Saturday, 6 March 2021

Croatia's Coronavirus Update: 658 New Cases, 15 Deaths, 482 Recoveries

ZAGREB, 6 March, 2021 - In the last 24 hours, Croatia has conducted 5,838 coronavirus tests, and 658, that is 11.3%, have returned positive, the country's COVID-19 crisis management team reported on Saturday.

In the said period, there have been 15 deaths linked to COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 5,585.

Currently, Croatia has 3,770 active cases, of whom 738 are hospitalised patients, including 72 placed on ventilators.

Since 25 February 2020, when Croatia recorded its first case of infection with coronavirus, 1.38 million persons have been tested and 246,120 have contracted the virus. Of them, 236,765 have recovered, including 482 in the last 24 hours.

There are now 15,312 people self-isolating in the country.

Friday, 5 March 2021

Parliament Passes Amendments Granting Digital Nomads Right to Health Care

ZAGREB, 5 March, 2021 - The Croatian parliament on Friday passed amendments under which digital nomads, that is, third-country nationals who use digital technology for work and have been granted temporary residence in the Republic of Croatia, have the right to health care.

The amendments to the Act on Mandatory Health Insurance and Health Care for Foreigners in the Republic of Croatia enable digital nomads to exercise the right to health care.

This applies to third-country nationals who are employed or doing work using communication technology for a company or their own company which is not registered in the Republic of Croatia and do not carry out work for or provide services to employers in Croatia, and who have been granted temporary residence in our country.

They will not be obliged to apply for compulsory health insurance, but then they will bear the costs of using health care in health insitutions, private practices or other health care providers.

Amendments to the Islands Act, which transpose the government's decree on subsidising water for human consumption per islander, have been sent to second parliamentary reading.

In addition, several agricultural laws, on food control, veterinary medicine, breeding of domestic animals, have been sent to second reading.

The parliament has also adopted several reports for 2019 -- on state budget execution, on the implementation of official development assistance to foreign countries, and on the effects of the implementation of the Islands Act.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Health Minister Beroš: "99 Samples Positive to British, 2 to African, 4 to New York COVID Variants"

ZAGREB, 4 March 2021 - Of 350 COVID samples taken that have been sequenced, 99 are positive to the British, 2 to the African and 4 to the New York variant, Health Minister Vili Beroš said during a cabinet meeting on Thursday.

The Croatian Institute for Public Heath (HZJZ) has sent the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control over the past month 10% of its positive COVID samples for sequencing and so far the results for 350 of about 1,000 samples sent have arrived, explained Beroš.

"In the past two weeks we are again recording an increase in the number of new cases on the week. The number of active cases has increased by 24% on the week. The number of hospitalised patients is still showing a positive trend of a mild decrease, however their number follows the trend of new cases with a certain time delay," underscored Beroš.

A shipment of 318,680 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have arrived in Croatia so far and 242,666 doses have been administered - one dose to 121,330 people and two to 60,668.

A total of 1,210 reports of side effects have been recorded, mostly with mild and transient symptoms.

Božinović: 600 tonnes of coronavirus protective equipment in warehouses

Interior Minister and head of the COVID response team Davor Božinović recalled that the current restrictive measures are in force until 15 March and they include a limited number of people gathering, restrictions at border crossings, special working conditions in stores and in public transport.

He underscored that the logistics centre and regional warehouses currently have 600 tonnes of coronavirus protective equipment available.

He recalled that the border regime was being extended, which means that citizens of countries on the HZJZ special list have to provide a negative PCR test no older than 48 hours to be allowed to enter Croatia and they are obliged to go into 14 days of self-isolation, which can be shortened if another PCR test is conducted on the seventh day at their own cost and it proves to be negative.

Transit passengers are automatically ordered into self-isolation if they don't leave the country within 12 hours.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Croatian PM Plenković: "Government More Than Ready to Procure Sputnik V Vaccine"

ZAGREB, 4 March, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that the government is more than ready to procure the Russian Sputnik V vaccine once it is approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Plenković said that the government had asked the Russian side for additional documentation on the Sputnik V vaccine and underscored that a formal procedure for the EMA to approve it had apparently begun.

"We will do everything bilaterally to see the details. When the Agency approves the vaccine, we are more than ready to procure it," the prime minister said.

It is expected that EMA will approve the Johnson&Johnson vaccine this month which is, he said, another 900,000 doses, to be distributed according to a certain dynamic.

He said that according to current data, more than 242,000 doses had been used in Croatia, and that 121,000 people had received one, while 60,000 had received both doses.

He added that 42,500 people have registered online to be vaccinated and that about 3,000 had called a toll-free line.

Plenković underscored that Croatia still had a relatively good epidemiological situation. According to the weekly incidence rate, we are ranked fourth in the EU in terms of the lowest rate and we have the lowest incidence among Mediterranean countries and the second lowest among Central European countries, he said.

Although we are seeing a growth in recent days, of 26% last week and 20% this week, we were able to allow hospitality establishments to reopen and sport trainings to resume, he added.

Underscoring that that was a step towards a more normal way of life, Plenković called for caution so that the trend of a decreasing number of patients in hospitals, patients on ventilators and deaths could be maintained.

Since there are infection hotspots in some counties, county COVID response teams are implementing stricter measures in agreement with the national COVID-19 crisis management team in order to curb a possible new spread of the epidemic, he said.

As for activities following the 29 December earthquake, the prime minister said that work on completing damage assessment was intensified so that it could be completed and so the government could apply for money from the European Solidarity Fund through the Ministry for Regional Development and EU Funds.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

HALMED Confirms News That EMA Starts Review of Sputnik V

ZAGREB, 4 March, 2021 - Croatia's Agency for Medicinal Products and Medical Services (HALMED) reported on Thursday that the European Union's vaccine watchdog had started a review of the Russian-made Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine.

HALMED recalls that Sputnik V jab was developed by the Russian Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said in a statement on Thursday that the rolling review is based on results from laboratory studies and clinical studies in adults.

The Russian vaccine has been deployed in 40 countries worldwide, including European nations Serbia, Montenegro, Moldova, and Hungary. Slovakia received its first shipment of 200,000 doses over the weekend, the Euronews said on its website.

The EMA has so far approved three vaccines for use across the bloc. These were developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca/Oxford University, and Moderna. It is currently evaluating the jab by Johnson & Johnson and is expected to give its approval in mid-March.

On Wednesday, Croatian Health Minister Vili Beroš said he had held talks with a Russian delegation on Tuesday on Sputnik V vaccines.

He said that during the meeting he had called for expediting the delivery of documentation on the Russian COVID-19 vaccine so that Croatia's HALMED regulator could evaluate the vaccine's safety and efficiency.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Croatia's Coronavirus Update: 667 New Cases, 9 Deaths, 422 Recoveries

ZAGREB, 4 March, 2021 - In the last 24 hours, Croatia has conducted 6,965 coronavirus tests, and 667, that is 9.58%, have returned positive, the country's COVID-19 crisis management team reported on Thursday.

In the said period, there have been nine deaths linked to COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 5,564.

Currently, Croatia has 3,558 active cases, of whom 740 are hospitalised patients, including 69 COVID patients placed on ventilators.

Since 25 February 2020, when Croatia recorded its first case of infection with coronavirus, 1,368,448 tests have been performed, showing that 244,872 people have contracted the virus. Of them, 235,750 have recovered, including 422 in the last 24 hours.

There are now 14,456 people self-isolating in the country.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

GLAS: "People Again Do Not Know Whether Medicines They Need Will Be Available or Not"

ZAGREB, 3 March, 2021 - The Civic Liberal Alliance (GLAS) party said on Wednesday Health Minister Vili Beroš and the government have once again put people in a situation where they do not know whether the medicines they need will be available or not, and the hospitals will again have to pay millions in court and debt enforcement costs.

"Debts for the goods delivered are not being repaid for more than 365 days, which is six times longer than allowed by law, and have now reached HRK 6 million. Even more tragically, the drug wholesalers must pay their dues to the state - taxes and contributions - in time," the party said in a statement.

Commenting on this situation, Minister Beroš, as usual, denied the amount of the debt and shifted the blame onto the citizens, claiming that they were not paying enough while using health services too much, GLAS said.

It recalled that the citizens contribute HRK 30 billion to the healthcare system annually, with the insurance policy holder with an average monthly wage paying HRK 1,600 monthly towards health insurance. For that money the citizens have the right to expect at least the minimum health service and they certainly do not need anyone to criticise them for contributing too little, the party said.

GLAS called on the health minister to thoroughly analyse the healthcare system and present the structure of costs to the public to see where the vast sums of money were going.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Health Minister Beroš: "By This Morning 36,013 People Registered to be Vaccinated"

ZAGREB, 3 March 2021 - By this morning 36,013 people have registered online to be vaccinated, which indicates that citizens have recognised that vaccination is an unavoidable step in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic, Health Minister Vili Beroš said on Wednesday.

More than 50% of those who registered for vaccination were from Zagreb, followed by Split-Dalmatia and Primorje-Gorski Kotar counties. There were also 948 phone calls by people interested in getting vaccinated, Beroš told a regular press conference by the national COVID response team.

The head of the Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ) Krunoslav Capak underscored that in the first three days of this week there were 11.7% more new cases of coronavirus compared to the same period last week.

The share of positive cases among those tested is 10.2% while in the past seven days that was 7.9% and in the past 14 days that share was 7.2%.

Croatia ranks 3rd in the European Union with regard to the incidence rate, with Germany and Denmark recording lower incidence rates while the Czech Republic has the highest rate.

The HALMED medicines agency has received 1,186 reports of side effects - 891 to the Pfizer vaccine, 222 to AstraZeneca and 71 to the Moderna vaccine.

Asked why fairs are not allowed, Capak said that that was being considered and added that it was not the same to have a farmers' market fair in downtown Zagreb and the usual village fairs where pigs are roasted on the spit and the festivities continue until late into the night.

The head of the response team, Interior Minister Davor Božinović, said that measures were being relaxed gradually. He added that the measure to limit the number of people at funerals to 25 had brought about results.

There are some deviations and we are trying to respond to that in situations of funerals or some other organised event. Anyone organising such an event needs to do everything they can to keep it under control, said Božinović.

He added that as far as spontaneous gatherings like those in Zagreb are concerned, he recalled that a decision was adopted yesterday which is not repressive but rather preventative and that messages are being sent that large gatherings are not a good idea.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Croatian Health Officials: "There Won't Be Drug Shortages"

ZAGREB, 3 March 2021- The State Secretary at the Health Ministry, Željko Plazonić, said in the parliament on Wednesday that there would be no drug shortages and that citizens would be able to obtain the necessary drugs. 

Plazonić made the statement in response to a statement by MP Davor Nađi of the Fokus party, who, during a debate on changes to the Health Insurance Act, warned about the debts to drug wholesalers and uncertain supply.

Of all EU countries Croatia has the largest number of particularly expensive drugs for the treatment of malignant diseases whose cost is covered by mandatory health insurance, Plazonić said.

Health protection for digital nomads?

As for amendments to the Health Protection Act, which will ensure the right to health protection for digital nomads with temporary residence in Croatia, some opposition parties wondered if this would contribute to an increase in the health system's debts given that digital nomads would have access to cheap medical services under unclear criteria.

"Thousands of citizens have to wait for specialist examinations and we are now providing cheap insurance and medical services to foreigners who say that they are digital nomads," said Hrvoje Zekanović of the Croatian Sovereignists.

Marija Selak Raspudić of the Bridge party said that Croatia was copying Estonia, one of the pioneers of citizens' electronic status, without having a clear plan on how to regulate the status of digital nomads.

"How comprehensive is that approach, how much will digital nomads profit from it and how much will Croatia's economy profit?" she asked.


Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Croatia's Food 2nd Most Expensive in EU by Wage: Health Implications?

January 13, 2021 – Only in Romania are they so poor that they spend more of their income on food than here. In a country famous for its premium produce, what is the price on the health when Croatia's food is so incredibly expensive?

Croatia's food is the second most expensive in Europe when judged next to average household income. Only in Romania do people spend a larger percentage of their monthly wage on food and non-alcoholic drinks. In the EU, the average household spends on food takes up 7% of their earnings. In Croatia, it is almost double that amount – 13%. That the average monthly wage in Croatia is a third lower than the EU average accounts for some of this disparity. Though the other reason is simply that Croatia's food is really, really expensive.

“I couldn't believe it when I saw the prices of food after I got to England,” Split-based nutritionist Iva Tokić tells TCN. Having studied for her Bachelor's degree in nutrition at the University in Split, she transferred to Oxford Brookes University in England where she earned her Master's degree in the subject. “I expected food to be much more expensive, because life, in general, is so much more expensive in the UK than it is here. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the prices of the UK's food are almost exactly the same as Croatia's food, except that in England some things like avocado, salmon (losos) and smoked salmon is so much cheaper than it is in Croatia. Insane!”

IvaTotic.jpgIva Tokić, who has her own independent practice as a nutritionist and works as a nutritional educator and consultant for other polyclinics and sports professionals back in her hometown of Split. She has a Master's degree in nutrition

Food shopping in the UK is a very different experience to that in Croatia. You would struggle to understand fully just how different it is unless you'd actually done both. There simply isn't enough farmland in the UK to feed all of its inhabitants. Most food is imported. Where in Croatia, you can still experience the authentic experience of eating a varied diet based on the seasons, in the UK that simply doesn't exist. Everything is in season somewhere in the world. And that's where they'll take it from. Everything is available. All of the time.

What the UK loses in this set-up - seasonal eating and the varied diet this creates – it makes up for with the offer available and price. Food and flavours from all over the world can be bought in any of the competing supermarkets. International cuisine is incredibly popular. And, just as the supermarkets compete to lower prices, so do producers – it isn't only salmon and avocado that is cheaper in the UK.

The lamb produced in the lush, green hills of Wales or on the moors of northern England and southern Scotland is comparable in extremely high quality to the very best you could buy from Pag or anywhere else in Croatia. Except in the UK, the animals' diets are unrestricted – the lambs grow much bigger. Though much of this premium product is exported (British lamb is a highly prized delicacy across much of western Europe, particularly France), a lot of it is still sold in the UK. Its price is kept down by huge amounts of imported New Zealand lamb which competes against the domestic lamb in price. In Croatia, lamb is an expensive treat – in the UK, it's an everyday meat. And it is much cheaper than it is in Croatia.

abstract-1238657_1920.jpgAlthough the lamb meat produced in the UK is of comparable quality to that produced in Croatia, the meats form a very different part of the diet in the two countries. In Croatia, lamb is an expensive treat. In the UK, lamb is much cheaper and viewed as an everyday meal

Within this one example we can sharply see the disparity between the premium food produced in Croatia and the general diet of the everyday citizen. Croatia is now known well for its cuisine and produce. TCN was pleased to report over recent weeks the success of food and agricultural exports from Croatia. However, the finest prsut, olive oil, seabass (brancin), bream (orada) and red wine for which Croatia is famous do not make up standard everyday Croatian meal. These luxuries are often exported. Pasteta (meat paste) on bread and cheap wine made palatable with cola are more likely to be the elements of Croatia's food found in any student kitchen in the country.

mlinar-pekara-interijer_l.jpgThe pekara (bakery) is a fast, inexpensive and very popular choice for both breakfast and lunch in Croatia, but is it the healthiest thing to eat every day? © Mlinar

“We really don't eat enough fish. It's so disappointing because we live right next to the sea!” says Iva, who now works in her own independent practice, and as a nutritional educator and consultant back in her hometown of Split. “But, we don't eat enough of it because it's way too expensive for a lot of us to eat regularly. We also don't eat enough vegetables and fruit. We eat meat. We eat a lot of meat. We eat a lot of pekara (bakery) too. It's often the cheapest and the most convenient. If you want to save money and grab something fast, get breakfast in pekara. Students and older people in particular, they all eat in pekara. That's not good because that food is high in trans fatty acids and saturated fats. Saturated fats are a problem because it's a big cause of cardiovascular disease. Too much meat and pekara, not enough fish, fruit and vegetables – those are definitely the biggest problems with the Croatian diet.”

seafood-3248701_1920.jpg"Per capita consumption of fish and seafood in Croatia is estimated at 8 kg. Total consumption of fish and fish products per capita is significantly lower than in other Mediterranean countries. Fish is consumed mostly at home, traditionally once a week (on Friday) and during some holidays. The consumption of fish is higher in coastal areas than inland. Most fish is sold at traditional fish markets where the availability and freshness of fish products is considered very good. Only 3% of Croatia’s population eat fish every day, with the average person spending just 840 kuna (110 euros) a year on fish. In Croatia the most popular fish eaten are the cheaper varieties such as sardines and anchovies, followed by hake, mackerel and bonito. Croatia exports a big part of its quality fresh fish from the Adriatic, such as scampi and red mullet, whilst restaurants along the coast will often serve farmed fish or cheaper imported varieties." December 2016 Flanders investment and trade market survey of the Croatian Fishing sector, undertaken by the Trade Office of the Embassy of Belgium

The problems of the diet created by Croatia's food habits have been observed for quite some time. And, according to the 2020 Global Nutrition Report, they are not getting better. Another report, one on childhood obesity published in just 2018 by the Croatian Institute of Public Health, stated that “every third child, i.e. 34.9% is overweight or obese. There are more overweight (21.5%) than obese (17.2%) boys. 67.3% of girls have a normal body mass index, 20.3% are overweight and 10.7% obese.” These figures are not improving, despite physical education being mandatory in Croatian schools.

“Everyone that comes to see me, everyone that seeks the help of a nutritionist, they all have high cholesterol levels, history of heart disease or they are obese,” says Iva. “The last one is becoming more of a problem. One third of children in Croatia are now obese. It's really quite pronounced. If you look at the statistics, obesity has actually been decreasing over recent years in developed countries. But, in Croatia, it is increasing.”

“Here, you can see the difference clearly between the UK and Croatia. In the UK, obesity was recognised as an issue and you can see the response throughout society. In the UK, you have taxes on sugary drinks. We don't have that here. The price of fruit and vegetables in the UK has actually been decreasing in recent years compared to average income. Here, it has only increased. At the supermarket checkout in the UK, it is now forbidden to have those tempting large racks advertising chocolates. From this year, that marketing is banned there, in the same way that advertising tobacco products is banned. Everything from the politics and the law to the school system is engaged in addressing the issue. We are not so much a developed country like the UK, so there is little promotion of physical activity here and no wider engagement of the issue. In the UK you even see signs suggesting “Why not takes the stairs instead of the elevator?” There's an effort to make everyone in society conscious of the issue.”

For a country famous for its international sports stars and the beach bodies that visitors see on the coast every summer, who would have thought that beneath the surface, Croatia's food and exercise habits were creating such a problem for the population? However, while a lack of exercise can be attributed to poor education and motivation, it is clear that economics has a significant impact on Croatia's food intake. In many cases, the poorer you are, the poorer you eat.

Slavoniagarden.jpgWhile eastern Croatia contains some of the country's economically weakest areas, many residents of Slavonia have land beside their houses where they grow vegetables, fruits and nuts. Despite this, they are still over-reliant on pork meat © Croatian National Tourist Board

“In the more rural parts of our country, they eat much more seasonal fruits and vegetables,” says Iva. “They eat more vegetables in general – they grow it themselves and eat what they grow. Although, in many rural areas, there is still an over-reliance on meat. Especially the cheapest meat – pork.”

A 2008 study called Regional Differences in Dietary Habits of Adult Croatian Population conducted by researchers at the Andrija Stampar School of Public Health, School of Medicine, University of Zagreb concluded that the people in the poorest areas of Croatia had the poorest diets. Those regions were central Croatia and eastern Croatia (Slavonia).

Screenshot (114).pngCroatia's food. A map showing the unhealthiest Croatian diets by region, produced for a study undertaken by researchers from the Andrija Stampar School of Public Health, School of Medicine, University of Zagreb. People who live in the poorest regions - central and eastern Croatia - have the least healthy diets. The diet of those who live in Zagreb, which has the country's highest wages, is very good

In these regions of higher unemployment and lower opportunities, people relied more heavily on a diet of red meat, preserved meats and smoked meats than anywhere else in the country. They also used more butter, pork lard and other kinds of animal fat in food preparation and more salt. While tradition and geographical location do play a part in forming these menus, it is incredibly naive to think that economics is not the key factor – there are river fish available all over Slavonia. This is not simply a question of a healthy Mediterranean diet in comparison to an unhealthy continental one – the City of Zagreb was shown in the study to consume an incredibly healthy diet of Croatia's food. The reason? It may be continental, but it has the highest wages in the country.

cevap.jpgThe Croatian diet is heavily reliant on unhealthy pork meat. Unless you go to a specialist or high-quality outlet, you will find cheap pork meat in almost every mixed/minced meat dish - in cevapi, in lasagne, in bakery snacks, in beefburgers and cheeseburgers (yes, really, they put pork their burgers - sometimes you can even find cheap chicken meat mixed into Croatian burgers. True story) and even in the mixed kebab meat. They preserve pork as the highly prized prsut/prosciutto, in sausages like kobasica and kulen, eat the pig's blood in a sausage called krvavica and fry the pig rind to make a crunchy but hardly healthy snack called cvarci. Croatia also has the best bacon in the world.

“Sometimes the most difficult obstacle to good health facing those here who really need to change their diet is the cost of Croatia's food,” agrees Iva. “It's easy to say “you must eat more fish, fruit and vegetables”, but it's not always easy to do. Many people simply can't afford it. So, what I try to do in those cases is to look for the cheapest foods available which are still the right options. For example, sardines here are really not so expensive. They are high in Vitamin D and Omega 3, which is very important for cardiovascular health. I also recommend eggs, which are high in Omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin D. I recommend changing to milk and cheese which have a lower fat content. You can find good food which is not that expensive. You might have to search, but you can find it. I recommend people to go and see what is in the discount section. There are lots of us looking to address these problems. On the Instagram page of each week they advertise what foods are on discount in every Croatian supermarket. That's a really useful resource. It's also great to grow something of your own. You don't need a huge Slavonian back garden to do it – you can even grow some things just on your balcony.”

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