Saturday, 17 July 2021

19 Percent of Croatian Citizens Have Borrowed Funds Since Pandemic Struck

July the 17th, 2021 - When it comes to Croatian citizens or residents, every fifth one has had to borrow funds since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic back in spring last year in order to remain financially afloat.

As Novac/Andrea Koscec writes, since the beginning of the pandemic, every fifth respondent in Croatia has been forced to borrow money. Working with that very same figure, every fifth person was also rendered unable to pay back the debts they'd incurred/

The above information about the financial issues suffered by Croatian citizens during the pandemic was showcased by COVID-19 inspired financial research conducted in European countries by the company EOS Matrix.

According to the survey, Croatian citizens or residents most often had to borrow money in order to just meet their daily needs - to finance their current living expenses (69 percent), housing costs (30 percent) and healthcare costs (23 percent).

''From the attitudes of Croatian citizens about borrowing money, we can conclude that the coronavirus crisis will have a longer-lasting effect on the financial situation of people and the weakening of the national economy,'' noted the director of EOS Matrix, Barbara Cerinski.

The survey showed that most Croatian citizens or residents gave up investing in renovation (45 percent), buying furniture (31 percent) and spending money on trips and holidays (25 percent), the same could be said for spending on healthcare (14 percent) or education (11 percent).

At the wider European level, it is evident that individual countries have been and continue to be quite differently exposed to the consequences of the ongoing pandemic - while in Croatia, 19 percent of consumers are indebted financially, in Germany that figure stands at 12 percent, in Spain 15 percent, and in Romania as much as 28 percent, with 32 percent of people in Bulgaria in the same boat as a result of the global public health crisis.

For more, make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle section.

Saturday, 17 July 2021

Foreign Analysts More Optimistic About Croatian Economic Picture

July the 17th, 2021 - Foreign analysts appear to be much more optimistic when looking at the Croatian economic picture and subsequent economic recovery. 

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Jadranka Dozan writes, it isn't that there is absolutely no explanation for the prevailing impression of the suppression of optimism among the Croatian public, but there have been some shifts.

When it comes to Croatian economic picture and the prospects, and despite the still present uncertainties about the pandemic, news that already looks like a wave optimism has appeared. The last in the series, from the Northern European powerhouse Great Britain, made the Croatian tourism sector especially happy.

Croatia will no longer be on the UK's amber list, but instead it will find itself on the green list. This significantly facilitates the return of British tourists after holidaying here, which is positive for the tourist season. However, recently the Croatian coast changed its colour from green to orange on the "Covid map" of the ECDC. It's therefore a mixed bag.

At the session of the two Councils on Wednesday, the Croatian National Bank issued a revision of the projection of real Croatian GDP growth in 2021. Compared to the original projected 5.9 percent growth, as part of the regular semi-annual review, it raised its growth projection for this year to 6.8 percent.

Although the European Commission in its summer forecasts a week ago improved the expectations of the growth rate (i) of the Croatian economy for 2021, in relation to the CNB's forecasts, the Commission now seems even conservative. The EC has raised its forecasts for this year from 5 to 5.4 percent.

Admittedly, this is primarily a correction that (as is the case with the CNB) largely reflects the assessment that the part of the recovery of the Croatian economic picture that was expected to materialise next year will actually move to 2021. As such, the EC now predicts a rate of 5.9 percent for next year instead of the recent forecast of 6 percent real growth.

Last week's summer forecasts from the Commission coincided with another positively intoned occasion when looking at the Croatian economic picture. EC President Ursula von der Leyen visited Zagreb and gave a positive assessment of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, a document that forms the basis for European funding of projects worth billions of euros in the coming years.

However, in addition to the aforementioned wave of optimism, more forecasts of a number of international analytical and investment houses that don't have as much media visibility are also important.

For example, analysts at Moody’s Analytics recently updated their forecasts and are now counting on as much as 10.2 percent of GDP growth for Croatia. The Oxford Economics forecast is just under 9.9 percent.

Compared to most Croatian forecasters and institutions, the current forecasts of Croatian GDP growth are significantly higher according to Citigroup or Fitch Ratings, which see it at +8.5 percent this year. The same goes for the Dutch ING with their current forecast of eight percent, and Capital Economics with the expectation of 7.5 percent growth for the Croatian economy this year.

Coronavirus-related risks remain

Whether Croatian economists see better and more deeply, or they naturally shift their focus to economic weaknesses and risks, remains to be seen. In any case, all forecasts for the Croatian economic picture today are accompanied by reservations or remarks related to the risks of a possible unfavourable development of the epidemiological situation. For economies that, like Croatia, are strongly dependent on tourism or services that strongly imply social contacts, this is a much more sensitive variable.

In any case, in the Government, ie the Ministry of Finance, are officially sticking to the growth projections from a few months ago, and they stand at 5.2 percent.

For more, follow our lifestyle section.

Friday, 26 February 2021

Association of Croatian Travel Agencies Urges Croatian Government for Help

February 26, 2021 – The consequences of the coronavirus pandemic has brought travel agencies to the brink of collapse. The Association of Croatian Travel Agencies has asked the Croatian Government to make an urgent decision on extending measures to preserve their jobs and reimburse fixed costs.

With the entire tourism sector struggling with unprecedented losses for nearly a year, travel agencies are among the biggest losers in this crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Cancellations of travel and various events and restrictions on people's movement due to special epidemiological measures have left a significant mark on the travel agencies' business.

Tomislav Fain, the president of the Association of Croatian Travel Agencies (UHPA), has previously sent numerous requests to the Government to help and support travel agencies. They recently even asked the Croatian Civil Protection Headquarters to close them formally so they can withdraw much-needed financial resources for survival. However, unsuccessfully. This time, like all the times before, their demand has only one goal: the survival of travel agencies.

"Countless times we have been called upon to understand the situation and with uncertainty found out at the last minute whether we will be able to keep employees for the next month or two or we will have to thank them for their cooperation. As our understanding did not lead to a boomerang effect and came back to us in the same way, we were put in a situation where the survival of most travel agencies in the Republic of Croatia is extremely endangered," Fain points out in the UHPA statement.

According to the Tax Administration and the Central Bureau of Statistics data, the average decline in the travel agencies' activity in 2020 was continuously above 85 percent. These truly devastating results carry even more weight if we take into account the fact that these are mostly small and medium-sized family businesses that, to ensure the liquidity of the business, among other things, sold their own assets.

"In a country that depends so much on tourism, it is unacceptable that on the threshold of the tourist season on which we have high expectations, the tourism industry survives day by day and hopes for a miracle. As if this is not more than enough, the situation is further aggravated by the lack of understanding of service providers, especially public institutions, which, despite the recommendations of relevant ministries, increase their services' prices at the last minute.

It is high time that all relevant stakeholders understand the seriousness of the situation and provide us with the key prerequisites so that we can dedicate ourselves to what we know best – creating tourist products for a memorable holiday. Otherwise, all promotional campaigns and slogans will go to waste because we will not protect the most important thing – a man – who, as we like to be proud of, is the key to success in tourism," concludes Fain.

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

Read the Croatian Travel Update in your language - now available in 24 languages.

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Index: Cafe Terraces Open In Two Weeks If Numbers Stay Low

February 17, 2021 – Indoor sports return and cafe terraces open on Monday 1st March if infection numbers remain low, learns Croatian media outlet Index.

By the time spring arrives, Croatian coffee lovers should be back enjoying their drinks outside their favourite cafe bar. Cafe terraces open on Monday 1st March 2021 if Coronavirus infection numbers remain low and stay on their current trajectory, according to Croatia media outlet Index.

Indoor sports will also return on the same date, with the same stipulation that infection numbers remain low. Having cafe terraces open again cannot come too soon for frustrated business owners. At the moment, they are only permitted to serve coffee to go. According to Index, from on Monday 1st March 2021, cafe terraces open and people will no longer need to congregate on the street outside, in parks or on benches to enjoy their drinks.

“Measures should be further relaxed throughout Croatia as of March 1, including the much-anticipated opening of cafe terraces,” says the portal. Cafe terraces open and other relaxed measures depend on the prerequisite of figures remaining at the level they are at now. “The share of newly infected in the number tested in recent days is below five percent,” Index adds.

Headquarters and the government had already announced that the next round of concessions could be expected in early March.

restaurant-644504_1920.jpgCafe terraces open in Croatia from March 1st 2021, if Coronavirus numbers remain low, say media outlet Index

Croatian cafe terraces open, the interior of cafes and restaurants remain closed

“As we find out, the terraces of cafes and restaurants will definitely open on March 1,” wrote Index. “However, according to information from a source close to the Headquarters, the closed (interior) parts of cafes and restaurants will not be opened. (This) is realistically expected in April at the earliest.”

“Once cafe terraces open, guests will most likely not be able to enter the interiors of cafes and restaurants, except perhaps for the use of toilets, to prevent indoor parts of cafes and restaurants from being used and guests being served there. Closed spaces are still considered by headquarters (to be) an extremely high risk when it comes to the spread of coronavirus.”

badminton-4139024_1920.jpg

Further relaxation of Coronavirus measures: Indoor sports to return

According to Index, although the first information received said that from March 1, only indoor sports for children would be opened, the portal has discovered that instead all indoor sports should be opened, with prescribed epidemiological measures. They remind that, according to current measures, only gyms, swimming pools and contactless individual ball sports are allowed.

books-5053733_1280.jpg

Public gatherings / marketplaces / fairs

“There should be concessions when it comes to fairs, but it is not yet completely clear under what conditions,” says the portal. Like supermarkets, open-air and indoor markets are currently permitted to operate. The newly relaxed measures will pertain to similar, but more irregular events at which arts & crafts, books and other goods are on display for sale. The portal say that the vending and consumption of food – which is traditional at such events – will likely not be permitted for now.

“The headquarters is inclined to open fairs where products are sold or exhibited, but the consumption of food and drinks might be limited to prevent excessive gatherings and socializing,” they say.

wine-1952051_1920.jpg

Relaxation of Coronavirus measures pertaining to private gatherings

“The allowed number of people at various gatherings should not change significantly, only minor corrections are possible,” claims the portal, adding that the current ban on the gathering of people from more than two households may instead be downgraded to a recommendation. The portal reminds that this measure has not been strictly enforced in any way before.

"To give way on March 1, the numbers have to stay at about the level they are now. But the pressure is great - no one wants to keep something closed that should not be kept closed. Most of it is already open, so there remains a narrow circle of what can still be given,” a source close to the Headquarters is quoted as telling Index.

Friction between regional and national authorities over easing of Covid-19 measures

Even if cafe terrace open on March 1st, Index concludes their article by reminding that a disparity between regional and national authorities is still causing some friction. The friction between two north-westerly regions of the country and national headquarters is specifically addressed.

“The Headquarters believes that the announcement of the Istrian Headquarters that they will open the terraces of cafes and restaurants on March 1 was very incorrect. They (national headquarters) say that this opening is planned at the level of the whole of Croatia anyway.”

“However, the decision of the Primorje-Gorski Kotar headquarters, which postponed the opening of bookmakers and casinos in that county, is perhaps even more critically commented on. The government states that the opening of bookmakers (betting shops) and casinos is a purely financial decision and ironically comments that if the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County wants to leave these facilities closed, they should (themselves) cover the costs that will be incurred,” says the Index article.

Index claims that these moves from Istria and Rijeka (Primorje-Gorski Kotar) are regarded in the National Headquarters and the government as politicking and that they are connected with the upcoming local elections.

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

Read the Croatian Travel Update in your language - now available in 24 languages

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Epidemiologist: At This Rate, Vaccination Goal Won't Be Met Until Autumn

February 9, 2021 – In a Croatian media TV interview, epidemiologist of the Croatian Institute of Public Health Bernard Kaić yesterday said the plan to vaccinate half of the population by the summer will be delayed. He predicted that if Croatia continues vaccination at its current rate, the goal would not be reached until autumn, possibly late autumn

Epidemiologist of the Croatian Institute of Public Health Bernard Kaić, speaking to Croatian media RTL, told them the plan to vaccinate half of the population by the summer will be delayed. The epidemiologist predicted that if Croatia continues vaccination at its current rate, the goal of vaccinating half of the population within the country will not be completed until autumn, possibly late autumn.

"I can't say (by) exactly how much,” he told RTL, regarding how much delay will occur, “because we still don't know how many vaccines we'll get in March. And (how much) after March we (still) have no idea.”

“If this pace continues, it would take four million doses to vaccinate half the population. We won't achieve that until autumn for sure, and it’s late autumn,” the epidemiologist said.

According to an article in Index, the epidemiologist said that, as things currently stand, there will be three vaccines used in Croatia - AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech. They will be used concurrently, with vaccinations from all three available in Croatia at the same time.

When asked which vaccine he would choose to be vaccinated with, the epidemiologist answered that he did not know and that he was glad that he did not have the opportunity to choose. "There was only one offered so I got vaccinated,” said the epidemiologist. “It would be really hard to decide."

When asked why some states have given up vaccinating those over the age of 65 with the AstraZeneca vaccine, the epidemiologist explained that in currently available results from clinical studies the messenger RNA vaccine had proven to be somewhat more effective in preventing mild forms of Coronavirus than the AstraZeneca vaccine. Some of the vaccines work in different ways. However, the epidemiologist ultimately said that it was expected the AstraZeneca vaccine would prove to be effective, it was just that this had not yet been proven statistically.

bernard-kaic-e505fb44671c29c2fdonRTL.jpgRTL screenshot

Later in the interview, the epidemiologist was asked “Due to skepticism towards AstraZeneca, many associations in (Croatia's) border areas plan to take pensioners to Serbia for vaccination. How smart is it to accept such an arrangement?”

The epidemiologist replied; “My only fear is that such organized trips do not turn into corona-trips so that people do not get infected on the way back and forth and do themselves harm. I would wait.”

The three vaccines for which Croatia is currently expecting deliveries are now not the only vaccines available. Speaking in a discussion on the same evening on another Croatian media outlet, HRT, Zlatko Trobonjača, an immunologist from the Rijeka Clinical Hospital, spoke about the Russian vaccine.

"Our country is obviously following the EU and its decisions,” he said. “The EU has entered into talks with Russia. It can be expected that these talks will continue. It is a quality vaccine, it provides high protection.”

"As for the quality of the vaccine, we can see that it is not harmful and it could be used in our country. The EU is oriented towards Western companies. And now, they (the companies) did not stick to the agreement," Trobonjača said, adding that he would be vaccinated with the first vaccine that was made available to him.

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Jutarnji List: Croatian Cafes Open on Monday 15 February (and Gyms too)?

February 2, 2021 – The wait is over! In less than two weeks, Croatian cafes and gyms will open, if infection numbers continue on their current downward trajectory

With the spring season just around the corner, people will soon be able to once again enjoy coffee on the sun-filled daytime terraces of Croatian cafes. If Coronavirus infection numbers continue on their current downward trajectory, Croatian cafes and gyms will open on Monday 15 February. All businesses will still have to operate under strict epidemiological measures.

cat-3509266_1920.jpg

Deputy Prime Minister and the Chief of Staff, Davor Božinović, spoke about the forthcoming concessions on Croatian cafes and gyms, but a fuller picture of how the concessions will actually look was discovered unofficially by Croatian daily Jutarnji List. It was published in the evening of Monday 1st February 2021. The good news soon travelled across Croatia. It will come as a great relief to many independent business owners who have not been allowed to operate.

Business owners have been increasingly on edge over recent weeks, with protest openings of Croatian cafes and gyms threatened to take place in defiance of the current ban on operations (indeed, some did). Owners of Croatian cafes were particularly irked by the seeming inconsistencies in current measures – fast food outlets, gas service stations and bakeries were all permitted to sell coffee to go. People took advantage of this and thereafter congregated on the streets outside such businesses to enjoy their drinks. But, Croatian cafes were still not permitted to service people wishing to drink on outside terraces in almost exactly the same manner.

workout-5031071_1280.jpg

Monday 15 February has long been announced as the next review date for the imposed Coronavirus measures. But, until now, nobody was certain in which way – if any – measures would be relaxed.

Under unofficial plans, from Monday 15 February Croatian cafes will be able to serve coffee and drinks to be consumed on outside terraces, with strict epidemiological guidelines in place.

Croatian cafes and gyms opening on 15 February will be conditional on a continued downturn in infection numbers and the absence of new Coronavirus strains appearing in Croatia

The re-opening of Croatian cafes and gyms is wholly dependent not only on the continuing downturn in numbers of infected but also on the condition that new strains of Coronavirus - specifically those first detected in the UK and South Africa - do not appear in Croatia between now and then.

"If the indicators are good, if the numbers go down, we will certainly not be reluctant to react,” Deputy Prime Minister Davor Božinović said, regarding the 15 February review, “our aim to strike a balance between everything - with an emphasis on health care - has brought us to a position where Croatia has the least stringent measures in the EU."

Coronavirus infection numbers in some other European territories remain at an alarmingly high rate, although a corresponding relaxation in measures for some regions of Italy was similarly announced over recent days. This is the second time since the start of the pandemic that stricter measures imposed by the Croatian government – and a widespread public observance of these measures and other guidelines - have successfully produced the intended results.

Monday, 1 February 2021

Miroslav Tudman, son of Franjo Tudman, has died from Coronavirus

February 1, 2021 – Miroslav Tudman, the first child of Franjo Tudman, died in Zagreb from complications caused by Coronavirus. A scientist and educator who followed a route into politics, he bore a striking resemblance to his father, the first President of Croatia

Miroslav Tudjman, HDZ member of parliament and son of Franjo Tudman, the first President of Croatia, died in the evening of Sunday 31 January 2021 in Zagreb. He was 75 years old.

Miroslav Tudjman had been hospitalized in Zagreb at the beginning of December due to complications caused by Coronavirus. He had been placed on a respirator. He sadly lost his fight for life at the Dr. Fran Mihaljevic Clinic for Infectious Diseases, Zagreb.

Born in Belgrade in 1946, the son of Franjo Tudman and his first wife Ankica Zumbar, Miroslav Tudman moved to Zagreb in 1961. He graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Zagreb in 1970 and later became part of the faculty, founding its Institute for Information Studies in 1989.

20150623vrgorac.tudjmanov.arhiv_32122.jpgMiroslav Tudman © HDZ

He took part in the Croatian War of Independence and in 1992 Miroslav Tudman became the head of the Centre for Strategic Research. He took up the role as the deputy head of the National Security Office before founding and leading the first Croatian Intelligence Agency (Hrvatska izvještajna služba, HIS). In 1998, Miroslav Tudman became a tenured professor at the Faculty of Philosophy where he had studied.

Miroslav Tudman had dallied with politics since before the war, but it was only after the passing of his father – who died while in office – that they became a more consuming affair for him. He flitted between running as an independent candidate, within fringe parties and as a member of HDZ, the party to which his father belonged. His longest duration with any party was from 2011 and 2021, during which he was a member of HDZ.

At the time of his death, he was a member of the Croatian parliament, head of the Parliamentary Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, a member of the Committee on Defence, Internal Policy and National Security, War Veterans and Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation.

Bearing a very close resemblance to his father, Miroslav Tudman was named after Croatian writer Miroslav Krleža who his father adored at the time of his firstborn child.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that he received the news of Miroslav Tudman's death with sadness.

"It is with great sadness that I received the news of the departure of Prof. Miroslav Tudman, PhD, a dear colleague, friend and member of the Croatian Parliament, son of the first Croatian President Franjo Tudman, a prominent politician and a scientist dedicated to protecting national interests," he wrote on Twitter. "In these sad and painful moments, for the Tudman family, I express my sincere condolences and sympathy, on behalf of the government and myself."

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

Read the Croatian Travel Update in your language - now available in 24 languages

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community.

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Zagreb Cafes Protest Opening 1st Feb Cancelled, Fines Too Severe

January 31, 2021 – The planned cafes protest in Zagreb and elsewhere, which was due to see 100 facilities open their doors on Monday 1st February in defiance of the current ban on their operations, has been cancelled. Huge fines and the threat of prison are the reason for the climb down. Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Tomislav Coric appealed to caterers for patience.

The proposed Zagreb cafes protest organised for Monday 1st February has been cancelled. The protest was due to see some catering facilities and gyms open their doors to the public in defiance of the current nationwide ban on operations in such facilities. Around 100 businesses were said to be joining the Zagreb cafes protest.

"Although it has been rumoured that more than 100 caterers in Zagreb will open their facilities on February 1, mostly cafes, or at least start issuing coffee and drinks outside, despite the work ban, it does not seem this will (now) happen, as many have withdrawn after seeing all the consequences that could befall them if they do, " Franz Letica, president of the Zagreb Caterers' Association, told Hina by telephone after the meeting.

On Friday 29 January, the Association of Caterers in Zagreb announced the opening of at least 100 bars and Croatian cafes would open on Monday. An informal meeting of caterers, many who were due to take part in the cafes protest, took place on the afternoon of Saturday 30 January. It seems that at the meeting, plans for the cafes protest fell apart. Caterers had faced the possible punishment of fines - from 20 thousand kuna to 70 thousand kuna - and up to three years in prison for defying the law and opening during the cafes protest.

Petra Odobašić, the owner of a catering facility from Zagreb who attended Saturday's informal meeting, also confirmed to Hina there would be no mass opening on Monday, but that only a dozen caterers would continue with the cafes protest. This handful of establishments were described as being situated mostly in the Dubrava area of Zagreb. Around 80 caterers attended Saturday's informal meeting, mostly from Zagreb, but some from other areas such as Karlovac.

Appearing on Croatian television on Saturday 30 January, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Tomislav Coric appealed to caterers for patience.

"We hope there will be (patience)," he said when asked about the proposed act of defiance, "given that we have explained the epidemiological situation we are currently in. We need to think about the season - spring and summer - this will be the time when we can all reap the fruits of responsibility together."

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

What Kind of Life Awaits Croatian Anti-Vaxxers Who Refuse Vaccination?

December 29, 2020 – The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in Croatia has been met with much relief by many people. But, not everyone is happy. Conspiracy theorists - those who favour disreputable sources and 'whispers on the wind' to real science - are reticent, some even angry. So, what kind of life awaits Croatian anti-vaxxers who refuse to take the vaccine?

The people who inhabit the lands now known as Croatia have a long history of being pushed around. For this, they cannot be blamed. Greatly outnumbered by the occupying armies of some of the most powerful empires of all time - the Romans, Venetians, Austro-Hungarians and Ottomans - their rebellions against such overlords have been relatively small in number. Their default setting has been to visit the kafana at the end of the day and moan, grumble, gossip - perhaps even plot - against those who make their lives disagreeable.

Croatia was finally freed of its last imposing masters over two decades ago. But, true to form, the grumbling in the kafanas has continued. Except, now that the kafanas are all closed in response to Coronavirus, the moaning has moved almost exclusively to the internet. And, it has reached a shrieking pitch.

Kafana_znak_pitanja_-_Bašta_kafane.JPGThe tables of the kafana lie empty because of Corona - the traditional moaning that inhabits them has moved online © Zavod za zaštitu spomenika kulture grada Beograda

The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in Croatia has been met with much relief by many Croatians. The news of the first vaccinated citizen, followed by the first vaccinated healthcare workers, was also well received. You can tell this from the overwhelmingly large amount of 'likes' such news generates when posted to social media. These warm welcomers of good news in Croatia could be best described as the silent majority. And, in the same way most Croatians lay subdued for lifetimes under bullying empires, this silent, sensible majority is drowned out by the deafening vitriol of the unhinged within the comments sections underneath.

These arch-moaners appear in the comments on most issues, railing against the increasingly modern ways of the world. On the issue of Coronavirus and the incoming vaccines, it is the Croatian anti-vaxxers who are angrily dominating the discourse.

It appears near pointless to debate with them. They are not ones for science, facts nor reasonable debate. Not for them are the reports of scientific journals, the BBC, The New York Times, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, or The Washington Post. Instead, they cite the most spurious of sources – a website nobody else has heard of, a document written by a friendless doctor from the Texas farming community who has a curiously photoshopped profile picture, a Youtube video made for the same price as a hamburger and narrated by a 17-year-old from the outside toilet. There's no point telling them that the vaccines coming onto the market were actually designed back on January 13, just two days after the Coronavirus genetic sequence had been made public and that it has taken until now to produce them, due to stringent testing on their safety. No. Because for Croatian anti-vaxxers, whispers on the wind, the horoscopes, crystal ball of the fortune-teller and the inescapable stare of Braco are just as reliable - if they're telling you what you want to believe. For whichever lunatic theory you want to adopt, you can look online and you'll be sure to find some crackpot to back it up. The internet is the great leveller for Croatian anti-vaxxers as well as everywhere else - a place where deposed Nigerian royalty who want to put money in your bank account have just as much credence as an 80-year-old media title with a blemishless reputation.

gem-602252_1920.jpg

Of course, while life is too short to even debate with anti-vaxxers in Croatia or anywhere else, that's not to say they are undeserving of sympathy. In our recent interview with a doctor working on the Coronavirus frontline in a Croatian hospital, they generously raised an interesting defence of the tin-foil hat brigade - “It's not always the content of the conspiracy theory that appeals to these people as much as it is their inability to accept facts – the truth – because they have little faith in the authorities that are telling them.”

Finding fault in authorities is far from unique to Croatia. Yes, there is a certain amount of kafana moaning and grumbling all over the world, and often for good reason. Politicians are more than aware of this. And, in an era of widespread voter apathy and low voter turnout, where yet another silent majority has the potential so easily to change the names of those who govern, this is exactly why politicians will abstain from making the Coronavirus vaccines mandatory. With things as they currently stand, it is near inconceivable that Coronavirus vaccines will be made compulsory in Croatia or in any other western democracy. Good news for Croatian anti-vaxxers? Well, not quite, because it is highly likely that the private sector will be among the greatest of persuaders for vaccination. It is not unthinkable that we are about to enter a wholly new two-tiered society – the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. And signs of what that life might look like for Croatian anti-vaxxers are not good. They are not good at all.

billgatesmeme.jpg

“Vaccination could become one of the measures that would make it possible to come to events,” Stefan Breitenmoser, general manager of the Professional Association of Swiss Organizers of Concerts, Events and Festivals, told Sonntags Blick in the past week. In Switzerland, vaccination began on Wednesday and it is free. It is not only the entertainment events industry that is considering the measure - the Swiss Football League similarly said it is giving it serious consideration. Professional sports and the events industry have lost billions during the pandemic. The 2021 Olympics hangs on a knife-edge in regards to accepting audiences into its stadiums – it has already been delayed by a year. It is highly conceivable that access to all large events in future will be dependent on proof of vaccination.

1280px-New_national_stadium_tokyo_1.jpgThe National Stadium in Japan was due to host some of the key events of the 2020 Summer Olympics. The whole event has been delayed until summer 2021, in response to the pandemic © Arne Müseler

In an interview on N1 television in Croatia over recent days, epidemiologist Branko Kolarić - a member of the Scientific Council of the Government of the Republic of Croatia - echoed similar thinking. He stated that a list of the vaccinated will be carefully maintained, most likely through some kind of e-documents, and although vaccination will not be mandatory, vaccination will bring some benefits - such as air travel, group gatherings and attendance of concerts and festivals. You are surely not going to see police or soldiers checking your vaccination status at the entry to a dance music festival in Dalmatia. But, it is highly likely that event organisers will insist on proof of vaccination before granting entry. Even if they don't wish to, it is more than conceivable that they would not be granted the necessary licenses nor insurance without assuming such a position.

Another industry that has lost billions in the pandemic is the travel and tourism sector. Little surprise then to have found budget airline Ryanair launching a new campaign of 'Jab and go' over the last few days. The suggestion is crystal clear – get vaccinated, you can come on our planes, we'll allow you to travel. Ryanair will certainly not be the last airline to assume responsibility for vetting passengers' vaccination status. Croatian anti-vaxxers had better be really happy to be here, because international borders may well be permanently closed for them while they remain unvaccinated.

psychics-1026092_1920.jpg

So, a life with no spectating at big sports events, no more large concerts or music festivals and no more international travel is what seems to be just around the corner for Croatian anti-vaxxers. Sounds harsh, unpleasant. But what if it extends to libraries, schools or even hospitals? We don't yet know anything concrete about the lower tier of existence Croatian anti-vaxxers may choose to dwell in. But, it's not where I want to live. Perhaps they'll even be forced to drink exclusively in their own anti-vaxxer kafanas? For sure they'll be easy to identify – they'll be the ones from which the loudest moans are coming.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and are not necessarily shared by Total Croatia News

Monday, 28 December 2020

Croatian Healthcare Workers: Christmas's Forgotten Heroes?

December 28, 2020 – Amidst the difficulties of a second lockdown, a socially distanced Christmas and yet more earthquakes, have we forgotten about Croatian healthcare workers? TCN decided to interview a doctor working on the front line of the fight against COVID

During the first lockdown, it was all about the balconies. Saxophonists, DJs, opera singers – we were entertained on social media by a string of balcony-based stunts that somehow showed resilience, community spirit, humour. Zagreb was no exception. A trend of clapping on balconies in appreciation of healthcare workers passed from country to country and was picked up in Zagreb. After the applause finished, people went back inside. Nothing much had changed. It was a nice enough gesture.

Since the start of summer, no such applause has been heard. Perhaps the release from lockdown gave the signal that the lives of Croatian healthcare workers had also become much easier? That certainly wasn't the case. Though the number of people infected with COVID has grown significantly over recent weeks, Croatian healthcare workers have been treating people sick with COVID since springtime.

city-947113_1920.jpg

Croatian healthcare workers are currently busier with COVID patients than at any time before. And yet, there are no more trips out onto the balconies to show our appreciation for them. Perhaps it's now too cold outside? Perhaps some aren't aware how busy Croatian healthcare workers currently are with COVID patients? Are we perhaps guilty of taking Croatian healthcare workers for granted? Or, maybe we have simply put Croatian healthcare workers to the back of our minds as we struggle with our own challenges?

Throughout this year, TCN has been pleased to report many instances of generosity and innovation directed towards the fight against COVID. Certainly, not everyone in the country is guilty of forgetting about the Croatian healthcare workers who are on the front line fighting this disease. But, how much impact do these instances have on the general lives of Croatian healthcare workers? What is it like to no longer hear the nightly appreciation from our balconies? And, just what is life like as one of the many Croatian healthcare workers battling COVID in the year of the pandemic? TCN decided to interview one to find out.

The doctor we spoke with is a resident physician, working at a smaller community hospital in the continental part of Croatia. They agreed to speak with us on the condition that they do so anonymously.

door-349807_1920.jpg

Looking back at the first lockdown, we didn't know so much about COVID back then. We didn't know exactly how it was spread, the different manifestations of the disease, what course the disease took, nor what the recovery could be like. I think the government did a really good job of responding to the threat as they saw it. We had a small spike in cases, but that is minuscule to what we have now.

I think people generally did what they were told because they thought it would be temporary and they could see the sense in starving the disease out.

At the hospital, we were at first caught a little off guard with the amount of PPE we had and some other resources that we needed. For ICU and ventilators, we were well equipped.

Some of the residents were given some paid leave. It was important to put human resources into tiers. Croatian healthcare workers were certainly more predisposed to catching the disease, simply because they were around it every day.

After such great early successes, I was surprised that everything was relaxed later on to allow the tourist season to take place how it did, and for events like the Vukovar commemoration. It felt like it was a calculated risk. The lockdown we are now in is perhaps too little, too late. The disease is out there now, wild. The numbers of infected people are significantly higher.

The difficulty with this disease is that people can be infected and have very few or no symptoms at all. They might not know they are spreading the virus. You might not know you're sitting next to someone who has it.

blood-test-5601437_1920.jpg

Even though we're not at the centre of care for a major population area or city, we saw cases of the disease almost immediately. Our community hospital services an area containing around 150, 000 people. The first cases in April came from nursing homes – elderly, vulnerable people, many with pre-existing conditions. We were well equipped to handle it. Now, we are stretched on a daily basis. We fill the beds with sick people as soon as we empty them.

We wear masks and PPE all day, all the time. All Croatian healthcare workers in hospitals currently do this. Every patient who comes in, regardless of their symptoms, we treat them as though they are carrying the disease.

A lot of residents like me, who are working towards getting their specialty, go to do some periods of work in larger hospitals in the bigger cities. Now, many of those residents have been called back to their community hospitals – we are short on human resources.

The hospital has had to restructure itself significantly. Lots of doctors have been asked to provide cover in the emergency department. Over half of that area is now fully dedicated to COVID.

insulation-station-4984462_1920.jpg

What do COVID patients look like in regards to their symptoms? It depends on their age and risk group, but you see people who look like they have flu or bacterial pneumonia, you see people who are in acute respiratory distress. Sometimes they have neurological changes, some of them look like they have had a stroke. Some people who have been infected and have supposedly got over the worst of the symptoms, come back in after a month or two with blood clotting problems – blood clots in the legs, which have a tendency to travel up to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism. That's a pretty big medical emergency. Some who have pre-existing heart conditions come in with a heart attack triggered by them catching COVID – it's more complicated trying to revive someone when you know they have COVID. The presentation of the disease is so variable.

It's not only older people. I've seen young people be admitted with serious reactions to COVID - young, healthy people who have no pre-existing conditions. I've seen young people come in with mild symptoms, they are sent home with antibiotics and steroids. That is the standard treatment – antibiotics to prevent a bacterial super-infection and steroids to prevent an acute reaction by the body's immune system to COVID. - that's what can cause big problems later on, in the course of the illness. But, sometimes that's not enough. I had a young patient just last week - super healthy, worked out regularly, no pre-existing conditions – and his lungs just looked awful. He had to go to the ICU immediately (sadly, this patient later died). That's like no disease I've ever seen before. Really, COVID is a completely new kind of animal.

The new strain of COVID? There is evidence that it can be spread more easily, and that it can affect more younger people, but there is no evidence that it is any more severe. The vaccines will work against it.

We're short on ventilators now. Really, we need two free ventilators at any time, in case there is an emergency admission. We are not currently in the position where we always have two free ventilators – sometimes they are all in use. That's a worry. I worked one shift where the anaesthesiologist said “We just don't have any more space for them – we will just have to put them in the hallway”. I've never seen that before.

I've heard of Croatian healthcare workers, colleagues in other hospitals getting sick with COVID and the hospital asks them to prove they got sick at work. It's pretty clear that's the most likely place they would have got sick because they're working with COVID patients. They were forced to be off work, but only on a lower level of sick pay. If you get ill because of being at work, you get full pay. But, they couldn't prove it, so they didn't get that.

doctors-2607295_1920.jpg

I've been lucky – I haven't caught COVID yet. Well, as far as I know. My pay hasn't gone down, it's gone up – but only because I'm working so many double shifts. I volunteer to provide cover when other members of staff get sick. The specialists – the consultant doctors – they have it worse than us resident doctors. They are more responsible, so they are expected to work more hours. Nobody is pressured or threatened into picking up extra shifts, it's just something that almost all of us just do.

I've read some nice stories about fundraising efforts and donations to Croatian healthcare workers and hospitals in different parts of the country. Everything is appreciated. But, I personally haven't seen any effect of that on our day to day lives at work. Not at our hospital. Maybe there were PPE donations or cash donations, but it hasn't impacted the daily lives of me and the Croatian healthcare workers who are my colleagues. I think I heard that a local garage was giving free cups of coffee if you show your medical ID. Every little is appreciated.

For me and the Croatian healthcare workers who are my colleagues, instead of any kind of personal discounts or donations to staff, we would much prefer if people just took this disease more seriously. Things look very different when you work in a hospital compared to someone outside who maybe doesn't know anyone who got sick.

I came off a particularly difficult double shift a couple of months ago – it was just non-stop COVID admissions, some severe cases. As I was walking home, I walked past a bar that's near to the hospital. They had signs on the walls telling people to keep their distance. But, the bar was absolutely packed – full of young people. It just felt so disappointing. I couldn't help but think of the older relatives they would come in contact with, some who might get really sick.

mask-5503416_1920.jpg

Instead of people clapping on balconies, I think Croatian healthcare workers would just prefer more general vigilance and personal responsibility – wear your mask, wash your hands regularly, no more parties in the basement. Clapping on balconies is a nice gesture, but ultimately it's an empty one.

How does it feel to know that there are some people out there, in every country, all around the world, who believe COVID is a hoax, or a plot, or not so serious, or that the vaccine is dangerous or something other than what it is?

Well, it's not always the content of the conspiracy theory that appeals to these people as much as it is their inability to accept facts – the truth – because they have little faith in the authorities that are telling them this. Here in Croatia, I think that distrust is quite high – a lot of people are disillusioned with the state and politics, because of corruption. Sometimes over 50% of the population choose not to vote. The dissemination of misinformation over social media doesn't help - if that's where people get their news from. If you look at that example from your own country, where strict measures about movement were put in place by your government, and immediately afterward, the Chief Advisor to the Prime Minister, was caught breaking them to travel across the country with his family to a second home in the countryside, going out on day trips. And he was defended by his colleagues after he was found out! When people see those kinds of things happening, the distrust between people and the authorities just grows.

towel-759980_1920.jpg

All of the images in this article are used as illustrations only. None of the places or people depicted are in Croatia or Croatian, except for the first image, a panorama of Zagreb

Page 1 of 3

Search