Monday, 16 November 2020

Bozinovic: Illegal Parties will be Severely Punished

ZAGREB, November 16, 2020 - The introduction of new measures against coronavirus will depend on the number of new infections during the week, and illegal parties will be severely punished, Interior Minister and head of the national COVID-19 crisis management team, Davor Bozinovic, said on Monday.

He called on citizens to report any illegal parties they know about. That is important so that owners of cafes and restaurants that are implementing epidemiological measures are not fined.

"The growth rate is lower than a few weeks ago. If we do not see a decline this week, then we will consider new measures that could refer to limiting gatherings, reducing working hours of some businesses, working from home and working in shifts," Bozinovic said.

Over the past 24 hours, Croatia has registered 1,313 new cases of the coronavirus infection and 33 related deaths, the national COVID-19 crisis management team said on Monday.

Talking about public gatherings that were approved by the COVID response team (Feast of the Assumption, Remembrance Day in Vukovar), Bozinovic stressed that they were traditional events and it was difficult to expect that they would just disappear, hence it was responsible to create an epidemiological framework for them to be held.

Health Minister Vili Beros said that six or seven weeks ago the number of infections doubled, and when new measures were introduced on October 26, the number dropped in the first week. Croatia is among the seven best countries in Europe in terms of the number of active cases per one million inhabitants.

"If you compare our measures with European measures, we are achieving the same if not better results with milder measures. If everyone adhered to the measures, the results would be much better," Beros said.

The increase in the number of hospitalised patients is the result of an increase in the number of new infections that occurred two weeks ago, he said.

The Health Ministry's call centre for oncology patients received over 720 calls by this morning, and more than 90% were about Zagreb's KB Dubrava hospital, which confirmed that a new process needs to be established to provide healthcare for those patients in other hospitals in Zagreb.

Deputy head of the Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ), Marija Bubas, said that talks were underway with some counties to conduct targeted testing with antigen tests due to a large number of new infections, which would help to quickly isolate those infected.

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Health Minister Rules Out Lockdown and Curfew

ZAGREB, November 14, 2020 - Health Minister Vili Beros said on Saturday that he would support the imposition of tighter restrictions if the current situation regarding the spread of coronavirus did not improve, however, there would be neither lockdown nor curfew.

Beros visited the city of Varazdin and the local hospital that is currently caring for 156 patients diagnosed with the coronavirus infection.

The minister held meetings with local authorities and admitted that the epidemiological situation in the north of the country was not good.

All that heightens the pressure on the healthcare system, and cooperation between the counties as well as at the level of the whole country is necessary, he added.

Considering new measures to suppress the virus, Bros said that he supported the activities aimed at tighter restrictions if the situation did not improve.

 "Another lockdown or curfew are out of question," he said adding that gatherings could be further restricted and working hours of some hospitality services could be changed.

Varazdin County Prefect Radimir Cacic said that currently this part of Croatia had the highest coronavirus numbers in Europe and that on average, about ten COVID patients were admitted to the Varazdin hospital on a daily basis.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Red Cross Provides Masks and Disinfectants for 23,000 Elderly Persons

ZAGREB, November 8, 2020 - Red Cross Croatia (HCK) has launched the "Let's take care of them" campaign to provide 23,000 low-income elderly people with protective masks and disinfectants.

The HCK hopes that this action will provide additional protection against coronavirus for senior citizens.

HCK's national logistical centre has begun distributing personal protective equipment to its regional centres, and during November and December the supplies will be delivered to beneficiaries above the age of 65 who are registered with HCK.

The association will contact its beneficiaries and inform them of where they can obtain packages with protective equipment, HCK said in a press release on Friday.

HCK executive director Robert Markt underlined that the current situation, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, was difficult for everyone and particularly for the elderly.

"We have been assisting for months now. We are visiting them at home aware that we all have to take care of them and enable them to have good protection," he said.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

PM: Existing Measures to be Extended, Additional Ones Being Considered

ZAGREB, November 8, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said after meeting with the national coronavirus response team on Sunday that the epidemiological measures in place would be extended and additional ones would be considered.

"The response team have announced that they will be extending all the existing measures as of tomorrow. They are considering possible additional measures in consultation with the minister of science and education regarding online classes at universities and the possibility of working from home," Plenkovic told the press after the meeting.

He said that the national response team would hold press conferences three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, starting from Monday at 11 am.

The prime minister warned that the situation was still serious, but that the healthcare system was capable of withstanding the pressure of the epidemic.

Friday, 6 November 2020

Council: Anti-COVID Measures Appropriate and Proportional to Threat

ZAGREB, November 6, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Friday that the government's scientific council had assessed that the current measures  were proportionate to the threat of the spread of coronavirus.

"We have ascertained that there is a very clear common denominator that the measures we are taking are appropriate and proportional to the threat that the epidemic currently represents to the health of our citizens," Plenkovic told reporters after a meeting of the scientific council in the government.

He underscored that if necessary, the council would recommend further measures while the National Civil Protection Authority, that is the COVID-19 crisis management team, would ramp up the current measures.

Council's common stance: No lockdown or curfew

Plenkovic said that it was the common stance both of the government and the scientific council that a complete lockdown will not be introduced nor a curfew, reiterating that that "was never on the cards."

"We assessed that the overall fight against Covid-19 until now was good. It is good that we can see that the dynamics of the infection over the past few days has decreased significantly compared to the preceding weeks," said Plenkovic.

Asked whether anyone in the scientific council had suggested more stringent measures, the prime minister said that a margin existed to further sharpen measures and that the government was open to anything that could slow down the spread rate 0f COVID-19.

In response to reporters' claims that oncology patients in some hospitals will not be receiving their medication due to the debt to drug wholesalers, Plenkovic said that the budget revision is in the parliament and as soon as it is adopted certain funds will be paid to wholesalers but also that he has instructed Health Minister Vili Beros to investigate the situation.

"He has been in contact with the relevant health institutions today. I don't believe that that will be reflected in the broader context. If a shortage of a certain medication has occurred, I think that is more an exception than the rule in the health system," he said.

Referring to claims that numerous doctors are sending dramatic messages and that the health system seems on the verge of caving in to the epidemic pressure, the prime minister said that Minister Beros was talking with doctors right at this moment and that everything was being done to improve the quality and preparedness of the entire health system.

"The thing that is good and we spoke about that - is that a series of professions within the public healthcare system will additionally be engaged with a strong motivation to care for the health and welfare of our citizens," added Plenkovic.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Croatian Employers Satisfied With New Measures, But Issue Warning...

As Novac/Gordana Grgas writes on the 21st of October, 2020, Croatian employers have generally voiced their satisfaction with the announced redesigned Government measures, but HUP warns that labour costs are not the only operating costs, business liquidity for many industries is still seriously jeopardised and that a drop in revenue of less than 40 percent could potentially mean business closure for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Hrvoje Bujas, president of the Voice of Entrepreneurs (Glas Poduzetnika) Association, therefore says that they welcome the introduction of a different modality of support for the preservation of jobs as well as increasing the possibility of reducing working hours, but they demand that the so-called covid-liquidity loans and investment loans are sped up.

"The measures adopted by the government are good for salaries, and in order for the private sector to recover, investments need to be increased. "Some companies are now changing the sectors in which they operate, switching because they have to manage," he explains. He believes that, according to the current situation, the support measures should last at least until April next year.

Regarding the new measures to be adopted by the CES Management Board, the open question is whether the recipients of aid are allowed to give business-related dismissals. The representative of the UAS in the CES Governing Board, Ana Milicevic Pezelj, explained that their position is that this isn't allowed and that the state must set the proper framework for that up.

"We're not asking for Croatian employers to not be allowed to to lay off staff in a certain period after the use of these measures to preserve jobs, but not in the time of their duration, not while using them," she emphasised. This, she added, only applies to business-related dismissals, meaning that the union is not asking for an absolute ban on lay-offs, but believes that Croatian employers "can't have both sheep and money."

Since September, says Ana Milicevic Pezelj, they have noticed a trend in some industries, such as tourism, to engage in business-related lay-offs to permanent employees, along with severance pay, with the announcement that they will be re-employed in the spring, but in another sense.

''This further erodes stable working conditions, and in those cases coronavirus merely serves as an excuse,” she noted. HUP said that dismissals are the last resort for Croatian employers, but given the epidemiological and economic situation, it is possible that in some companies, despite the subsidies, there will be a need to lay off a certain number of workers "so that business can be kept going at a reduced level and so they might keep at least part of their workers,''

They noted that the state co-finances salary amounts, while the employer is still obliged to pay the difference up to the full amount of salary, and that in the conditions of a prolonged crisis and significantly reduced business volume, there is a lack of income that could cover all such costs. HUP is therefore in favour of introducing a model related to percentage drops according to the size of the company, as was the case at the beginning of the introduction of measures back in March.

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Tuesday, 20 October 2020

As Coronavirus Measures Bite, Croatian Hospitality Sector Worries Intensify

October the 20th, 2020 - More measures have been introduced across the country in an attempt to further curb the infection rate which has risen to record numbers over recent days. As a result, the Croatian hospitality sector is growing ever more concerned about what that means for business and revenue - or indeed a lack of both.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 19th of October, 2020, it has now been a week since the introduction of new epidemiological measures in Croatia. The drop in traffic in cafes and restaurants is steadily increasing, and attendance in some places is a worrying 80 percent lower than usual, reports RTL.

The guild of caterers is aware - the measures must be respected for the health of everyone, but they say that if this continues, they're simply not going to be able to survive. Despite Plenkovic having stated that he has no plans to introduce another lockdown like the one we experienced back in spring, how does the Croatian hospitality sector view the threat of such a move?

After the introduction of new epidemiological measures which regard places like cafes, the owner and the so-called ''corona warden'' was nearly forced to put the key in his facility's lock after thirty long years of operation.

"I specifically told my staff to serve the guests, put whatever they order on the house and then just close the place down. One waiter cried and begged for that not to happen, there's a lump in my throat as I talk about this... he asked me if we can stay like this for thirty more days and adjust to all of the measures,'' said Franz Letica from Zagreb.

Letica's glass is far from half full these days, as he is among those in the Croatian hospitality sector whose traffic and therefore revenue has dropped drastically.

"There's no work, there's no traffic, the bar is empty, I had to fire two people in the meantime," Letica said.

However, Zagreb's Mayor Milan Bandic joined in solidarity with Zagreb's hospitality workers two days ago. The city continues with subsidies - reducing the payment of rents, utilities and abolishing the payment of fees for terraces.

"It will carry on until least until the end of the year, if God forbid it's still necessary, we'll protect our hospitality workers and our entrepreneurs," assured a worried Bandic. A slightly more optimistic picture can be found on the terrace and inside the Split restaurant, but when things are looked at on a monthly basis, it's far from last year's figures.

"For September there was a drop of about 80 percent, for October it will certainly be more than 60 percent, and for November... I don't know what to tell you, it all depends on what the weather will be like, everything depends on that,'' Domagoj Curkovic, a restaurant manager in Split explained.

The Guild of Caterers says that without the repeated help of the state, a large number of cafes and restaurants will be forced to close down.

"It's very difficult to endure it all in this way. If the number of positive people grows, we can expect closures, and without the help of the state, then tax measures aren't enough, we'll also need non-refundable funds ", said Joso Smojic from the guild of caterers and tourist workers of HOK.

A new lockdown is not an option at this time.

"We're aware of what closing the economy means. For now, we have no plans for any new lockdown, it is not on the agenda,'' assured Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic.

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Tuesday, 29 September 2020

248 Million Kuna Paid Out to Croatian Enterprises in July 2020

As Jadranka Dozan/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 28th of September, 2020, applications for support for the month of September began ten days ago for groups of employers and Croatian enterprises for whom the Government's job preservation measures (ORM) were extended until the end of the year.

For those Croatian enterprises eligible for part-time support, which was introduced in the middle of the year, the deadline for submitting applications for the period from September to the end of the year expired at the end of August, and applications for support start in October. The Croatian Employment Service, through which certain programmes are implemented within the framework of the ORM measures, has so far paid out a total of 6.6 billion kuna in these grants. The majority of it was paid in the first three months of implementation (salaries for March, April and May), and with the relaxation of epidemiological measures restricting work and the number of employers and employees, the total monthly amount of payments was significantly reduced.

Payments for Croatian enterprises for August are ongoing

In June, a total of 304.7 million kuna was paid out, for the salaries of 78,322 employees to a total of 18,000 employers who fell into the proper criteria with a drop in revenue. According to the latest CES data, 247.7 million kuna was paid to Croatian enterprises in the name of these grants (until September the 24th, 2020). Payments for August, they say, are still ongoing, and 121.7 million kuna has been paid out so far.

Measures to reduce working hours, intended for Croatian enterprises with more than 10 employees and the expected decline in the fund of working hours of at least 10 percent, were used by 143 employers in July who were paid more than 15.2 million kuna in support. So far, one million kuna has been paid out in the name of this type of support for nine employers for the month of August.

The CES stated that 570 applications from Croatian enterprises have been received for this support so far. The majority of payments under ORM measures in July and August refer to those requested by Croatian enterprises according to the criterion of declining income (more than 60 percent) and belonging to the activities most affected by the crisis (transport and storage, catering/hospitality, events, arts and entertainment).

These subsidies amount to 4,000 kuna per worker, more than 185.5 million kuna (for 7,329 beneficiaries) was paid in July, and slightly more than 100 million kuna (for 4,353 beneficiaries) was paid out in August. According to the criteria established after June for micro-enterprises (up to 2,000 kuna), about 11.5 thousand of them received aid in July, and the CES forwarded them more than 46 million kuna, and for August so far, slightly more than 20 million kuna has been paid out.

The latest detailed data on beneficiaries of ORM measures refer to grants for June. The list of the top 10 according to the total amount of co-financing is mostly made up of the largest tourist companies led by Valamar  (9.6m), Plava Laguna (4.86m) and Maistra (4.4m), and in the top 10 users are four more hotel companies. The Student Centre of the University of Zagreb with 3.4 million in grants and two transport companies - Cazmatrans (2.66 million kuna) and Autotrans (2.42 million kuna) were among the ten largest in June. At the same time, as of June, production companies such as AD Plastik from Solin and Boxmark Leather from Varazdin were no longer in that group of Croatian enterprises.

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Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Over 10, 000 Attend Music Festivals in Sibenik In 2020 - Zero Infections

September 22, 2020 - For six consecutive weeks this summer, the Martinska venue alone welcomed over 10, 000 international visitors to its music festivals in Sibenik. Zero cases of Coronavirus occurred.

Over recent years, three things have firmly placed Croatia on the international stage – Game Of Thrones, the World Cup and music festivals. Running for over a decade now, music festivals are the oldest of these. They have elevated places like Pula and Tisno to become among the most-Googled destinations in the country.

So popular now are Croatia music festivals, that many say the summer season of music festivals in Croatia has supplanted the famous hedonistic holidays of Ibiza as the hippest place to go. Incredible disappointment was therefore felt by tens of thousands of expectant party people earlier this year when most of the international Croatia music festivals decided to cancel their 2020 events. They did so in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

One venue stood alone – Martinska, a 20-year-old site for music festivals in Sibenik. Over six consecutive weeks, all of their 2020 festivals took place. They did so under strict adherence to epidemiological guidelines. And, following a wait of two weeks after the final event (to cover any potential Coronavirus incubation period), site organisers Pozitivan Ritam have released their results - zero cases of Coronavirus.

Seasplash foto Ivan Buvinić.jpg

“It's not only the five festivals and one concert event that we did,” Pozitivan Ritam director Vedran Meniga told TCN, “The Fortress of Culture in Sibenik had more than 30 events this summer and Project Vojarna in Sibenik had two parties this year with over 4000 people. On one RTL television show, they described Sibenik as the Croatian Wuhan when 3000 people were in the town for one techno party there. But, at the end of the season, none of these events resulted in a single Coronavirus infection. Not one.”

Following a successful lockdown earlier in the year, cases of Coronavirus were limited in Croatia at the start of the season. Yet, some were understandably hesitant to come. Music festivals in Sibenik still managed to attract visitors from Britain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany to Martinska. Even after the middle of August when cases began to appear in other regions and international visitor numbers dried up, the festival site was still busy with Croatians and partygoers from near-neighbouring countries. At the end of August, there were no more than five infected persons in Sibenik. None were music festival or music event attendees. Throughout much of the summer, Sibenik recorded zero cases.

Slurp 03 foto Valerio Baranović i Mislav Gelenčir.jpg

“The music festivals in Sibenik are proof that it's possible to work doing events during the era of Corona,” Meniga tells TCN. “Of course, all of our events were open-air and no doubt that helped.”

"When cases started to reappear elsewhere at the end of July, I went to the civil authorities and epidemiologists immediately, before they came to us,” says Vedran. “The civil authorities and the police grant the license for the events. I presented them with a plan and they were satisfied. They allowed us to continue.”

“It helped that Martinska is across the bay from Sibenik. Festival attendees don't even need to go into the town to come, they drive here straight from the Magistrala (Croatian coastal highway). Also, Martinska's capacity is five times bigger than the numbers we were going to cater for. The site can accommodate six to seven thousand. We expected no more than 1500 daily. That was more than enough space to maintain physical distance. We carefully took all contact details for each attendee at the entrance, in case something appeared and we (or authorities) had to later contact people. We also took everyone's temperature. And in addition to the required epidemiological sanitization, we also installed disinfectant pillars at every single point where money or goods exchanged hands. All our staff wore not only masks but also gloves. Four times the civil authorities made surprise visits to the site for inspection along with epidemiologists and police. Each time they were completely satisfied.”

Current forecasts for the Coronavirus response predict that a vaccine will not be available to cover everyone until the autumn of 2021. This has serious implications for at least one more tourist season. Yet, with the incredible achievements seen this summer at Martinska's music festivals in Sibenik, we can all take hope that events, tourism, and even life itself may continue to be enjoyed in the near future, as long as we're all smart about it.

Blast foto Ernest Mazarekić (1).jpg

All photos 2020 Martinska © Seasplash / Pozitivan Ritam. 

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Thursday, 17 September 2020

Croatian Banks End Coronavirus Measures, No More Debt Freezing

September the 17th, 2020 - The coronavirus pandemic might still be taking the world by storm, with a predicted rise in the number of serious cases in the upcoming colder months as the virus crosses paths with flu season, but not everyone is keeping their coronavirus measures in place. Croatian banks are one of those institutions set to scrap any special benefits garnered as a result of the pandemic,

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 15th of September, 2020, Croatian banks will no longer freeze debts as they chose to do during the pandemic, and the deficits in citizens' accounts will be determined according to the last three months, depending on their employment status, the amount of their income and the regularity of their repayments.

Croatian banks are, as such, abolishing the popular measures they introduced in an attempt to soften the already dire financial blow caused by the spread of the new coronavirus.

The deadline for debt repayment and the amount of overdraft depends on the policy of each individual bank. Thus, some announced changes to their permitted overdrafts for as early as October, with the possibility of payments made in installments.

Some Croatian banks are starting with changes as of next year.

"In accordance with the General Terms and Conditions, as of September the 7th, 2020, clients will be notified of the announcement of the updates of the amount of the overdraft they're permitted to have, which will be performed on October the 10th, 2020," OTP banka said in regard to the overdraft.

"If the reduction in income is what is bothering people, then the solution can be found in extending the loan repayment period, which causes a reduction in the monthly loan obligation. And, the possibilities of easier repayment, which is in line with their new level of income,'' said Dario Gabric from Erste Bank for RTL.

Addiko Bank will start making changes next year.

"At the beginning of November 2020, we'll inform clients about the new amounts of their overdrafts on their current accounts, which will be available from the 1st of January, 2021," read a statement from Addiko Bank.

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