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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Monday, 25 January 2021

Božinović: There Will Be No Major Relaxation of Epidemiological Restrictions

ZAGREB, 25 January, 2021 - The national COVID-19 response team is considering the relaxation of the ban on gatherings as of February 1 but there will be no major relaxing of epidemiological restrictions, the team's head, Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović said on Monday, ahead of the adoption of a new set of measures.

"There will be no complete lockdown in Croatia as in some other European countries but there won't be any major relaxation of the restrictions either. We need time to see what happens with the new virus strains," Božinović said.

The current restrictions are in force until the end of this week and before they expire, a new set of measures will be made known, with three restrictions regarding commerce, borders and public transportation likely to be extended, while the relaxation of the ban on gatherings is being discussed the most.

"In the current situation, there is not much room for a strategy of major relaxation of the restrictions. The worst thing would be to open something suddenly and then to have to close it down again," he said, noting that statistics on the number of new infections were better and better but that those number were not insignificant.

Future decisions will be impacted by the spread of the new virus strains which have already appeared in Croatia's neigbourhood, by the slowing down of the vaccination process and the fact that we are still in the winter period, he added.

As for plans by cafe and restaurants owners to stage a protest against anti-epidemic measures, Božinović said that protests were a democratic instrument but that he did not know against whom and what they would protest as restrictions had not been introduced with the intention of making someone's life harder.

"We all hope that as the number of new infections declines and vaccination proceeds some kind of normal life will be restored but it is clear that it won't happen tomorrow," he said.

Markotić: We can't be sure mutated viruses are not already in Croatia

The head of Zagreb's Dr Fran Mihaljević hospital for infectious diseases, Alemka Markotić, said that the situation regarding virus mutation was being seriously followed and that one could not be absolutely sure that the mutated viruses had not already appeared in Croatia.

"There are for the time being no hotspots with an extreme increase in the number of new infections, which is an indirect indicator that the mutated virus, even if it has arrived in Croatia, is not replicating significantly. There will be more mutations in the future but they need not necessarily be bad for humans. Mutations more often harm the virus than they increase its contagiousness. The situation will be followed," said Markotić, noting that existing PCR tests can detect the British virus strain.

Capak: Croatia will not engage in bilateral talks with vaccine producers

Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ) head Krunoslav Capak said that Croatia was registering a 20% decrease in the number of new infections in the last seven days compared to the week before.

A total of 69,984 persons have been vaccinated and 11,907 have been revaccinated, he said.

For those who need a second shot, vaccination will be postponed for a week due to lack of the vaccine but that will not affect the quality of vaccination or immunity as the second shot can be received up to 42 days after the first one, he said.

He noted that Croatia did not plan to hold bilateral talks with vaccine producers as a common approach had been agreed at EU level but stressed that in the next four weeks Croatia would obtain 14 fewer boxes of the vaccine or 13,650 fewer doses.

Moderna should deliver 4,800 doses on Sunday, and in early February 10,800 doses should arrive for which there is no information that they could be delayed, Capak said.

"AstraZeneca has been instructed by the European Commission today to respect the deadlines and the agreed quantities better, so we hope that after today's videoconference we will receive good news. The first delivery should be in mid-February, of 44,000 doses," he said.

"We are thinking about what to do if small deliveries continue but we believe that larger quantities will arrive. Much of the effort is now directed at making the pharmaceutical industry change the drastic reduction in vaccine deliveries for all EU countries," he said.

So far 284 suspected side-effects have been reported for the Pfizer vaccine, including 16 allergic reactions requiring administration of drugs and two requiring administration of adrenaline.

There have been 10 reports of side-effects for the Moderna vaccine, and the side-effects have all been mild.

The current 14-day incidence in Croatia is 216 new infections per 100,000 people. It is the highest in Sisak-Moslavina County, with 385.6 cases and the lowest in Istria, with 92.9 new infections per 100,000 people.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Božinović: Figures Are Good But We Don't Want to Risk Third Wave of Epidemic

ZAGREB, 18 January, 2021 - The head of the national COVID-19 crisis management  team, Davor Božinović, said on Monday that the despite the fact that the current epidemiological situation was good, they did not want to risk a third wave occurring and that the impact of each measure on the decrease of infections would be assessed.

He stressed he could not specify whether the current measures would be relaxed after 31 January, but until then each existing measure would be evaluated.

Commenting on claims about the introduction of vaccination certificates which could enable citizens to travel, Božinović said there were no formal discussions on them.

"We are currently not considering those options," he said, adding that some countries are thinking about it.

"If there is a joint approach at the EU level, we are going to actively join those talks. At the moment, the quantities of vaccine in the EU and Croatia, and more or less in the entire world, are too small for such decisions to be made. At this moment I think it is too soon," Božinović said.

Capak: 29% fewer new infections compared to previous week

The head of the Croatian Public Health Institute, Krunoslav Capak, said that from 12 to 18 January there had been 29% fewer new infections than in the preceding week, from 5 to 11 January.

The 14-day incidence of 288.9 new cases places Croatia in the 7th place of countries with lowest incidence in the European Union. However, the mortality rate remains high, with Croatia ranking 8th among the EU countries with the highest mortality rate.

Capak said that a new tranche of 17,550 doses of the Pfizer vaccine had been delivered to Croatia today. Part of it will be used to administer the second shot to people who have been vaccinated.

He said that 122 suspected side effects had been reported to date, most of which had been mild side effects but there had also been several more severe allergic reactions.

Capak announced that the next tranche of Moderna's vaccine would be delivered on 25 January - 4,800 doses. He did not agree with reporters' claims that the delivery in the EU was slower than in countries who had negotiated with manufacturers by themselves.

"I hope we will receive sufficient quantities of the vaccine to vaccinate all those interested in our population, which is most important," Capak said.

Capak confirmed claims that Pfizer was reducing the delivery of vaccine doses but that the reason for that was the reconstruction of the vaccine production plant, the goal of which was to increase production and reach the agreed vaccine quotas.

As for Croatia, there is no official confirmation that the delivery of the vaccine will be reduced, he said, adding that as of 15 February the deliveries will be significantly increased.

Markotić: We must remain prudent to avoid third wave of epidemic

The head of the Zagreb Dr Fran Mihaljević Infectious Diseases Hospital, Alemka Markotić, said that the lower number of new infections was reducing the pressure on the hospital system, and that the number of discharged patients had been exceeding the number of admitted patients in recent days.

She underscored that despite that one must not ignore the situation in Europe.

"Some countries are registering a spike that occurred in a short period of time, probably due to the mutated version of the virus," Markotić said, adding that one must be careful to avoid a third wave of the epidemic.

She said that a decision to close the Arena sports hall in Zagreb as a tertiary centre for coronavirus patients had not been made yet, although it was being considered.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Civil Protection Headquarters: No Easing Measures in Croatia

January 5, 2021 – National Civil Protection Headquarters members presented the news related to coronavirus in Croatia at today's press conference.

In the last 24 hours, 1071 new cases were recorded, and the number of active cases in Croatia today is 5908. Fifty-three people died, of which one 36-year-old who had asthma and obesity. There are currently 17,448 people in self-isolation.

The Croatian Institute of Public Health director, Krunoslav Capak, said that in a week, we have 23 percent positive cases from those tested, and Slovenia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Poland are worse than us.

According to last night's data, 13,798 people were vaccinated, of which 443 were in Sisak-Moslavina County. A total of 1,040 people were vaccinated in Sisak.

No relaxating measures yet

As Index reports, Interior Minister Davor Božinović said that at this point, our numbers are slightly better. However, analyzing our situation and beyond in Europe, Croatia sees something that is already called the third wave of the epidemic.

"Many countries are entering a new lockdown, and we will closely monitor all trends to avoid similar developments in Croatia. We take seriously the experience of easing measures in Europe and the emergence of a new strain of coronavirus discovered in an increasing number of countries. It may appear in Croatia sooner or later," said Božinović.

Alemka Markotić, the Director of the Clinic for Infectious Diseases "Dr. Fran Mihaljević" in Zagreb, said they had not found any associated mutations so far.

"Some samples are still being tested. It is the work of several teams. The analyzes are comprehensive, so we would not like to fly out with half-information. As soon as we get all the necessary information, we will go public with it," said Markotić about the new strain of coronavirus.

Božinović added that they need to pay attention to the effects of earthquakes, Christmas, and the New Year. In that context, they have not yet made a decision, but there are no thoughts about any relaxation of measures yet.

As for local headquarters, Božinović says it is not an option for them to propose easing measures. Passes were revoked due to the known circumstances related to the earthquake, and the Headquarters are not considering reintroducing them.

Vaccination in front of the camera

Today, the National Civil Protection Headquarters members Davor Božinović, Alemka Markotić, and Krunoslav Capak were vaccinated in front of the camera, but not Health Minister Vili Beroš. As he says, he will be vaccinated when his acquired natural immunity drops. Namely, the Health Minister recently overcame the coronavirus himself.

"I was in doubt about what to do myself, and after consulting with the profession, I support vaccination. I will get vaccinated when my acquired natural immunity drops. Seeking extra protection when there is not enough vaccination is not considered ethical, "said Beroš.

As he said, he is not the only one who got over the coronavirus. There are 214,000 people who did. All of them who overcame the disease three to six months ago should not be vaccinated at this time, but when their acquired immunity is degraded.

Beroš also stated that an 82-year-old woman from a nursing home in Čakovec died of a heart attack one day after being vaccinated from coronavirus. Her death has nothing to do with vaccination, the Minister explained. Following the law, the entire event was reported to the Agency for Medicinal Products and Medical Devices HALMED.

"A thousand people die in Croatia every week. When you vaccinate older people because you are trying to protect them from coronavirus, which is very deadly for them, of course, some of them will die. Just before my arrival here, I received information that 13 people died in Europe, and it was proven that it was not related to the vaccine," said Capak.

He added the second phase of vaccination will begin in the second half of January. Minister Božinović emphasized once again that there was still no indication of easing the measures

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