Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Remaining Mine-Infested Areas to be Cleared of Mines By Mid-2026

ZAGREB, 25 May, 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Tuesday that until the spring of 2026 the remaining 250 square kilometres of land believed to be infested with landmines left over from the 1991-1995 Homeland War would be cleared of those explosive devices.

Božinović commented on the plan for a mine-free Croatia at a ceremony in the town of Josipdol, where he presented a HRK 241 million project, Karlovac KARST, for the removal of mines from forests in the areas of Karlovac and Josipdol.

The implementation of the project will create prospects for job creation in the region, he added.

Karlovac County Prefect Martina Furdek Hajdin said that HRK 188 million had been absorbed from the European Union for the Karlovac KARST project.

In the next few years, 17.1 square metres of forest land in Tounj, Josipdol, Plaški, Saborsko and Rakovica will be cleared of landmines, she added.

The county prefect added that Karlovac County had already tapped HRK 29 million from the EU funds to remove landmines from 3.8 square-metre-large farmland.

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

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Health Minister Vili Beroš Says 230,000 Vaccine Doses to Arrive Weekly As of May

ZAGREB, 22 April, 2021 - Health Minister Vili Beroš said at a government session on Thursday that as of 1 May, 230,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines would be arriving in Croatia on a weekly basis, calling on citizens to register for vaccination.

"The pressure on hospitals has been growing, notably by younger patients. The number of hospitalisations and patients on ventilators continues to grow. The average age of hospitalised patients is 66.7, 15% are people under the age of 50, 15% are people aged 50-59 while the rest are people above 60," said Beroš.

Third vaccination phase to start soon

The minister noted that the arrival of a larger quantity of vaccines during May and June would facilitate the process of vaccination.

Public health institutes have been instructed to include in the vaccination process all health institutions and private medical workers in the public health service network, and to organise, along with vaccination in family medicine offices, mobile vaccination teams and a sufficient number of vaccination points as well as to use civil protection, army and other resources in the process.

The vaccination plan for priority groups will be finished next week and the third phase of vaccination will begin, Beroš said.

So far, 902,670 vaccine doses have arrived in Croatia and 80% of them have been administered. A vaccination rate of above the average 14.2% has been achieved in age groups above 60, he said.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković called on elderly people to register for vaccination, saying that a half of the country's adult population should be vaccinated by June 30.

"There will be enough vaccines, I call on all citizens to call their family doctors, register on the vaccination platform so that we can contribute together to health security," Plenković said.

"As many as 77% of people who have died of COVID-19 in Croatia since the start of the pandemic were aged above 70 and 93% were people older than 60. We call on all citizens who are above the age of 60, 70 to register for vaccination," the PM said.

The head of the national coronavirus crisis management team, Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović, said that there had been no changes to epidemiological restrictions at the national level, that existing restrictions had been extended, as had been most of those introduced by local crisis management teams.

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

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Court Grants Constitutional Complaint by Killed Migrant Girl's Family - Večernji List Daily

ZAGREB, 21 April, 2021 - A constitutional complaint by the parents and eight siblings of Afghan migrant girl Madine Hosseini, who died in 2017 after she fell under a train near the Croatian-Serbian border, regarding their application for protection in Croatia, has been granted, Večernji List daily said on Wednesday.

The Constitutional Court established that the Ministry of the Interior (MUP) and administrative courts did not establish with sufficient certainty that Serbia was a safe third country and that asylum seekers would not be at risk of being returned to their country of origin.

A complaint filed by the second wife of Madine's father and children has also been granted, so decisions of the High Administrative Court were quashed for a total of four adults and ten children aged one to 15 from Afghanistan and the case was returned to the Administrative Court in Osijek. All of them were represented by lawyer Sanja Bezbradica Jelavić.

After Madeine's death they were returned to Serbia, but in 2018 they re-entered Croatia and applied for international protection. The father and husband who filed the constitutional complaint said that the Taliban had threatened him because he had worked as a police officer and driver for the US military in Afghanistan, so in fear of them, since he had been wounded in one attack, he managed to flee with his family.

After they illegally entered Croatia, MUP rejected their asylum request by applying the safe third country institute. The explanation was that the Serbian constitution guaranteed fundamental human and minority rights.

Administrative courts also confirmed that Serbia's legal framework guaranteed an efficient and fair procedure of international protection, even from chain refoulement. The fact that they had not been exposed to inhumane or similar treatment in the year and a half they stayed in Serbia was also taken in to account.

However, the lawyer said that the evaluation of Serbia as a safe third country had not taken into account the fact that over the past 10 years refugee statuse had been granted to only 47 persons and subsidiary protection to 62, which was negligible in relation to the number of refugees.

The constitutional judges too ruled that it was not enough to examine the legal framework for asylum seekers but also the real situation, Večernji List said.

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

 

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Croatia to Extend Current Epidemiological Restrictions

ZAGREB, 15 April, 2021 - The head of the national COVID response team, Interior Minister Davor Božinović, said on Thursday that the epidemiological measures in force until midnight tonight would be extended, underscoring that the restrictions would not be tightened at the national level, but as necessary from county to county.

Speaking to the press after a meeting of the government's Scientific Advisory Council, Božinović said that meeting mostly focused on the current situation with the spread of coronavirus.

County response teams, he added, will adopt stricter measures depending on the epidemiological situation which at the moment will not be ramped up at the national level.

He said that the situation varies from county to county, adding that currently Primorje-Gorski Kotar has the strictest measures.

Vaccines no longer doubtful in Croatia 

Božinović announced that an additional 50 million doses of vaccines were arriving in the EU in the second quarter and he expressed hope that the number of doses for Croatia would not be brought into question.

He added that the experts had different opinions regarding school lessons but there is no reason now to change the decision for schools to go online as the number of those infected is not falling but actually increasing.

Asked what number would be required to ramp up restrictions according to the experts, Božinović said that some countries that introduced so-called traffic lights had tied their own hands in some situations.

"We are referring to trends here. We are monitoring the situation on a daily basis and applying measures on a county to county basis. I think that we won't refrain from that approach as it has shown to be correct so far," he underscored.

Croatia has not registered the experiences with AstraZeneca's vaccination like in other countries

As far as mistrust towards the AstraZeneca vaccine is concerned, Božinović said that reports by the HALMED medical agency and the Croatian Institute for Public Health "have not had any experiences that are being referred to in other countries."

However, it will be necessary to improve the trust in that vaccine through communication with the public, recalling that government members, including the Prime Minister, were inoculated with that vaccine.

"It is important for the overall public to realise that the pandemic has affected all four corners of the earth and that we will come out of this situation when an adequate solution is applied in all the countries affected by COVID," Božinović underlined, adding that it was important for the vaccine to be available everywhere.

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

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

New Coronavirus Restrictions to be in Force Until 15 April

ZAGREB, 31 March, 2021 - The national coronavirus crisis management team on Wednesday announced new epidemiological restrictions to be in force until 15 April, including a ban on indoor training, restrictions on the work of children playrooms and a temporary ban and restriction of cross-border travel.

The ban on indoor training does not apply to top competitions and athletes.

Certificates of vaccination with Russian, Chinese vaccines valid

Croatian border authorities will accept fast antigen tests as well as certificates about vaccination with the Russian and Chinese vaccines, and certificates proving their holders' recovery from COVID-19 and those certificates will be considered valid for 180 days, the team's head, Davor Božinović, said.

Border crossing has been regulated due to tourist visits, the exception being digital nomads and children.

"Considering restrictions in neighbouring countries, we do not expect a large number of arrivals," said Božinović.

He noted that the tighter restrictions were being introduced following a proposal to that effect by county COVID-19 response teams.

Apart from nationwide restrictions, the national team also made decisions on restrictions for Šibenik-Knin and Split-Dalmatia counties.

In Split-Dalmatia County, which has seen a big increase in new infections, the mandatory wearing of face masks at outdoor venues with an increased flow of people will be introduced, as will a ban on the sale of alcohol from 8pm to 6am. The work of cafes will be restricted until 8pm, and it will be possible to serve food and drinks only in the open. Foreign language schools will switch to online classes again.

Božinović said that restrictions could be additionally tightened since the epidemiological situation was not good.

Restrictions to be tightened if number of infections continues to grow

"We have a significant increase today and we cannot ignore the possibility of the scenario in neighbouring countries happening here as well. These restrictions will be in force for a few days but should statistics be worrying, we will introduce new measures," said Božinović.

The latest restrictions go into force on Thursday and will be in force until 15 April.

In the last 24 hours, 2,623 new coronavirus cases and 19 COVID-related deaths have been registered in Croatia, the national coronavirus response team said earlier in the day.

The number of active cases now stands at 11,306. Among them are 1,337 people receiving hospital treatment, of whom 144 are placed on ventilators.

Croatian Public Health Institute head Krunoslav Capak warned that today the number of new infections was 47% higher than last week.

Istria County has the lowest incidence, while Primorje-Gorski Kotar County has the highest. Croatia is currently 18th in the EU in terms of the number of deaths per one million inhabitants, while in terms of the 14-day incidence it is 12th.

Speaking about the start of the third phase of vaccination, Capak said that care would be taken of the order in which people had registered for vaccination at the cijepi.se online platform.

"All people older than 16 can be inoculated in the third phase, but a certain priority will be given to people in services in which they come into contact with a large number of people," he said, adding that the third phase could start in May.

He noted that cases of infection with coronavirus after vaccination had been reported. "We have about 20 such cases. Forty-four people in aged care homes got infected after receiving the first dose and 22 got infected after the second dose, but the symptoms were mild."

Commenting on an announcement by the Zagreb COVID-19 response team about the wearing of face masks outdoors, Capak said: "If you are outdoors and alone, there is no need to wear a mask."

"Outdoor mask wearing refers to places where there are a lot of people, in the farmers' market, on the waterfront," he said, noting that the recommendation to wear a mask outdoors had been in force so far for places where physical distancing was not possible.

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

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

New Coronavirus Infections Up 46% Week on Week

ZAGREB, 17 March, 2021 - The number of new coronavirus infections in Croatia is up by 46% from last week and among the 12 COVID fatalities in the past 24 hours is a 12-year-old girl who had multiple comorbidities, the national COVID-19 response team said on Wednesday.

"In the three days of this week, we had 2,265 new cases, while in the first three days of last week, we had 1,547. The incidence is 222.7, the lowest  being in Istria County and highest in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County," said Krunoslav Capak, head of the Croatian Institute of Public Health.

In EU rankings, Croatia is seventh with the lowest incidence. Today 16.7% of the test results were positive (1,445 cases).

British variant detected in 50% of samples

Speaking of new variants, Capak said the British one was present in more than 50% of the sequenced samples.

"These new variants spread somewhat faster, and due to vaccination, nicer weather and the favourable situation we have had, people have relaxed. There is more and more socialising, gatherings, which is the biggest risk for the spread of coronavirus infection," he said, adding that the classic epidemiological measures were also effective against the new variants.

Asked if Croatia was in a third wave of the epidemic, Capak said it was difficult to say but that the important thing was to continue to fight to cut down the numbers of new cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

Speaking of the 12-year-old girl who died of COVID in the past 24 hours, Capak said she had a serious cardiovascular comorbidity.

He went on to say that less than 30% of people had refused the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Asked if the ministers who had recovered from COVID would be given that vaccine to promote it and if the vaccination of people over 65 with AstraZeneca would be suspended for fear of side effects, Capak said the response team was not considering either.

He said "we believe we have no reason" to suspend the administration of AstraZeneca to those over 65, adding that the European Medicines Agency's "commission on side effects is intensively investigating all side effects."

He said there was no difference in the occurrence of side effects with either Pfizer or AstraZeneca and that it was 0.5% in each.

Božinović: Existing regime should stay

The head of the national response team, Interior Minister Davor Božinović, said the existing regime of restrictions should stay and that possible changes should be made at county level.

Asked if restrictions would be tightened ahead of Easter, he said this regime could be kept up only if everyone was responsible and disciplined.

"In recent days the virus has been rapidly spreading in some parts of Croatia, so the measures should be considered at county level. Serious measures are in force, although they are the least restrictive in the European Union, and we will keep this regime only if everyone assumes responsibility."

Božinović said some counties were already tightening restrictions based on their epidemiological situation.

He would not comment on the suspension of vaccination with AstraZeneca in some countries despite there being no proof that some deaths were related to the vaccine. "We always explain the background of our decisions transparently and publicly, including this one to continue to administer AstraZeneca."

The head of Zagreb's Infections Diseases Hospital, Alemka Markotić, said she could not say how big the increase was in the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, adding that the outcomes of the children treated in her hospital were continually good and that the percentage was not high.

"The important thing is that the syndrome has been recognised. Our doctors manage to deal with it well and there are no major problems for now."

 For more about COVID-19 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.

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.

Friday, 5 March 2021

Croatian Police and Deminers Rescue Several Migrants From Minefield

ZAGREB, 5 March, 2021 - Police and deminers yesterday and today rescued several illegal migrants whose lives were in jeopardy in the mine field in Saborsko municipality, after one migrant was killed and several sustained injuries in a landmine blast, the Interior Ministry (MUP) said on Friday evening.

Members of Lučko Anti-Terrorist Unit yesterday searched the area by helicopter and then warned migrants that they were in a mine suspected area and should stay in place until help arrives. Deminers of Lučko Anti-Terrorist Unit this morning started to inspect the field and create a safe corridor for evacuation and ten persons were rescued and offered medical help.

MUP said in the press release that a group of foreign nationals had illegally reached Croatia and entered a mine suspected area in a forest area in municipality Saborsko. There, a younger man stepped on an unidentified explosive device and died, while other persons from the group sustained injuries in the blast. After receiving a report, police officers found one man dead and one injured, while the rest of the group went away in unknown direction.

According to the interior ministry, at the moment six persons have an intention to make an application for international protection in Croatia, while other persons are in medical care due to having sustained injuries.The life of one of them is in danger.

The Ministry of the Interior and Croatian police, it is recalled, have been intensively underscoring the dangers of illegal migrations since 2018, especially warning of the danger of mine suspected areas, severe winter conditions in the mountains and rivers.

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."

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