Friday, 16 July 2021

Milanović: Pressure on Half the Population Politically Not Intelligent

ZAGREB, 16 July 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Friday 50% of Croatia's population did not and, for some reason, would not get vaccinated, adding that pressure on half the population was politically not intelligent.

"If it was 15% of people, that would not be important because we would be on the verge of collective immunity. What's the point of this pressure on half the population? That's not even politically intelligent," he told the press in Požega.

He said that those who wanted to get vaccinated did so and that others could not be terrorised into doing so, and that he doesn't approve of the direction that is being taken.

He added that if his secretary, for example, did not get vaccinated, he would not sack her.

Milanović said Croatia could not have a separate approach to curbing the pandemic, as it is an EU member state but added that, out of fear from voters, there was talk of repression and threats.

He said he was not happy about threats against certain groups of people, but added that medical workers and those caring for the elderly and the ill were one thing, while all others who more or less work in normal jobs should therefore be allowed to decide whether to get vaccinated.

Milanović said that those in charge should explain why a neighbour, for example, should get vaccinated and if they did not, why their life should become impossible.

"It all boils down to not overwhelming the system, but the system is always overwhelmed," he added.

He said that for one year Croatia has had an approach to public policy and restrictions of fundamental human rights, without the parliamentary majority having decided on that.

"States vary. Healthcare isn't centralised and won't be, as far as I'm concerned... I need autonomy from the EU. This is a sort of fear of voters, which is good, but this panic, the danger of someone getting sick... I'm not saying the intentions of the people running big states are dictatorial, they are not, but at one point, you have to say 'it's over' like the British."

Organised plunder of Zagreb

Speaking of an anti-corruption investigation in Zagreb which has resulted in the arrest of a number of former mayor Milan Bandić's associates, Milanović said that what Zagreb went through in the past 20 years was worse than communism because in communism people did not steal.

He called it an organised plunder of the city and that he said so when he ousted Bandić from his then Social Democratic Party.

As for former president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's possible candidacy for NATO secretary-general, Milanović said he would not have anything against that.

Operation Storm anniversary

Speaking of the 1995 Operation Storm anniversary in Knin on 5 August, he said he would participate but that he did not see the point in lining up the army at a stadium on a non-jubilee anniversary. He assumes that "some people want to avoid an unpleasant situation at the Knin square."

Speaking of two fire-fighting planes that were being overhauled, he said Croatia would buy something else because it was a matter of national interest. "If Croatia can buy 12 multipurpose jets, then you can buy two more fire-fighting planes."

For more on politics in Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Pula Medical Faculty Dean and Anti-vaxxer Sacked

30 June 2021 – The Pula Medical Faculty Dean has been vocal against COVID19 vaccinations, often stating quite outlandish numbers and ideas. On Tuesday he officially lost his position at the school.

Dr. Kresimir Pavelic became known to the Croatian public just a few days ago as a passionate COVID19 vaccine skeptic. He spoke on the roundtable organised by political party Promijenimo Hrvatsku (eng. Let’s Change Croatia) entitled “Coronavirus – time for truth”. Dr. Pavelic stated some alarming figures the sources of which he didn’t mention. He said that the last four months saw more patients dying as a result of the COVID19 vaccine than those of all the vaccines combined since 1990. He also mentioned very suspicious numbers of 10000 dead in the EU and 4000 dead in the USA as a result of COVID vaccine complications. Slobodna Dalmacija reports Dr. Pavelic also warned that people who already had the vaccine are now potential carriers of new mutations of the virus and should be banned from donating blood. Supposedly, he has already talked earlier about the connection between COVID19 and Bill Gates.

Aftermath

On Tuesday the Medical College of Pula let him go from the position of the Dean. College rector, Dr. Alfio Barbieri said the move comes as a direct result of Dr. Pavelic’s public anti-vaccination statements. Apparently, this is not the first time he made his opinions on the matter known. He became quite popular with the so-called anti-vaxxers in Croatia.

This bizarre story doesn’t end here. Apparently, Pula Medical College is not really an active college. Rector Barbieri told Slobodna Dalmacija National Council for Science, Higher Education and Technological Development denied issuing a permit that would make his college’s educational program valid.

It seems the COVID pandemic revealed interesting viewpoints of many people around us. Stories like this one come hardly as a surprise anymore. Still, it is not every day that a person with such a high knowledge of health and medicine speaks out against COVID19 vaccines.

For more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 7 June 2021

Adult Population Vaccination Rate in Croatia to Reach 50% by End of June

June 7, 2021 – With many in Croatia hoping for a more relaxed summer than 2020, all eyes and ears are on the country's healthcare professionals. Here's some news from the COVID front and the adult population vaccination rate in Croatia.

The constant following COVID19 infections are getting rather tiring for everyone. Croatians have turned their attention massively towards the tourism season and summer as the only chance to enjoy a bit of rest and relaxation. As the strain on the health system starts to lessen, the questions surrounding the future of restrictions imposed on businesses grow more common.

It is evident the main factor for getting life back to normal will be the vaccination process. Index.hr reports on the latest trends. Their article quotes Diana Mayer, an epidemiologist with the Croatian Institute of Public Health. She expressed her satisfaction with the interest in vaccination. It is no secret there have been those opposing the vaccine in Croatia But it seems a bigger part of the population is willing to get vaccinated in hope of restrictions being lifted. The official data says 1,33 million Croatians have been vaccinated at least once, with roughly 564,000 of those receiving both doses. In a country of barely 4 million inhabitants, this is not a negligible result. According to Mayer, we are to see half of the population vaccinated by the end of June. Hopefully, this translates into a calmer Autumn.

Positive Trend

On Sunday the 6th of June 2021, there were 157 new cases of COVID19 infections in Croatia. The numbers seem to be going down, but it is way too early to draw any optimistic conclusions about the trends in near future. The waiting time for people who register for vaccination is also declining. Epidemiologist Mayer said this is not due to the decline of interest. More positive news comes from KB Dubrava (Clinical Hospital Dubrava), the largest COVID hospital in Croatia. KB Dubrava is to resume its normal function today and starts receiving non-COVID19 patients after 217 days. Let's hope this is just the beginning of a long-lasting positive trend.

 For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, including travel, border, and quarantine rules, as well as the locations of vaccination points and testing centres across the country, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and select your preferred language.

Friday, 21 May 2021

Split-Dalmatia County Tourism Workers' Vaccination On June 5

May 21, 2021 - The fight against COVID-19 continues before the start of the season, and it is time for Split-Dalmatia County tourism workers' vaccination. 

As reported by hrturizam.hr, the Split-Dalmatia County Institute of Public Health invites all tourism workers who have been vaccinated with the first dose of vaccine on May 8 and 15 to come for vaccination on June 5, by the hour they were ordered for their first time.

It is important to note that a gap is required between two doses of vaccine three to six weeks so that all employees who received the first dose of vaccine in the above terms can come for the second dose of the vaccine.

All tourism staff who did not receive the first dose of vaccine can also come that day at the Spaladium Arena from 13:00 to 14:00.

“Vaccination of tourism workers is of great importance for achieving the health security of the destination. This is the most challenging tourist year so far and the responsibility for the achieved results is on each individual, so we invite all tourism workers to be part of the joint creation of the image of Split as a safe tourist destination," said Alijana Vukšić, director of the Split Tourist Board.

According to koronavirus.hr, 25.7% of the total population of Split-Dalmatia county has received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 7.8% have received both doses as of May 20th.

Apart from the tourism workers, all citizens or residents of Croatia can be vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccines are not intended for children under 16 or 18 years of age, and the vaccination age depends on the type of vaccine. However, due to the higher risk of developing more severe forms of COVID-19 disease, preference is given to people with chronic diseases and the elderly. These include people with respiratory, cardiovascular, malignant, kidney diseases, diabetes, and immunodeficiencies. 

You can apply for vaccination by reporting to your family doctor, via the website cijepise.zdravlje.hr, by calling the toll-free number 0800 0011, and through county public health institutes.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, including travel, border, and quarantine rules, as well as the locations of testing centers and vaccination points up and down the country, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and select your preferred language.

 

Thursday, 20 May 2021

HZJZ: One in Three Adults Vaccinated

ZAGREB, 20 May 2021 - As of today, every third adult in Croatia has been vaccinated against COVID-19, the Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ) said on Thursday.

On Wednesday, 19 May, 43,890 doses of the vaccine were used, and the number of persons that have received at least one dose reached 1,109,161, which is 27% of the population or 33% of the adult population, while 341,008 persons have received both doses.

According to data from the eCijepih platform, as of 20 May, every third adult in Croatia has been vaccinated, which is a big step forward compared to early May, when on 1 May every fifth adult citizen of Croatia had been vaccinated, the HZJZ said.

First dose vaccine coverage is highest in Zagreb, 31% of the total population or 37.6% of the adult population, and second dose vaccine coverage is highest in Sisak-Moslavina County, 12% of the population or 14.4% of adults.

"These are encouraging data that give us reason for optimism when it comes to meeting the goal of vaccinating over a half of Croatia's adult population by the end of June. Vaccination is going according to plan, the epidemiological situation is better than in previous weeks and this is certainly good news, especially in the context of the upcoming tourist season," said HZJZ deputy director Ivana Pavić Šimetin.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, including travel, border and quarantine rules, as well as the locations of vaccination points and testing centres up and down the country, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and choose your preferred language.

Monday, 3 May 2021

Croatia's Coronavirus Update: 349 New Cases, 36 Deaths, 2,087 Recoveries

ZAGREB, 3 May 2021 - Over the past 24 hours, Croatia has registered 349 new cases of the coronavirus infection and 36 deaths, the national COVID-19 crisis management team said on Monday.

The number of active cases in Croatia today stands at 11,378. There are 2,247 COVID patients in hospitals, 244 of whom are on ventilators.

Since the first confirmed case of the infection in Croatia on 25 February 2020, a total of 335,522 people have been registered as having contracted coronavirus, 7,218 of them have died, while 316,926 have recovered, including 2,087 in the last 24 hours.

There are currently 30,225 people in self-isolation.

To date, 1,827,068 people have been tested, including 4,193 over the past 24 hours.

 As of 2 May, 908,839 doses of the vaccine have been administered in Croatia, and 708,137 people have been vaccinated, with 504,856 people receiving the first dose and 200,702 receiving both doses. For 2,579 people there is no data on how many doses they have received.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, including travel, border, and quarantine rules to the locations of vaccination points and testing centres throughout the country, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section.

Monday, 1 February 2021

Croatia Will Get Russian Vaccine If It Asks for It, Says Ambassador

ZAGREB, 1 February, 2021 - Croatia will get the Russian COVID-19 vaccine if it asks for it, Russian Ambassador Andrey Nesterenko said in an interview with the Monday issue of the Večernji List daily.

EU countries, including Croatia, have been having difficulty obtaining pre-ordered vaccines and Russia is willing to provide 100 million doses in the second quarter, as confirmed to the daily by Ambassador Nesterenko.

Even though Croatia has still not officially asked Russia for the vaccine, Nesterenko says that the head of a research group at Zagreb's Ruđer Bošković Institute, Dragomira Meichen, is Croatia's representative on the international scientific council for the Sputnik V vaccine and that the platform for consultations with Croatian experts already exists.

Sputnik V has a number of advantages that greatly simplify the delivery of the vaccine worldwide - it is stored at temperatures ranging from 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, which makes it possible to keep it in an ordinary refrigerator, and the price per dose is less than US$ 10, which makes the vaccine affordable for many countries, the diplomat said.

The ambassador also said that the Russian vaccine could play an important role in the fight against the pandemic and be used in UN missions.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has therefore expressed hope that the World Health Organisation would approve the vaccine as soon as possible, the diplomat said.

He noted that Russia had so far received orders for the purchase of 1.2 billion doses of the vaccine from more than 50 countries.

Nesterenko added that the vaccine was being actively used in Russia, with vaccination conducted not only in hospitals but also in shopping malls and other venues. He added that a centre for the vaccination of foreign nationals had been opened in Moscow and that some of the foreign ambassadors serving in Russia had been vaccinated with Sputnik V.

Monday, 4 January 2021

Croatia Receives Another 17,550 Doses of COVID Vaccine

ZAGREB, 4 January, 2021 - Health Minister Vili Beros said on Monday that an additional 17,550 doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been delivered earlier in the day, and that 12,285 people had been vaccinated since Croatia started administering the vaccines against this infectious disease.

Beros said that a lower number of tests performed in the last few days could be ascribed to the fact that this was the period of Christmas and New Year holidays.

The minister expects more tests to be conducted as of mid-January.

As of the current stringent anti-COVID measures that are in place until 10 January, the minister said that their prolongation would depend on the epidemiological situation.

Croatia has registered 361 new coronavirus cases and 54 infection-related deaths in the last 24 hours, the national coronavirus response team said on Monday.

The number of active cases stands at 5,899 and 2,453 people are receiving hospital treatment, including 196 on ventilators.

With the 54 latest fatalities, the death toll has climbed to 4,126.

Since February 25, when the first case of infection was confirmed in the country, 213,319 people have been infected with the novel virus. A total of 203,294 have recovered, of whom 852 in the last 24 hours. Currently 16,865 people are in self-isolation.

A total of 1,035,076 people have been tested for coronavirus, including 2,985 in the last 24 hours.

Sunday, 27 December 2020

First Two Employees of Zagreb's Dubrava Hospital Vaccinated Against COVID-19

ZAGREB, Dec 27, 2020 - A physician and a nurse working in the intensive care unit of Zagreb's Dubrava hospital, converted into the central hospital treating COVID-19 patients in Croatia, got vaccinated against the disease on Sunday.

The vaccination was attended by Health Minister Vili Beros.

Thirty-five employees of the hospital will get immunised today and a total of 200 doctors and nurses working at the hospital will be vaccinated in the next two days.

Acting hospital director Ivica Luksic said that today was a big day, encouraging in many ways.

"The KB Dubrava hospital and all its employees have been on the front line of the battle against the pandemic from the very first day and for all of us this is a new beginning in the treatment of this disease," he said.

Minister: We will reward KB Dubrava for selfless work done

Minister Beros underlined the role of the KB Dubrava hospital, which has been the most important centre in the country for the treatment of COVID-19 patients since March.

"More than 450 people are treated and 69 receive respiratory support on a daily basis at Dubrava. I learned this morning that 360,000 litres of liquid oxygen is spent an hour in the treatment of our patients. We could not have created such conditions in any other Zagreb hospital," Beros said, adding that if possible, the government would compensate the hospital and all its employees for their selfless work.

"We will consider expansion to include new, research elements and new services. Once this epidemic is over, that will be a sign of gratefulness to all Dubrava hospital employees," said the minister.

Beros said the number of infections in the past two days was small but that fewer tests were performed, noting that it was encouraging that the number of new infections had been declining in the past two weeks.

He said that the number of new hospital admissions today was higher than on Saturday but that there were fewer patients on ventilators than yesterday.

"The number of fatalities is the result of developments in the last 2-3 weeks. That number is expected to start going down in a week and a half because the mortality rate will start following the trend in the number of new infections," said the minister.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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