Friday, 12 March 2021

Croatia Successfully Completes Schengen Evaluation Procedure

ZAGREB, 12 March, 2021 - In four years Croatia met 281 recommendations in eight acquis areas, successfully completing the Schengen evaluation procedure, the Interior Ministry said on Friday after a meeting of EU interior ministers who discussed security and migrations.

The Portuguese presidency and Commissioner Ylva Johansson informed the Council that Croatia had successfully completed the Schengen evaluation procedure which began in June 2015 and ended in May 2019, the ministry said in a press release.

In the most comprehensive evaluation of preparedness for membership of the Schengen area, Croatia met 281 recommendations in eight Schengen acquis areas, including 145 pertaining to external border control.

Early in February, the Council confirmed that Croatia had met all the recommendations in that, the most demanding evaluation area, the ministry said, adding that in the past two weeks bilateral meetings were held with four member states which were unsure if Croatia had indeed met all the membership requirements.

On 2 March, Interior Minister Davor Božinović met with all the EU ambassadors accredited in Croatia at which he informed them in detail of everything Croatia had done in the past three and a half years to ensure full application of all Schengen standards.

"The ministers endorsed the report by the Portuguese presidency and Commissioner Johansson, without debate thereby confirming the completion of the Schengen evaluation procedure for Croatia," the ministry said.

Croatia's job and goal now is to prepare everything that is necessary for the Council of the EU to adopt a political decision on the Schengen membership, the ministry added.

Croatia evaluated as no other EU member state

"Croatia successfully passed the most comprehensive and the most detailed evaluation, like no other EU member state," said Božinović, who attended a video conference of the Home Affairs Council.

He added that Johansson said that this was the final confirmation of Croatia's preparedness to join the Schengen Area, while the chairman of the Council of the EU, Portuguese Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita, supported Schengen enlargement to Croatia.

The ministry said the Council held the first debate on a draft directive on the resilience of critical subjects, which is aimed at further contributing to the implementation of EU Security Union Strategy targets.

The Portuguese presidency reported on the external dimension, border protection and solidarity. Another priority is working on the establishment of legal migration routes to more effectively curb illegal ones.

Stronger cooperation with third countries

The European Commission presented a report on strengthening cooperation with third countries in returns and readmissions as well as a 2019 report on the evaluation of cooperation in readmission.

Božinović said Croatia saw the former report as an important step forward in dealing with the return of migrants illegally staying in the EU.

"All Commission activities to use the potential of the EU visa policy are welcome, in an effort to encourage third countries to cooperate more constructively in the readmission of their citizens, as well as the possibilities available to us in other areas, development and trade arrangements for example," he said.

It would be useful to supplement initiatives with lists of safe third countries and safe countries of origin which would make it easier for the relevant services to swiftly make decisions on asylum or returns, Božinović added.

In concluding readmission agreements, priority should be given to countries of origin, the ministry said, adding that Božinović also pointed to the problem of transit countries.

Croatia supported strengthening cooperation with North African states in all areas that can contribute to strengthening stability in Africa, which would then facilitate dealing with the root causes of migrations towards the EU, the ministry said.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 12 March 2021

Most Epidemiological Restrictions Extended Until End of March

ZAGREB, 12 March, 2021 - Croatia has a 26% weekly increase in the number of new coronavirus infections and most epidemiological restrictions will be extended until the end of March but outdoor sports competitions will be allowed, the national COVID-19 response team said on Friday.

Most existing epidemiological restrictions will remain in force.

One of the changes is that it will be possible to change the maximum allowed number of attendees at cultural events through recommendations by the Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ), without waiting for a decision by the national COVID-19 response team, and outdoor sports competitions will be allowed as well, the team's head, Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović, said.

Restrictions regarding gatherings, passenger transport, shops' working hours and border crossing will be extended until 31 March and a decision on that will take effect on 13 March, said Božinović.

As for decisions at the local level, restrictions will be extended in Dubrovnik-Neretva County while COVID-19 response teams in counties with a marked increase in the number of new infections will be expected to propose restrictions in line with the local situation.

Share of positive tests 13.8%; Inoculation with AstraZeneca vaccine continues

Croatia today reported 823 new infections of 5,945 tests conducted in the past 24 hours, the percentage of positive tests being 13.8%. The average age of those who have died is 77.5 years and the youngest person was 62, Assistant Health Minister Vera Katalinić-Janković said.

HZJZ head Krunoslav Capak warned that the number of new infections this week was 26% higher than last week.

"Istria County has the lowest incidence, and Dubrovnik-Neretva County the highest. As for the seven-day incidence, Primorje-Gorski Kotar County is at the top, however, epidemiologists say that there are no major hot spots there but rather a lot of small hot spots due to socialising," said Capak.

He also pointed to an increase in the share of positive cases in the number of tests done, which today was 13.8%.

Commenting on reported side effects of the vaccines, he said most reports referred to the Pfizer vaccine, 898, followed by AstraZeneca's vaccine, 337, and Moderna's, 81.

Despite the fact that in some EU countries inoculation with AstraZeneca's vaccine has been suspended, Croatia will continue using the vaccine.

Capak said that the AstraZeneca vaccine Croatia obtained was not from the same series as that obtained by Austria and 15 other EU countries. Countries that have discontinued inoculation with that vaccine have done so until the reported side effects are investigated, he said.

"If it is established that the thromboembolisms reported are not related to the vaccine, countries that have suspended vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine will continue the vaccination process. Croatia did not receive that vaccine series... and will continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine," he said.

He also commented on an announcement that the deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine would be much smaller than agreed.

"We were to receive 19,200 doses in the third week of March and will receive 7,200. In the fourth week of March, we were to receive 79,568 doses and will receive 9,800," he said.

As for the vaccine of the US company Johnson & Johnson, Capak said that the vaccine will soon be registered in the EU but could not tell how many doses Croatia would obtain considering reports that the US government would first supply the US market with the agreed quantities and then start exports to other countries.

Asked about alternative vaccine imports, Capak said that the documentation requested from the Russian producer had still not arrived, which was a precondition to launch emergency imports.

Meanwhile, the Russian manufacturer has launched the process of registration of the vaccine with the European Medicines Agency and Capak said he believed the process would soon be completed and that Croatia would be able to import the vaccine normally.

As for the Chinese vaccine, not much information is known but the HZJZ today held an online meeting with its producers, Capak said, adding that he would inform the public of the meeting on Monday.

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

Friday, 12 March 2021

Croatian Anti-Epidemic Measures Extended, One Change Coming

March the 12th, 2021 - The Croatian anti-epidemic measures are set to be extended yet again as infection rates begin to look less and less favourable across the country.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, as has become very much the norm over the last pandemic-dominated year, the Croatian National Civil Protection Headquarters/Directorate held its regular press conference today.

Since the current Croatian anti-epidemic measures are due to remain in force until March the 15th, which is now quickly approaching, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said at today´s press conference that the Headquarters will make several more decisions.

"The headquarters will make four national and one local decision on the necessary Croatian anti-epidemic measures in order to limit gatherings and introduce new measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

There second decision is on the change of the public organisation of passenger transport, then the change of the decision on the special introduction of the organisation of work for the trade activity and the decision on the temporary ban on border crossings in the Republic of Croatia. These are horizontal decisions and the application of all these decisions has now been extended until the 31st of March, and they enter into force on the 13th of March (when the current measures are due to expire).

"All decisions remain the same, only one decision changes. The permitted number of people partaking in cultural programmes will be determined through the Croatian Institute of Public Health. It will be possible to increase or indeed decrease that number," he added.

“Detailed protocols of the Croatian anti-epidemic measures will be prescribed through a recommendation from the Croatian Institute of Public Health. The decision of the Headquarters will not be something that now needs to be awaited, but the Croatian Institute of Public Health may choose to tighten up or loosen certain measures depending on the situation at hand.

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Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Croatia Extends Anti-Epidemic Measures After March 15

ZAGREB, 10 March, 2021 - In the last seven days, new coronavirus infections in Croatia rose by 25% compared to the week before that, and the existing anti-epidemic measures will be extended even after 15 March, the country's COVID-19 crisis management team said at a news conference in Zagreb on Wednesday.

The team's chairman, Interior Minister Davor Božinović, said that he hoped that the restrictions would not have to be ramped up.

The numbers are growing, however, there are not any particular hotspots, he added.

Croatia's coronavirus update: 962 new cases, 4 deaths, 334 recoveries

In the past 24 hours there were 7,499 coronavirus tests conducted, and 12.8% of them, that is 962, have returned positive. The death toll linked to COVID-19 has increased by four more fatalities to 5,625.

Currently, there are 3,981 active cases, including 807 hospitalised patients 82 of whom are placed on ventilators.

Since the first registered case of the coronavirus infection in the country on 25 February 2020, more than 1.4 million tests have been conducted, and 248,061 of them have turned out positive. To date, 238,455 people have recovered from this infectious disease.

Weekly rise of 25% ascribed to private gatherings

The head of the Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ), Krunoslav Capak, said that a weekly rise of 25% was mainly due to family and private gatherings.

He added that 429 samples of 1,200 sent from Croatia to the European Centre for Disease Control had to date been sequenced, showing that 123 samples contained the British variant of the novel virus and 115 with the Czech variant. More results are expected next week.

50% of Croatian population may be immune to virus by this summer

A serological research carried out by the HZJZ covering 436 samples of people who caught coronavirus in the second wave of the pandemic has shown that 25% of them, that is one on four, have antibodies, Capak said.

The continuation of inoculation at the predicted rate could enable Croatia to have at least half of its population immune to coronavirus by this summer, according to his estimates.

Health Minister Vili Beroš announced a shipment of another 743,376 doses of COVID vaccines by the end of this month.

He expects the immunisation of one-fifth of the population with the first shot of the two-dose vaccine during this month.

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

Monday, 8 March 2021

Božinović: Difficult to Expect COVID Measures to be Relaxed as of 15 March

ZAGREB, 8 March, 2021 - The head of the national COVID response team, Davor Božinović, said on Monday that it is difficult to expect any further relaxation of measures after 15 March considering that numbers of new coronavirus cases are on the increase.

"At the end of the week we should decide on whether to extend the current measures as they expire on 15 March. It is still too early to say anything definite but considering the increase in numbers, it is difficult to expect any further relaxation of measures as of 15 March. We need to focus on maintaining the current measures so we don't have to go back," said Božinović.

Capak: 16% increase in new infections on the week

There were 94 new cases of coronavirus registered on Monday while 19 people died. The share of positive cases of the 2,178 tests conducted was 4.3%. That share was 8.6% in the past 7 days and 8.1% in the past 14 days. There are 805 hospitalised COVID patients, 74 of whom are on ventilators.

We have 16% more people infected on the week, the head of the Croatian Institute for Public Health, Krunoslav Capak, warned.

Croatia is currently in sixth place with regard to the incidence rate in the EU and 18th with regard to fatalities.

Capak said that an analysis of an immunology study conducted by the Zagreb Infectious Diseases Hospital could result in a new policy in the fight against coronavirus.

Anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 and has been given their first vaccine dose need not receive a second dose, he said.

Capak advised that the situation with the supply of vaccines has stabilised over the past two weeks and that another 62,400 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine is expected in two shipments this week.

Johnson&Johnson's vaccine should be registered by the end of March and the first shipment of 900,000 doses should arrive mid-April.

As far as crossing the border based on a certificate of vaccination is concerned, not one country has introduced that measure as yet.

"There are bilateral talks between countries and we have some bilateral talks too to mutually recognise vaccination certificates," said Capak. 

The look of the certificate, which is used only for medical purposes, has been defined for now while its use for crossing borders is being discussed at the EU level.

Beroš: Massive check points for vaccination test run

Health Minister Vili Beroš said that so far 54,008 people have registered online to be vaccinated and there have also been 4,271 calls in that regard.

"We are witnessing that massive check points for vaccination are a test run for what is to follow in the second and third phases, when more vaccines are expected," said Beroš.

We must not allow this mild increase in new cases to become a trend, he said. "Vaccination is encouraging but it must not be the cause of premature relaxation."

Friday, 5 March 2021

Interior Minister Božinović: More People Attended Bandić Funeral Than Restrictions Allow

ZAGREB, 5 March, 2021 - Many more people than allowed under COVID measures gathered at Zagreb mayor Milan Bandić's funeral and it is up to civil protection inspectors to establish the circumstances and take action, the head of the national COVID response team said on Friday.

Speaking at a press conference, Interior Minister Davor Božinović said the organisation of Wednesday's funeral was in the remit of the city civil protection authority, adding that "perhaps more people (came) than even the city authorities expected."

He said no incidents were reported to the police and that it was up to civil protection inspectors to establish the circumstances and take action if necessary, and if so, to do it "in the shortest time possible."

Asked if revoking the regulation under which only 25 people were allowed at funerals was being considered, Božinović said there were deviations from every restriction, in which case action was taken, including penalties.

He said the Civil Protection Directorate told him that no one had intervened yet to prevent more than 25 people from attending a funeral.

As for restricting the large night gatherings of young people in Zagreb, he said the civil protection, municipal services and the police cooperated in such cases and that a course of action was a matter of tactics.

The message is that people should refrain from such gatherings, which are one way in which coronavirus spreads, Božinović said, adding that bars with outdoor terraces were now open again and they could sit there.

He went on to say that 459 attempts had been made to enter Croatia with a false PCR test, most of them in Vukovar-Srijem County. He said this was punishable with up to three years in prison.

The director of the Croatian Institute of Public Health, Krunoslav Capak, said at the press conference that the rise in new infections was up 15.7% on a weekly basis and that positive tests were also up, today by 10.9%.

Speaking of the Russian COVID vaccine, he said the European Medicines Agency had begun to assess it and that intervention import was still an option for Croatia.

Capak said that persons who received both doses of a COVID vaccine need not self-isolate if they were in contact with an ill person. "As for a Croatian strain, there is no confirmation of it."

Health Minister Vili Beroš said at the press conference that the weekly rise in new infections and the presence of new variants of the virus were a reminder "that the response to the epidemic is far from over."

"We must keep working on increasing vaccine availability and consider the beginning of the assessment of the Russian vaccine. That paves the way for procuring one more vaccine in Croatia," he added.

Beroš said a high vaccination rate could ensure a successful summer tourist season, but added that personal responsibility remained paramount.

To date 46,635 people have registered for vaccination online and 3,596 by calling a toll-free number. Most of them are aged 39-54, so Beroš appealed to older citizens to register too.

Beroš also said that talks with representatives of wholesale drug suppliers would resume next week to see how to settle hospitals' and pharmacies' debts.

He also commented on a statement he made before Bandić's funeral, when he said "the virus is not a champion of the long jump." He said he was talking about a funeral at which COVID restrictions were complied with and that the media later used it in the context of Bandić's funeral. "That statement was not appropriate, but it was about another event."

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Božinović: COVID Response Team Made 300 Epidemiological Decisions

ZAGREB, 25 February, 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Thursday that since the first case of coronavirus was identified in Croatia, the national COVID response team had adopted 300 decisions on epidemiological measures and issued about 41 million pieces of protective and quarantine equipment.

Of the 300 decisions the response team made between 19 March 2020 and 19 February this year, 28 are currently in force and of those 17 are in force at the national level, nine at the regional level and one at the local level, Božinović said while  speaking of the key activities of the response team in the past year.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Božinović said that when the first case of coronavirus was identified in Croatia, for the first time in history all 577 civil protection associations with 4,600 members had been mobilised.

During the most difficult days an additional 14,000 people were engaged on a daily basis as well as 7,000 police officers, he said.

He underlined that about 41 million pieces of protective and quarantine equipment had been issued by the Civil Protection Authority for the purposes of health and social welfare institutions, the Croatian Red Cross and state administration authorities.

"The majority of protective equipment was delivered by 12 ships and nine planes from China while 85% of the funds for this purpose was obtained from the European Union, totalling about €62 million," he explained.

There are currently about 15 million articles of protective equipment or about 600 tonnes stored in the Logistics Centre and regional warehouses.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Minister Bozinovic Talks Next Phase of Measure Relaxions, COVID Passports?

February the 20th, 2021 - Minister Bozinovic has revealed the next point Croatia needs to reach in terms of its epidemiological picture before it can look at relaxing some more measures. He also scooted around the controversial idea of a COVID passport when asked about the summer season.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Krunoslav Capak commented that this is the first time that the number of daily infections recorded is unfortunately higher when compared to what it was the week before.

''As for the 14-day incidence, the highest is in Split-Dalmatia County, and the lowest in Istria County. In the European Union, Croatia is in third place, only Finland and Denmark have a lower incidence than Croatia," Capak said at a press conference of the Civil Protection Headquarters.

In terms of the overall mortality rate, we are in 19th place out of 27 European Union countries, Capak added, noting that Croatia now has 11 confirmed cases of the so-called British strain.

''Something that is new is that the Croatian Institute for Public Health has introduced a screening test for new coronavirus patients and yesterday we tested 17 samples, of which we have 10 suspicions of a new variant, and we sent all of those samples off for confirmation to the ''Dr. Fran Mihaljevic'' Infectious Diseases Clinic. We will then get confirmation whether they are the British strain or not,'' said Capak.

How about the next set of measure relaxations?

''For us, the next point we need to reach is the end of this month and the beginning of next month. We'll certainly continue to make decisions based on reflection and based on models. We must be aware that caution must absolutely continue to be maintained and that the measures must continue to be implemented in a disciplined manner,'' explained Minister Bozinovic.

"This mustn't be a gamble" he added.

Minister Bozinovic also commented on the introduction of COVID passports, which has been a hot topic of debate for many, emphasising that the Croatian Government intends to do absolutely everything in its power to ensure we have a successful tourist season.

"This is a sensitive matter because in Europe it is considered that there should be no discrimination, so we're going to be acting practically. Surely these talks will intensify and we'll see how we can do everything to get tourism started, to record a more successful tourist season than we had last year. We achieved about 50 percent of the results from our record year of 2019, and in that respect we are ahead of all our friends from Europe,'' concluded Minister Bozinovic.

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Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Davor Bozinovic Talks Decisions on Measures Made After February 15th

February the 10th, 2021 - The British variant of the novel coronavirus has now unfortunately been identified in multiple people in Croatia, despite all of the attempts to keep it out. Minister Davor Bozinovic has discussed just how decisions on measures will be made following the 15th of February, 2021.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Davor Bozinovic has openly stated that it was only a matter of time before the new British variant of the novel coronavirus was discovered circulating in Croatia. 

''It was a matter of when and not if when it comes to that variant of the virus. We can already say that this new variant of the virus is now dispersed throughout Croatia. It's important that this new moment is taken seriously. This doesn't mean that there's now a reason for any kind of panic. We must closely monitor the situation in neighbouring and European countries, as well as here in our country.

Many countries have reacted with preventive measures and even tighter lockdowns, which is also conditioned by the dynamics of vaccination, which isn't going as previously planned ", said Davor Bozinovic before stating that today at the meeting between the Croatian Government and the Scientific Council of the Government all of this will be properly taken into account, as will the current forecasts of very low temperatures continuing until the end of the month, which also encourages the spread of respiratory infections of numerous kinds.

Davor Bozinovic also pointed out that we have a situation in which the numbers in Croatia are thankfully not growing, but still falling. He announced that a whole series of meetings would be held by the end of the week in order to make a rational decision on how to continue taking into account both the question of public health and economic activity, and indeed recovery.

''We're going to do our best to make the decision on measures after February the 15th which will be appropriate to the situation we find ourselves in,'' Davor Bozinovic stated.

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Sunday, 31 January 2021

Minister Bozinovic: Cafe Terraces Would be Open if Weather was Warmer

January the 31st, 2021 - Minister Bozinovic has explained that because we're still deep in the cold, damp winter months in which numerous pathogens which can cause respiratory issues are rife, terraces must remain shut, adding that it would be a different story if the weather was different.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, at a recent press conference held by the National Civil Protection Headquarters, Minister Bozinovic touched on the weather conditions of winter and what opening the terraces of catering and hospitality establishments would mean for the country's epidemiological picture, which has become favourable over the last few weeks.

''If it was safe outside for the terraces to be open, then they would be, it's still cold, this still isn't the period in which viruses, including his one, find it more difficult to spread. If our more favourable trends are better by the 15th and if some new variant of the virus doesn't turn up here, and we hope that the situation will be better with the vaccine, then we can talk about correcting things to everyone's satisfaction.

Our goal is to prevent the situation from November and December from happening again, as that was when our healthcare system and capacities were on the verge of not being able to handle the situation,'' said Minister Bozinovic.

The director of the Croatian Institute of Public Health, Krunoslav Capak, also weighed in.

''We have a further mitigated downward trend. Sisak-Moslavina County has the highest numbers, Istria has the lowest. We're in seventh place in the ranking of European Union countries. We're in twentieth place in regard to those EU countries in terms of mortality. In the last week, the average share of positives in Croatia has been 11.2,'' Capak said.

''We received 409 reports of side effects from the Pfizer vaccine and 11 with Moderna. These are mostly local reactions such as headaches,'' he stated.

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