Saturday, 1 January 2022

New Year's Eve Outdoor Celebrations Across Croatia Scaled Down Due to COVID

ZAGREB, 1 Jan 2021 - Several Croatian cities, including the capital city of Zagreb, held New Year Eve parties in their main squares on Friday night, while a majority of big towns scrapped plans for outdoor celebrations for 2022 amid a rising number of new cases of the infection with coronavirus.

The fear of a surge in new cases due to the appearance of the Omicron variant limited the festivities that ushered in the new 2022.

The open-air New Year celebrations in Zagreb, Osijek, and Dubrovnik were held in line with COVID protocols, and guests attending the concerts in the squares of those cities were required to have COVID certificates.

Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević joined the revelers in the Trg Bana Jelačića Square on late Friday night and before that he visited the Kosnica shelter for the homeless and firefighters on duty.

In Osijek and Dubrovnik, the mayors also held a toast to welcome the 2022 year.

The entertainment programs featured local pop and folk bands. There were also firework displays.

The traditional farewell parties for the outgoing 2021 year were held in the town of Fužine in the hinterland of Rijeka and some other cities at noon on Friday.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

COVID Certificates Referendum Won't Pass, Says Mato Palić

December 21, 2021 - Constitutional expert Mato Palić believes that both issues that Most Party put to the COVID certificates referendum are unconstitutional, and as such will not pass.

Most party members said on Sunday that they had collected enough signatures for the referendum question, which touches on COVID certificates, and counting is now underway, reports

After all the signatures are counted, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia must decide whether the issue in the COVID certificates referendum is in accordance with the constitution, and constitutional expert Mato Palić told N1 television that there is nothing disputable in the COVID certificates.

"Judging by the previous practice of the Constitutional Court and the positions they have taken regarding the decisions of the Civil Protection Headquarters. There is very little chance, almost no chance, for them to make a Copernican turn, that is, to approach the restrictions of rights and freedoms in a different way. Especially taking into account the fact that we had stronger restrictions on rights and freedoms when we had a much better epidemiological picture'', Palic said.

"It is not realistic for them to completely change their position and make a decision that these existing restrictions are constitutionally disputable," he added.

So far, the Constitutional Court is acting correctly, claims Palić.

"The Constitutional Court interprets constitutional norms correctly. I don't think that the Constitutional Court has done anything so far, that is, it has made a decision that is disputable from the aspect of the correct interpretation of constitutional norms", he said and also touched on the Most initiative.

"Politicians always speak from the position of some kind of rhetoric in public space in a way that goes to their mill. What is undeniable is the fact that the Constitutional Court did not question the acts passed by the Headquarters, except for the part of the decision related to the ban on work on Sundays. As for the referendum itself, I think that both issues are unconstitutional, and the first one refers to the amendment of Article 17 and the second one refers to the amendments to the Law on Protection of the Population on Infectious Diseases ", he explained.

For more on COVID-19, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Tomislav Tomašević Opens First Post-COVID Polyclinic in Zagreb

December 21, 2021 - Mayor Tomislav Tomašević and his associates opened a separate post-COVID polyclinic of the Special Hospital for Lung Diseases in front of the Health Center Zagreb - East. He also referred to the new cable car and epidemiological measures for the New Year celebrations in a subsequent press conference.

Announced a few months ago and finally opened today by Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević, the new polyclinic will focus on providing treatment to patients who have recovered from COVID and have physiological sequelae from contracting the virus, Večernji List reports.

''As more than a few hundred thousand people in Croatia have already contracted COVID, there is a need to treat people who feel the consequences of this infection. Most people in Zagreb had COVID, so I welcome the City's move and the efforts to open this clinic'', says Krešimir Luetić, President of the Croatian Medical Chamber. ''Not only is Zagreb struggling with treatment, but also with the rehabilitation of people facing the infection'', Tomislav Tomašević said.

''This is just one of the steps we will take to take care of these patients. The facility has handled more than 2,500 post COVID patients, an incredible number. I thank all the health workers who made superhuman efforts and I hope that we will finally welcome the end of this pandemic'', said the mayor. ''The polyclinic has already started working and treats about ten patients a day, and specialist diagnostics will soon start, which will treat about twenty patients a day'', added Luetić.

"These are mostly patients with lung problems, but there are also those with cardiovascular problems," he said. Asked why Croatia is at the top of the list of seriously ill and mortal, Luetić said that the most likely reason was the low vaccination rate. He also called on the citizens to get vaccinated and receive a booster dose.

''The medicine we are talking about is intended for the acutely ill. He will certainly help some of the sick, but it is not the way we will be able to cure all the infected'', says Luetić. A regular press conference followed. Asked about putting the cable car into operation, Tomašević said the legal framework was changing to obtain the necessary permits.

''If it's January, it'll be fine. The sooner it opens, the better for the City’s revenue. As far as ticket prices are concerned, we have elected a new president of the ZET board, and we will inform the public about the prices and the system soon'', he stated. Tomislav Tomašević was also asked about New Year's Eve as it will be, probably on Jelačić Square, where he will be able to do a certain part with COVID certificates. The program is nearing completion, and will soon be released.

''It will be, I believe, extended shortly after midnight. It depends on the measures of the Headquarters'', he said.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

For more on COVID-19, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 20 December 2021

Grmoja: Bridge Has Collected Enough Signatures for its Anti-COVID Referendum Petition

ZAGREB, 20 Dec 2021 - Nikola Grmoja of the Bridge party said on Sunday they had collected a sufficient number of signatures for their referendum petitions for the transfer of the powers of the national COVID-19 crisis management team to the parliament and the abolishment of COVID certificates.

This opposition party started collecting signatures on 4  December at over 1,200 venues across Croatia, and the two-week deadline for the initiative expired at midnight on 18 December.

For a referendum campaign to be successful, its organizers must collect the signatures of 10% of the electorate or 368,446 signatures.

Grmoja, however, stopped short of specifying the number of collected signatures, and in his statement to Hina on Sunday evening, he said that they were still gathering data and information from the ground and from local teams that had collected signatures in the last 14 days.

The results of the referendum campaign of this Opposition party are expected to be known on Wednesday.

On Saturday, the last day of the campaign, Grmoja said that data on the turnout from all signature-collecting points should be known by Wednesday, claiming that in the last two days of the campaign, on Friday and Saturday, the turnout was excellent.

Last Wednesday, he told a news conference that they had collected around 300,000 signatures, and in a bid to encourage as many people as possible to sign the petition, senior Bridge members joined the party activists on the ground collecting signatures.

In the event that the referendum petition had been supported by the required number of signatures, the questions proposed for the referendum could be also tested by the Constitutional Court.

President Milanović on the referendum

On 6 December, Croatian President Zoran Milanović said that he wouldn't sign the Bridge party's referendum petition for the abolition of COVID certificates because he thought he "isn't here to root for anyone", and he told the government and the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party that they had brought this on themselves.

"I have said I will not sign it, but what I'm saying carries at least as much weight as some signature. I believe the government and the HDZ are responsible for signatures being collected now for amending the Constitution so that what is clear to everyone, except to the HDZ and Plenković, could become clear to them as well," said Milanović.

Commenting on the referendum on that occasion, Milanović said it consisted of two parts, the first of which was a matter of constitutionality with regard to Article 17, or cases when it is decided on a temporary suspension of fundamental human rights and freedoms. According to him, the first part of the referendum will depend on whether enough signatures are collected, and if there are enough of them, then the referendum will likely succeed because those in favor of the crisis management team running Croatia, and they're about 25% of them, he says, will simply not cast their vote or their number will be insufficient.

"I think the second part of the referendum, which deals with legislative changes, is not very well though-out and... the Constitutional Court may not allow those referendum questions," he said then.

Four opposition groups say they never supported Bridge's referendum initiative

Last Thursday, MPs from the Green-Left Bloc, Centre/GLAS, Peasant Party /Workers' Front, and Istrian Democratic Party groups strongly denied the statement by the Bridge's Vice President Grmoja that he had received guarantees from all opposition parties that they would support Bridge's referendum petition.

"That statement is a complete lie," says a joint statement signed by the leaders of the four opposition groups, stressing that these parties "neither participated in the meeting on the referendum initiative nor pledged their support in any way."

"It is unclear why MP Grmoja told such lies. ... Some members of our groups have warned Bridge MPs several times that the referendum initiative will further divide citizens, mobilize anti-vax sentiment, help spread fake news and conspiracy theories, and potentially contribute to the escalation of violence among citizens," the joint statement said.

The statement was released the day after in the national parliament Bridge deputies entered into a conflict with Opposition lawmakers from the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and other center-left groups on the topic of vaccination against coronavirus.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

For more on COVID-19, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Scientist: Several Thousand More Lives to Be Lost if We Don't Prepare for Fifth Wave

ZAGREB, 16 Dec 2021 - If Croatia does not prepare for the fifth wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the infectious disease is likely to claim several thousand more lives, academician Ivan Đikić, a Croatian scientist who works in Germany, said in a letter to PM Andrej Plenković and Health Minister Vili Beroš on Thursday.

Calling on the government to acquaint the public with its future strategy, Đikić expressed concern about the gravity of the situation and the danger of a fifth wave of the pandemic that could claim a large number of lives in Croatia.

Đikić said that he received on a daily basis queries from concerned citizens who wonder how they should behave in the current situation, who should get a booster dose, if the booster dose protects against the Omicron variant, which tests are safe, etc.

50 COVID-related deaths a day very high figure

It is a fact that Croatia is close to the top of the EU ranking in terms of the number of coronavirus deaths per million people during the fourth wave, and this sounds the alarm and calls for urgent preventive action, he said.

"Around 50 people die of COVID-19 in Croatia on a daily basis, which is a very high figure. If we do not prepare early enough for the fifth wave, we are set to lose several thousand more citizens during the fifth wave," he said, calling on the PM and the health minister to present accurate data and risks related to the Omicron variant and inform citizens about the government's future strategy.

Omicron dangerous variant, booster dose contributes to protection against it

Noting that the Omicron variant is a dangerous variant, two to three times more contagious than the Delta variant, Đikić called on Plenković and Beroš to ensure fast detection and monitoring of the Omicron variant, present a strategy to prevent the fifth wave of the pandemic, and encourage all citizens above 18 to get a booster dose.

Currently available data shows that additional vaccination has a significant positive effect and contributes to protection also against the Omicron variant, Đikić said, calling for launching a more serious vaccination campaign so as to achieve a significant level of collective protection and prevent excessive pressure on hospitals and fatalities.

He also said the Health Ministry should provide accurate and clear information on testing for coronavirus, describing as wrong messages that suggest citizens should get tested for cellular immunity as the best indicator of whether one should get a booster dose.

According to available data, a cellular immunity test based on which an official decision would be made on additional vaccination has not been approved anywhere in the world, he said, but added that there have been cases of citizens testing positive for cellular immunity and being advised not to get a booster dose after which they contracted the disease.

Đikić also called on the government not to allow profiteering related to coronavirus tests, warning that wrongly interpreted COVID tests can lead citizens to believe that they are protected even though they are not, thus causing the already complex epidemiological situation to worsen.

Warning of numerous cases of scientifically unfounded statements in the media, made by individual scientists, including members of the government's scientific council, "to which neither the Health Ministry nor the government had reacted timely", Đikić said that this caused unnecessary damage and undermined citizens' trust in state institutions.

"Respond competently, clearly, and timely to scientifically unfounded statements in the media," he said.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

Anti-epidemic Rules Extended Until Year's End

ZAGREB, 15 Dec 2021 - The decline in the coronavirus numbers in Croatia has been at a slower pace this week, and the country's COVID-19 crisis management team on Wednesday decided to extend the existing anti-epidemic rules until 31 December.

Health Minister Vili Beroš informed the government today that in the last 24 hours there had been 4,671 new cases of the infection with coronavirus, only 80 cases fewer than a week ago, and that hospitals continued to run at full capacity.

In the last 24 hours, the share of positive tests has reached 38.86%, or 1.7 percentage points less than a week before.

Hospitals are treating 2,253 persons infected with the novel virus, down by 7.51% compared to the figures presented last Wednesday.

Currently, 315 patients are placed on ventilators.

The minister said that the authorities were monitoring the situation concerning the appearance of the omicron variant of the virus.

Croatia is included in the European Commission's plans for the procurement of antivirus drugs, the minister said adding that 1,800 doses of medicines based on monoclonal antibodies for hospital treatment of severe symptoms of COVID-19 should be delivered to Croatia until 20 December.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Opposition MP: Court to Be Asked to Test Constitutionality of COVID Certificates

ZAGREB, 14 Dec 2021 - Sandra Benčić of the Green-Left Bloc (ZLB) on Tuesday said that they had collected 34 lawmakers' signatures to file an appeal to the Constitutional Court to test the constitutionality of COVID-certificates.

"As we announced before, we are sending the request to the Constitutional Court to assess the constitutionality of the decision on COVID certificates, not because of its contents, or COVID certificates as such, but rather the way the decision was made," Benčić said in Parliament House.

She believes that all decisions that restrict human rights during the pandemic, which is deemed to be an emergency situation, have to be adopted by a two-thirds majority in the national parliament and in accordance with Article 17 of the Constitution.

"Had we acted in that way from the start, we would have succeeded in creating a better way to strengthen social cohesion concerning vaccination," said Bančić and added that the Constitutional Court is expected to be a guardian of the Constitution.

A constitutional request requires the signatures of one-fifth of lawmakers. ZLB has collected 34 signatures from the SDP, Social Democrats, IDS, Centre, and GLAS parties as well as the HSS and RF, said Benčić.

She announced that they are prepared to request a test of the constitutionality of the procedure to adopt amendments to the Law on the Protection of the Population against Infectious Diseases which regulates penalties of up to HRK 50,000 for breaches of COVID certificates which will be put to the vote in the Sabor on Wednesday.

"We want penalties related to COVID certificates to be decided by a two-thirds majority and if that won't pass easily we are prepared to request a test on its constitutionality because the bill will not have been accepted with the necessary majority," she said.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Thursday, 2 December 2021

Minister: Croatia Still Not Mulling Mandatory Vaccination Against COVID

ZAGREB, 2 Dec 2021 - The idea of compulsory vaccination against coronavirus is not yet on the government's agenda, however, anti-epidemic measures will depend on the epidemiological situation, Croatian Health Minister Vili Beroš said on Thursday.

The minister did not rule out the possibility of the fifth wave of the pandemic hitting Croatia if the country failed to reach the necessary vaccination rate.

"We have been emphasizing all along that vaccination is voluntary, and we have not considered the vaccination mandate. Since the onset of the pandemic we have been saying that all the measures are on the table and that epidemiological developments shape our choice of the measures," Beroš told a news conference after the government's meeting today.

He recalled that in Europe there are warnings that if a certain vaccination rate is not achieved, the fifth wave of the pandemic is possible in February.

"No one can know what awaits us so I cannot completely rule out the introduction of mandatory vaccination," Beroš said, admitting that mandatory vaccination could deepen the divisions in society and provoke resistance.

"Therefore, let us get vaccinated to deter a possible fifth wave and the emergence of new variants (of the virus)."

Croatia has seen a decline in new coronavirus numbers over recent days, which the minister associated with more and more people getting inoculated and with the introduction of the COVID certificate mandate.

Although he expressed hope for a more serene Christmas season, the minister called for exercising caution.

As for the inclusion of his name on the "Croatian Traitors" website, Beroš said that he felt extremely bad about it.

"Every single move and decision we make... is aimed at protecting the health of Croatian citizens. Anything else is bad stories that will be judged by history," the minister said.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and select your preferred language.

Thursday, 2 December 2021

Opposition for Two-thirds Majority Regarding COVID Certificates, Fines

ZAGREB, 2 Dec 2021 - The opposition on Thursday criticized the government's proposal to fine HRK 30,000 to 50,000 those not checking COVID certificates, asking that parliament decide on such measures by a two-thirds majority and some MPs saying they would ask the Constitutional Court for its opinion.

Arsen Bauk of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) said the SDP would not support the proposal because the party believed that the way in which the national COVID-19 crisis management team was making decisions during this crisis was not good.

"We are still of the opinion that when restricting human rights, decisions should be made by the Croatian parliament, and those of a technical nature by the government," he said, adding that the team could act as an advisory body to the government.

Nikola Grmoja of Bridge said the government did not mention COVID certificates in the law protecting the population from infectious diseases but only today, and that it envisaged fining officeholders also.

Sandra Benčić of the Green-Left Bloc asked that provisions on the certificates and the related fines be adopted only by a two-thirds majority in parliament based on Article 17 of the Constitution, given that there were no conditions to do so based on Article 16, that is proportionality.

"That was a big mistake, so we are preparing an initiative for the Constitutional Court to have its say because this state is no longer temporary. We have been in a state of emergency for a year and a half now and it doesn't seem that the pandemic will end soon," she said.

That's why it's necessary to have clear rules on how to reach a political and social consensus because this state, Benčić said, will definitely last and it also has serious social repercussions such as polarisation.

The Constitutional Court too must say that we are in a state of emergency because after a year and a half no one can say any longer that this is normal, she added.

Stephen Bartulica of the Homeland Movement said he had been skeptical about the efficacy of COVID certificates from the start because, he added, the experience of many countries showed that they were ineffective and counterproductive as well as not solving the problem.

He is sorry about the government's proposal because so far, he said, it had quite a liberal course in fighting the pandemic and Croatia benefitted from it. Now a new path was chosen, he added, "and I don't know why it's following countries with a bad model of fighting the pandemic."

Katarina Peović of Workers' Front said the state authorities were indecisive about vaccination and where COVID certificates should be required. In a library they are, in a bar, they are not, as a result of which we have 60 to 70 deaths a day, she added.

In post-socialist countries, where the public sector has been strongly devastated, there is a big distrust of institutions, and that's brought us into this situation, she said.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and select your preferred language.

Thursday, 2 December 2021

Gov't Amends Law to Introduce Fines for Noncompliance with COVID Certificate Mandate

ZAGREB, 2 Dec 2021 - Changes to the Act on the Protection of the Population from Infectious Diseases, sent on Thursday by the government to the parliament for consideration under a fast-track procedure, envisage fines for responsible persons not complying with the COVID-19 certificate mandate in bodies governed by public law. 

The fines range between HRK 30,000 and 50,000.

The changes specify the bodies governed by public law in charge of implementing measures from the said law as well as responsible persons in those bodies - leader of a body of state authority, leader of a body of state administration and other state body, county head, the mayor as well as the legal representative of the legal entity, in line with special regulations.

"The bill introduces a new safety measure, the obligation to present proof of testing, vaccination or recovery from an infectious disease before entering offices of bodies governed by public law, as well as the obligation of responsible persons in those bodies to enable its implementation," said Health Minister Vili Beroš.

To ensure the implementation of the new measure, the powers of health inspectors will be enhanced to enable them to supervise compliance with the COVID-19 certificate mandate, while failure to ensure its implementation carries a fine of between HRK 30,000 and 50,000.

Speaking to reporters ahead of a session of the government, Justice and Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica said that he was not afraid that the fines would prompt protests, reiterating that the government was not considering making vaccination mandatory.

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