Thursday, 20 January 2022

Beroš: COVID Restrictions Not to Be Lifted for Now Given Low Vaccination Rate

ZAGREB, 20 Jan 2022 - Due to its low vaccination rate, Croatia, for now, cannot consider lifting some of the COVID restrictions, and medical professionals continue to recommend compliance with the epidemiological measures in place to contain the virus, Health Minister Vili Beroš said at a cabinet meeting on Thursday.

He was commenting on plans by countries such as the United Kingdom and Israel, which have high vaccination rates, to lift the restrictions and the COVID pass mandate. He warned that in Croatia, a considerable number of people aged 75 and over were unvaccinated.

Despite the surge in the number of new infections, for now, there has been no increase in the number of COVID hospitalizations, so health care is also available to non-COVID patients, the health minister said.

"Today, 1,792 infected persons are being treated in hospitals, four fewer than yesterday. The COVID bed occupancy rate is 53.4 percent, which allows for other patients to be provided with the necessary health care as well," Beroš said.

Croatia today registered a record 17,489 new COVID cases, with the PCR test positivity rate reaching 51.44 percent and the rapid antigen test positivity rate 18.82 percent. The number of COVID patients on ventilators today is 195, nine fewer than on Wednesday. 

Beroš said that 18.63 percent of the total population had received an additional vaccine dose.

He noted that people being admitted to hospitals with the Omicron variant of the virus were mostly elderly and unvaccinated with other underlying conditions.

He said that the latest data published by the European Medicines Agency showed that mRNA COVID vaccines were safe during pregnancy.

The head of the national COVID response team, Interior Minister Davor Božinović, said that the travel ban on arrivals from South Africa and other African countries where the Omicron variant first appeared had been lifted given that this variant has become dominant in Croatia and Europe.

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.

Monday, 10 January 2022

New COVID-19 Restrictions Take Effect as of Tuesday

ZAGREB, 10 Jan 2022 - The national COVID-19 crisis management team on Monday published tighter restrictions against COVID-19 on its website, and those tighter rules will be effective as of Tuesday.

The restrictions cap public gatherings at 50 in case of open-air events, and in the event that participants have COVID certificates the maximum number could be 200 if local response teams okay them.

Indoor private social gatherings are capped at 25. There can be a maximum of 50 persons at the site of private gatherings provided that all of them have COVID certificates.

Hospitality establishments can operate without any new restrictions, however, they can expect more frequent inspections and controls of the number of patrons. Checks will be stepped up to monitor compliance with the restriction on the number of guests, as well as with the requirements to maintain a physical distance of 1.5 meters, to use masks when not at the table, and to air and clean the establishment.

A limit on the number of spectators at sports events is imposed, so they will be allowed to fill up a maximum of 20% of an individual grandstand for an indoor event, that is 40% for an outdoor event.

It is mandatory to wear masks at religious and art events, film screenings and exhibitions, as well as sessions of representative bodies.

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.

Monday, 10 January 2022

SDP Leader: New Anti-epidemic Rules Have Neither Been Announced nor Explained

ZAGREB, 10 Jan 2022 - Social Democratic Party leader Peđa Grbin said on Monday that new restrictions that were to have entered into force on Monday had not yet been released in the Official Gazette nor on the COVID response team's website, nor had the authorities explained to them as ordered by the Constitutional Court.

In a post on his Facebook profile, Grbin recalled that last week Interior Minister Davor Božinović, who is at the helm of the national COVID response team, stated that a surge in the number of infections caused by the Omicron variant of coronavirus, compelled the authorities to introduce new measures as of Monday which would additionally limit numbers at public gatherings.

"Today, on Monday, when they are supposed to enter into force, the new measures have not yet been advertised in the Official Gazette nor on the response team's website. Not only have they not been explained, as stipulated in the Constitutional Court ruling of 21 December 2021, but they also haven't even been released yet as I am writing this post. They do not exist and no one knows their content, what is written in them, how to act according to them, and yet they were to be implemented as of today," posted Grbin.

Grbin said that that showed how inconsistent and incompetent the government is in fighting the challenges facing Croatia and "when the numbers of those infected and deaths increase again, Plenković and co will blame the people."

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

Thursday, 6 January 2022

Epidemiological Measures to Be Tightened After Record Number of Cases

January 6, 2021 - A record 8,587 new cases of coronavirus infection were recorded in Croatia yesterday, and 32 people died. A tightening of current epidemiological measures is expected throughout the country.

After the worst day of the infection, stricter epidemiological measures could be introduced throughout Croatia, such as limiting the work of cafes to 10 pm and canceling gatherings with a larger number of participants, reports

In Croatia, yesterday's record number of positives among those tested, more precisely 8,587 newly infected among 18,689 tested, confirms the virus has been unleashed in another difficult stage of the pandemic. But despite the large numbers, some believe that "omicron is the way out of the pandemic through collective immunity", and thus stricter epidemiological measures are not necessary; something which scientists, disagree with.

The pressure of coastal counties to introduce new stricter measures to at least reduce the rate of coronavirus spread is still strong because, for example, in Split-Dalmatia County, the number of infected among those tested has already exceeded 60 percent and testing capacity is too low, and it records an increasing number of hospitalized and patients on respirators.

With more than 9000 new cases unofficially confirmed today, the Headquarters could introduce some new measures, which would primarily mean shortening the work of cafes until 10 pm and canceling gatherings with many participants until further notice.

The measures will apply to the whole country, not just the coast, probably because the numbers are on the rise in all counties. The proposal to use covid certificates more extensively has not passed so far, although it has long been a routine, for example, in cafes in countries where the vaccination of citizens is much higher than in Croatia.

The latest research by British scientists from the University of East Anglia confirms that hesitation with the introduction of stricter measures in Croatia could result in severe consequences for the health of citizens.

They claim that weak epidemiological measures at the time of virus spread and poor vaccination pose a high risk for vulnerable groups, especially those who must not be vaccinated for some health reason or cannot gain immunity due to their health condition such as those with compromised immune systems.

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, 4 January 2022

Classes Will Start on January 10th, So Far No County is Going Online

January 4, 2022 - Classes will start on January 10, and the Ministry has so far not received a notification from any county about the transition to the C model, or online classes, after the holidays.

The Ministry of Science and Education does not intend to change the decision at the beginning and end of the school year, so classes will start on January 10 after the winter holidays in all schools, and so far no county has announced the transition to online classes, reports Večernji List.

"The ministry does not intend to change the decision on the beginning and end of the school year, the number of working days and the duration of vacations of primary and secondary school students for the school year 2021/2022," the Ministry of Science and Education said on Tuesday.

Croatia has registered 5,845 new coronavirus cases and 46 COVID-related deaths in the last 24 hours, the national coronavirus response team reported on Tuesday.

The number of active cases in the country currently stands at 28,889. Among them are 1,817 infected persons receiving hospital treatment, including 233 who are on ventilators, and 16,715 persons who are self-isolating.

To date, 4,745,870 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered, with 55.71 percent of the total population, or 66.37 percent of the adult population, having been vaccinated. A total of 2,260,882 people have received at least one dose and 2,146,134 of them have been fully vaccinated, which is 63.16 percent of the adult population.

Despite the current epidemiological situation, the Ministry of Science and Education does not contemplate a return to virtual classes, although the development of face-to-face classes will be closely monitored in the coming weeks to avoid more cases.

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.

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.


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.

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.

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