exceptionally well. Boasting some of the best results with some of the most stringent anti-epidemic measures in the world according to an Oxford University study, Croatia has been astounding in its response. The number of infections has remained low, the death rate even lower. These are results few could have predicted for a country so close to Italy.

Alemka Markotic of the ''Dr. Fran Mihaljevic'' Clinic for Infectious Diseases in Zagreb has become a household name over the last few weeks. Having been drawn as a superhero by a young boy from Nustar, Alemka won't quickly be forgotten after the pandemic passes.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 29th of April, 2020, Alemka Markotic has provided a response to the question on everyone's lips as the anti-epidemic measures begin slowly being loosened up: What if there is a sudden increase in newly infected people?

Director of the Infectious Diseases Clinic “Dr. Fran Mihaljevic ”commented on the possible return of measures and restrictions due to the coronavirus epidemic.

"We're on the second day of loosening the measures, it can be seen that there are more people out there and there are more crowds, but it seems to me that the majority of people are still adhering to the measures that have been recommended," the director of the ''Dr. Fran Mihaljevic'' Clinic for Infectious Diseases told RTL Direct.

What if there is a sudden increase in the coronavirus infection rate?

"We've been communicating clearly from the beginning. It was emphasised that the measures would be gradually eased, that we're ask people to please continue to respect social distancing, hygiene measures… If we pay attention to this, I think we'll be able to continue the gradual loosening of measures. If the number of infected people increases, then we'll have to identify where the measures didn't produce a good result and those parts of the measures will probably need to be reintroduced,'' said Alemka Markotic.

Many countries have made it mandatory to wear masks when outside near others, but Croatia isn't among them.

"I think the CIHI and epidemiologists have clearly communicated that it's advisable to wear masks in public, when in closed quarters. I think that is absolutely clear to our people here and that they will respect these measures,'' Alemka Markotic concluded.

For more on coronavirus in Croatia, follow our dedicated section.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Alemka Markotic, the Healthcare Heroine Trying to Save Croatia from COVID-19

March 29, 2020 - She is the most popular woman in Croatia right now, and millions are grateful to Alemka Markotic are the rest of the National Civil Protection Headquarters for their outstanding efforts and communication skills. 

I am not in the habit of writing articles praising people I have never met, but these are extraordinary times. 

And another thing that has also been extraordinary has been the response and communication of the Croatian Government and the members of the National Civil Protection Headquarters, among whom is Alemka Markotic,  Director at the Zagreb Hospital for Infectious Diseases, Dr. Fran Mihaljevic.

The level of communication and the no-nonsense advice and information has been exceptional to watch, and I applaud all who are working so tirelessly to protect us all. 

Last week we featured Vili Beros, the new Health Minister, who only took up the position on January 28, 2020. His effectiveness in the position catapulted him to an unlikely position in the Croatian media for a serving government minister - the second most popular person in the country on the last list of Top 20 Positive and Top 20 Negative people in Croatia. 

But while Vili made it to number two, top spot was reserved for Alemka Markotic. 


Here no-nonsense approach has produced some very memorable lines, which have rammed the message home to citizens that this is a fight that needs to be fought sitting at home in self-isolation. 

"Does Croatia have enough ventilators?" 

"That depends on the behaviour of our citizens."

And perhaps her most memorable like so far, just 8 days ago

"If we want a corona party we will have it."

A lot of expats have asked me if I could write an article about Alenka Markotic and her background. 

As I am not so familiar with that, I am extremely grateful to Iva Tatic for this piece below with more information about Alemka Markotic. As regular TCN readers will know, Iva has been contributing for us for several years part-time. Sadly, I had to put our cooperation on temporary hold, due to necessary cutbacks due to the crisis. Not only did Iva take the news in a professional and adult manner, she has since contributed several pieces to TCN for free, including this one. Bravo, Kolegice, much appreciated, and we look forward to having you back on board soon. 

Alemka Markotić was born in Zagreb in October of 1964 (the entire nation of Croatia should get together and buy her a birthday present; we can organize that), but her education mostly took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She completed high-school in Zavidovići, and then Medical school at the University of Sarajevo, where she got her degree before the wars in former Yugoslavia started. Her post-graduate studies mostly continued at the Medical school at the University of Zagreb, where she managed to get a master’s degree in 1991, after which she dedicated herself to humanitarian work during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She worked as a GP during the occupation of Sarajevo, and helped the Caritas war pharmacy and outpatient clinic. In 1994 she continued working for Caritas charity, but in Croatia, where she took the position of medical coordinator working with displaced people and refugees.

Her specialisation was in the field of clinical immunology, so her next job was in the now almost completely defunct Institute of Immunology in Zagreb. During her time there she managed to get a PhD, and completed a post-doctoral stay in the US, where she worked in the biosafety laboratories of the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases in Maryland.

In 2005 she moves to the Hospital for Infectious Diseases "Dr. Fran Mihaljević”, which is where she is the director since 2017, and which is the position she holds now, during the largest infectious crisis of our times.

She teaches at numerous universities in Croatia and abroad: University of Zagreb Medical School and Faculty of Food Technology, University of Osijek Medical School, University of Rijeka Medical School, Study of Forensics at the University of Split, and others.

Dr. Markotić has always been public and vocal about her religious belief, declaring that the is a practicing catholic and that she wouldn’t be able to do what she does, both now and during the war-times in Sarajevo, were it not for her faith in God.

Our thanks to all who are working with Alemka Markotic in the fight against corona. 

You can follow the latest news on TCN in our dedicated corona section

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