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

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."

Monday, 22 February 2021

Easing Measures in Croatia on March 1: Not Everything Will Open, Says Božinović

February 22, 2021 - At the National Civil Protection Headquarters' press conference on Monday, Interior Minister Davor Božinović spoke about easing measures in Croatia on March 1.

Jutarnji List reports that in the last 24 hours, 72 new COVID-19 cases were recorded, and the number of active cases in Croatia today is 2111.

Among them, 792 patients are in hospital, of which 68 are on a ventilator. 

20 people died. The average age of the deceased is 76 years. 166,146 doses of vaccine had been used, and 108,311 people were vaccinated. For 57,835 people, the vaccination was completed.

HZJZ director Krunoslav Capak reported on the 14-day incidence per 100,000 inhabitants.

"We have 72 new cases. A week ago, there were 68 new cases, and the week before, 71 new cases. The mild beginning of the plateau of an equal number of patients or a very slight increase continues. We currently have two percent more than the week before. The current incidence for the Republic of Croatia in 14 days is 111.2. The lowest incidence is in the County of Istria and the highest in Dubrovnik-Neretva County. In terms of incidence, Croatia ranks 3rd in the EU. Only Denmark and Finland have the lowest, and the Czech Republic has the highest in the EU: 1109.7. The total mortality rate per million inhabitants is 1331.9, and we are ranked 19th out of 27 EU countries. The share of positives in those tested today is 3.2 and for the last 14 days, 6.0. So far, HALMED has received 927 reports of suspected side effects, of which 822 are on the Pfizer vaccine, 48 on the Moderna, and 57 on the AstraZeneca," Capak said.

Capak spoke about the shipments of vaccines expected in Croatia.

"This week, we need to receive 23,400 doses of Pfizer, 16,800 Moderna, and 52,000 AstraZeneca. Moderna has announced that it will deliver those 16,800 doses on February 25. Of all the others, we have announcements for March, only from Moderna. We do not have dates, but they announced about 55,000 doses during March. We should receive another 508,630 doses of vaccine by the end of March."

Minister of Health Vili Beroš spoke about 20% fewer examinations and procedures in hospitals this year.

"It ranges from 19-28%. We learned in this spring wave and adjusted the health care system. Everywhere in the world, health capacities are focused on solving Covid problems. We had to operate one entire facility to provide COVID-19 protection to positive patients and relieve all other health facilities. I think we succeeded in that. We appeal to health institutions and patients to respond to preventive examinations. This is of fundamental importance. Many avoid these examinations for fear of getting infected in hospitals, which is not good. It is important to have regular preventive check-ups. And the general population does not respond in the desired number to preventive examinations. We are thinking about it, and we have adjusted the health care system so that as many institutions as possible provide other health care," he said.

Capak commented on allegations that those receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine will not have to wear masks afterward.

"The type of immunity that protects our mucous membrane from the virus, so that it cannot live on it, is a different type of immunity than the one that develops after vaccination. AstraZeneca was the first to publish a study, and their vaccine also protects against virus transmission. And if the vaccine develops immunity, we weren’t sure if that person could receive the virus on the mucosa and transmit it. That’s why we recommended wearing a mask even after vaccination. Whether other vaccine manufacturers will conduct such studies, we do not currently know. We wouldn’t tell anyone now not to wear a mask; everyone should wear a mask. Until the transmission of the virus and the number is significantly reduced, it is recommended for everyone to wear masks," said Capak.

Božinović commented on the possibility of easing measures from March 1.

"Talks have already begun this week. It all depends on the epidemiological situation, which is good despite these particular increases. The Republic of Croatia is at the top of the countries when it comes to low incidence. We will talk to the ministers. Our goal is the same, to normalize life as much as possible, to start as many economic activities as possible. Certainly, on March 1, we will not open everything as before the epidemic, but if these trends continue, the possibility of certain concessions certainly exists. I wouldn’t want to be more specific here now. We monitor the situation locally as well. When we talk about the counties' demands, that decision is always a decision of the National Headquarters. We are not against initiatives, but for each specific initiative from the county level, the decision will be made by the National Headquarters."

Capak commented on the slight increase 4 days in a row compared to the week before.

"Four days is not enough to talk about the trend. This is a slight increase from the figure a week ago. Now we can think that it is some oscillation, or we can say that it is the stagnation of the fall that we had so that the plateau has leveled off and the numbers are rising. We will see this over the next few days; we can hope it is a slight oscillation after which the numbers will fall."

Capak commented on the start of mass vaccination in Zagreb.

"I don't know about any problems. From the beginning, the possibility of getting vaccinated in organizations or at checkpoints has been included. Some have reached the stage of using checkpoints. In Zagreb, the transition to the second phase was a bit late, and now we got a little more vaccine, and the first phase is over. HZJZ has decided to make vaccination actions at checkpoints. Tomorrow we will vaccinate in Mihaljevac and the City of Zagreb in NZJZ Andrija Štampar. Patients from the list of health centers will come; 60 patients have been ordered every half hour. We estimate that we will vaccinate 900-1000 people."

Journalists asked the Headquarters about the tourist season and testing.

"It was discussed that those who return to their countries should be allowed to do PCR in Croatia to cross the border. We will try to organize it again this year during the season, and there is still time until then. Whether it will be at the airport or somewhere else remains to be seen. We think we will then have enough free capacity for PCR tests. There is still no EU country that recognizes rapid antigen tests for crossing the border, "Capak said.

Božinović continued.

"Numerous conversations are taking place on this, at all levels. There will be a European Council meeting soon. The Headquarters is constantly in communication with the Ministry, and we have planned meetings on this topic. This is just one of the issues we will discuss."

Reporters asked Božinović about the possible concessions on March 1.

"We are probably one of the most open EU countries, and the fact is that there is not much we talk about yet. Of course, when we talk about restrictions, some relate to some activities that are already open and take place under certain circumstances. I think it is becoming clear to everyone that our model from day one was that we need to be rational, put everything in the context of the overall epidemiological situation to function as much as possible, and not make decisions that we will soon change. We are all affected in different ways, and we all suffer because of it. Solidarity could and should now be increasingly oriented towards becoming aware of the risks and problems that the epidemic brings to certain sections of the population. The fact is that the most at risk are the elderly, the chronically ill, and they are certainly not the ones looking for measures to be eased. When they give in, they are in the group of those most at risk. That’s why everyone needs to see what they can do to protect the most vulnerable. They need to take care of themselves, adhere to measures, and insist that everyone who comes close to them, especially younger family members, adheres to the measures. I want to say that different groups need to think for themselves about the epidemic risks. If we achieve a kind of understanding, there will be less and less need to impose something as behavior. The open-close approach is slowly being exhausted."

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

Monday, 1 February 2021

Owner Opened His Gym Today Despite Headquarters' Ban, Police Arrested Him

February 1, 2021 – Despite the ban on the work of gyms issued by the Civil Protection Headquarters, valid until February 15, 2021, one owner opened his gym today in Trešnjevka, allowing people to exercise. The police arrested him shortly after the opening.

As of today, Croatia is slightly easing epidemiological measures in two segments. Elementary school students are returning to classes, and outdoor training is allowed. The terraces of cafes and restaurants remain closed, as do gyms and sports centers. But some gym owners were overwhelmed and decided to open their doors.

One of them is Andrej Klarić, the owner of the Quantum Premium Gym. He opened his gym's doors in Zagreb's Trešnjevka, despite the Civil Protection Headquarters' measures imposing a work ban. Several people came to exercise, aware of the consequences, Index reports.

'It's unbearable to live off the minimum salary for so long'

Last night via Facebook, the gym owner publicly invited the exercisers to come, and since then, the police have been on duty at their doorstep. A few minutes after the people started exercising this morning, the police and the inspection entered and closed the doors, leaving many journalists who gathered outside.

While people were exercising in the gym, the police arrested the owner. Klarić is one of the few who dared to make such a move but claims that he has nothing more to lose. He says he was tricked, no longer trusting anyone, and that the lockdown was unnecessary without any effect.

"The reasons why I did this are very simple. From the first day when the facilities were closed, I was against their closure because I believe that the already existing measures were more than appropriate," Klarić told 24sata before his arrest.

He added that it is unbearable to be patient and live on the minimum salary for so many months.

His daughter Duga Klarić made a brief statement, expressing surprise that more police vehicles than trainers had gathered. She pointed out that the gym remains open today because they were told so.

"They told us that we received a fine, but that we could stay open today, so we stay open today," the owner's daughter said, adding that she did not know how high fine they received.

However, the police identified all the people who were exercising at the gym this morning, and the gym is now closed. No one is inside, and there are still two police cars in front of it.

Messages of support

Klarić is already receiving messages of support from all sides. Dražen Oreščanin, the director of the Voice of Entrepreneurs, also came to the scene to support Klarić, who is about to stand trial.

"I came to support Mr. Andrija Klarić on behalf of the Voice of Entrepreneurs, ahead of the trial that awaits him regarding legal aid because it is something we provide to all our members through the program. The police are behind me. I asked them if I could come in, and they told me I couldn't. The gym is closed and locked. I also talked to the owner's daughter. She told me that he was taken into custody, so he was arrested, and he went to give a statement. We wouldn't want him to spend 30 days in custody because of the possibility of a repeat offense. We were there to show his support," Oreščanin said in a Facebook video.

He thanked everyone who supports Klarić and called on everyone to join the protest action on Ban Jelačić Square on Wednesday at 10 am.

Božinović: Police and inspectors acted following the law

At a press conference of the Civil Protection Headquarters, Interior Minister Davor Božinović briefly commented on police interventions due to the gyms' opening, saying he was aware of one case.

"I know that the police and the inspectors of the Civil Protection and the State Inspectorate, who go on patrols together, will enforce the law. I am sure that what they have acted so far was acted in accordance with the law. If everyone would decide for themselves when to open facilities during an epidemic, what measures would he determine, then there would be no need for specializations such as the specialization of prof. Capak or immunologists. This situation is not easy for anyone, but I think that people are showing rationality and resisting attempts to create an atmosphere where there is no epidemic or that it has passed. By all parameters, Croatia has the least strict measures in the EU, and if we keep this downward trend, we can talk about new corrections," Božinović said.

When asked about the sanctions that await the gym owner, Božinović did not want to speculate about it because it is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation.

"We recently changed the laws in the Parliament because there are situations in which we must resort to sanctioning behavior that is risky for the spread of the infection. Let's leave it to the institutions,“ said Božinović.

To read more news from Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Sunday, 31 January 2021

New Measures for Nursing Homes in Croatia: Family Visits Allowed

January 31, 2021 - Due to the improving epidemiological situation in Croatia, a small portion of the restrictive measures have been eased. Students will return to classrooms, outdoor training for sport is allowed, swimming pools will open, and nursing homes in Croatia will welcome visitors. 

After four and a half months, the Croatian National Public Health Institute has enacted new measures for residents in nursing homes. Namely, from next week, relatives and families can visit residents in nursing homes, and residents can also leave under strict epidemiological conditions, the head of the Zagreb Office for Social Protection and Persons with Disabilities, Romana Galić, told HRT's Dnevnik.

"Upon arrival at the nursing home, the visits will take place in the external premises. Strict epidemiological measures will apply for visits to immobile users, and the visit will take place according to a pre-determined schedule," she said.

The relaxation of measures is possible because, for example, in Zagreb's homes for the elderly and infirm, about 2,200 users have already received the coronavirus vaccine, and 1,600 of them have received the second dose of the vaccine. Also, about 600 users were infected with and have recovered from COVID-19.

"We will enable those who had COVID in the last 90 days and those who received their second dose of the vaccine to leave their homes. So, from Tuesday, they will be able to leave the institutions, after four and a half months," said Romana Galić.

See the full list of all measures in Croatia, currently in effect until February 15, HERE.

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

Friday, 29 January 2021

New Measures from Midnight: Restaurants, Cafes, and Gyms in Croatia Remain Closed

January. 29,  2021 - New measures in Croatia for schools and sports will enter into force as of midnight. Restaurants, cafes, and gyms in Croatia remain closed. 

The National Civil Protection Headquarters held a press conference to report on the current epidemiological situation in Croatia and coronavirus vaccination and anti-epidemic measures. At yesterday's session, the Government presented a minimal easing of measures.

In the last 24 hours, 561 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded, and the number of active cases in Croatia today is a total of 3117, the National Civil Protection Headquarters announced. Among them, 1286 patients are in hospital, of which 121 are on a ventilator. Twenty-nine people died, the Headquarters announced.

The average age of the deceased was 79 years, and the youngest deceased was 38 years old. Five-hundred-eighty-eight people recovered.

In the last 24 hours, 5,020 people were tested, and the percentage of positives was 11.18%, Vera Katalinić Janković reported at the press conference.

So far, a total of 58,585 people have been vaccinated.

According to the new measures in force from midnight, elementary schools will go back to in-person classes, and sports activities will be allowed outodoors, swimming pools, and sports bubbles. Restaurants, cafes, and gyms will remain closed, reports Slobodna Dalmacija

HZJZ director Krunoslav Capak reported on the 14-day incidence per 100,000 inhabitants.

"A week ago, there were 643 new cases out of 4863 tested, and two weeks ago 715 new cases out of 5335 tested. In the first 5 days of this week, there were 2619 new cases, and last week 3015. The number is 13% less than the previous week's figure, so we have a further mitigated downward trend. The incidence per county is 189.0 on average. Sisak-Moslavina has the highest incidence, and Istria has the lowest. Croatia ranks 7th in the EU rankings. Six countries have a lower incidence than us. The total mortality rate per million inhabitants is 1196.8, which puts us in 20th place in the ranking of EU countries. In the last week, the average share of positive tests was 11.2. We spent more than 79,000 vaccine doses. To date, we have received 409 side effects to the Pfizer vaccine and 11 suspected side effects to the Moderna vaccine. These are mainly local reactions, fever, pain at the site of application, and headache, and there have been more serious reactions to the Pfizer vaccine. Two required the use of adrenaline and 22 the use of other medications," Capak said.

Vili Beroš said that today, for the first time, the number of hospitalized is below 1,300 after a long time, but it is still a difficult clinical picture and that we have a large number of deaths.

"This indicates that the clinical picture is still relatively difficult. This allows us to think cautiously in giving in to measures, but not in relaxed behavior. The fact and new strains of the virus in our neighborhood and the current vaccination delay should be taken into account. We must be aware of that, and that emphasizes our responsible behavior, and there is no alternative to that," said Minister Vili Beroš.

Davor Božinović said that the decision on the necessary restrictive measures and recommendations would take effect tomorrow, i.e., tonight at midnight.

"We have decided that the decision will take effect tonight at midnight and will last until February 15."

Patient associations are demanding that high-risk groups be vaccinated with vaccines that are 95 percent effective.

"Not only high-risk but all other citizens as well. They should be allowed to be vaccinated with the best possible vaccine, but the question is what kind of vaccines are available to us. I support such an idea. People who are chronically ill and of old age are the first to be vaccinated, and it should be emphasized that they should be able to be vaccinated with the highest quality vaccines. Numerous discussions are taking place on the topic of which vaccine to procure. The one that is safe and effective. We cannot count on vaccines that are only now in the testing phase since there is no reliable evidence that they are effective. Some more manufacturers are developing new vaccines. Novavax is in the 2nd and 3rd phase of the clinical trial, in the 3rd phase of the study in Britain it showed an efficiency of 89 percent for the common and new strain of the virus," said Beroš.

Capak answered whether the Astra Zeneca vaccine will be registered today and when it will come to the Republic of Croatia.

"Vaccines for the EU are registered with the European Medicines Agency, which has strict procedures and legislation. This means that someone who does not meet these criteria cannot apply and register. That is the price of the safety of our vaccines. They guarantee safety. For other vaccines for which we do not have data and have not been marketed transparently, we cannot claim to be safe. We are waiting for the European Medicines Agency to say whether the vaccine is safe and effective.

Data saying that the Astra Zeneca cannot be used for people over 65 cannot be confirmed because we do not have enough data. At the end of the day, it was agreed that the Astra Zeneca vaccine would be registered today. It was announced that we should receive 156,158 doses of their vaccine by the end of February, in three tranches," Capak said.

Bozinovic referred to the announcements of protests by caterers and gym owners for not loosening measures.

"I still hope that will not happen because there is no reason for that. The measures are just an extension of measures that have been valid for two months, and in those two months, we have concluded that although we still have the most liberal measures in Europe, we also have a clear downward trend in the number of new infections. That number still needs to go down. We must take care of our lives and health. The epidemiological profession has set priorities in preparing this decision, and they do not refer only to this situation but are of a principled nature. When it comes to concessions, the basic rule is that it must be gradual, and given the circumstances surrounding the new variant of the virus and the delay of the vaccine, we must go cautiously. In this context, our Epidemiology Reference Center has set clear principles: if it goes with affordability, health comes first, including sports and education, then the economy, and then other activities. I see no reason for anything to change here. No one in the world has found a recipe for these activities. In EU member states, these facilities have been closed since October. We tried to keep them as open as possible. Representatives of caterers then clearly told us that 90 percent of their members do not adhere to epidemiological measures," said Bozinovic.

"We brought a framework that is difficult to implement in practice, both in terms of the number of people and spacing. At that time, the public space was flooded with information that it was impossible to implement; I'm not sure it was impossible. Then our numbers started to grow; we said the next step was closure, and that’s what happened. It is still winter outside; if it were 24 degrees, the terraces would surely be open. This is not yet a period when the virus is starting to spread less," the minister added.

"We said clearly on February 15, if the numbers are still lower, if a new variant of the virus does not occur, we assume that the situation will be clearer with the vaccine, then we can talk about correcting things to everyone's satisfaction. It is not our goal to harm anyone; the goal is not to repeat November when hospital capacities were on the verge of a breakdown. Do we really need to find ourselves in a difficult situation and repeat the lessons learned? Or can we take all the elements into account and make a rational decision?" said Bozinovic.

"The concession must be gradual. First is education and health, including sports, then the economy, which we did not even close, and only then everything else," Bozinovic added.

Bozinovic explained how training pools could work.

"No showering and use of common areas. Staying in the pool is less risky because of the chlorine in the water and the humidity in the air, which means that the virus spreads more slowly. In practice, that means: you come to the pool, you change, when you go out, you change again and go home. There are no delays, shared locker rooms, showers ... All this can be done at home, the main goal is to train," Bozinovic explained.

He also answered what criteria the Headquarters was guided by when it came to easing measures.

"The criteria we communicated. The opinion of epidemiologists is that one can go into small concessions. This must be gradual and cautious, and in that sequence, the prioritization of concessions starts from education and health, then the economy, and then everything else. With concrete solutions, something was proposed in the wake of what turned into decisions," said Bozinovic.

One journalist asked about opening schools, as counties decide. For example, Brod-Posavina opens high schools, while Istria won't open schools at all.

"They can actually make independent decisions based on recommendations. Our principled position is that counties at this stage can make decisions that are stricter than national ones, but this does not apply when we talk about the school system. We start from the fact that they can assess the situation because the counties are quite different from each other. These are not situations that need to be cut horizontally. I see no problem in the fact that some counties make their own decisions. We do not see that as a problem," said Bozinovic.

Capak answered whether the members of the Government and the Headquarters received the second dose of the vaccine.

"On January 15, we learned that there is a possibility that Pfizer will deliver smaller amounts of the vaccine in 4 weeks. That came true; the first small quantity that arrived, arrived now on Monday. Due to this lack of vaccines, there has been a change in the dynamics of vaccination. We told everyone to keep other doses. Once the vials are taken out of the fridge, they have to be consumed within 5 days. Thus we will be vaccinated now on Tuesday."

Who will be legally liable if the vaccine causes side effects?

"It's a legal issue. Manufacturers received approval after reviewing the documentation; they were required to report everything they saw during clinical studies. The fourth clinical phase is eternal as long as a drug or vaccine exists; some side effects can be recorded even after 5, 10, or 15 years. Once a side effect of the vaccine is proven, medical tests go on, and lawyers can also have a verdict if a dispute arises. That is not an unequivocal question," said Alemka Markotić.

Where did the flu go?

"So far, we have not recorded a single case of influenza in the Republic of Croatia. We examined several samples and found no flu. That doesn't mean she's gone. Some countries in the northern hemisphere report the flu, but there are only a few cases. It seems that the incidence of influenza here will be lower compared to the presence of influenza last year. Measures against Covid are certainly effective against the flu, as they spread in the same way by droplets. The masks do not protect 100% against any respiratory infection. If the presence of the flu were greater, surely some who wear a mask would get sick," Capak said.

In Croatia, everyone will receive the second dose on time, Capak confirmed.

Capak also mentioned negotiations on the Russian vaccine.

"The usual procedure of agreement with the European Medicines Agency is being done. At the moment, we do not have information on the content of those talks and what would be the dynamics of handing over the registration in the EU," Capak said.

Alemka Markotić pointed out that it is not a problem if someone does not receive a second dose on a specific day, but the problem is if there are parts of the world that do not have the vaccine.

"We are constantly exhausted looking for the culprits for something for every little thing. Who is to blame if Pero Perić was not vaccinated on the 26th but the 28th day and fell ill. That is not the essence. The bottom line is when the whole world will have enough vaccines for everyone, even the poorest, to get vaccinated at least once. Then the world will be the safest. It will not save those who have provided vaccination to 80% of the population, and if they are not vaccinated and remain in the world, the virus will continue to spread. Those who think they are protected by vaccination may become infected with another variant of the virus. Let's be positive about what we can do best to get vaccinated here as well as the rest of the world," said Markotić.

Capak again referred to negotiations with other vaccine manufacturers.

"The EU is not negotiating with the Chinese manufacturer. What has been mentioned is that the Russian manufacturer has shown interest in registering the vaccine in the EU, and we do not know anything about the results of these talks. Logically, they would be interested, and, logically, the Chinese manufacturer is looking for its market in the eastern parts. Croatia has reserved 900,000 doses of the Johnson / Johnson vaccine, and this vaccine is given only once, not two doses. Other manufacturers with which the EU is negotiating offer delivery when it does not suit us. We need it as soon as possible. We had promises from the first registered large quantities very early, and those who offer us in the 1st quarter of 2022 are too late for us. In total, we have ordered more than 6 million doses," said Capak, adding that this will be enough for the entire Croatian population, and everything should be delivered during this year.

"We don't think about other manufacturers if they don't offer us the vaccine early enough because we don't need it later," he added.

To read more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Sunday, 17 January 2021

No Relaxation of Measures at Least Until 15 February, JL Says

ZAGREB, 17 January, 2021 - The current epidemiological measures will be extended at least by mid-February, according to what advisers have been suggesting to the national COVID-19 crisis management team, Jutarnji List daily said on Sunday.

It is even possible the measures will be extended by March as nothing can guarantee that the situation will not deteriorate even with the existing restrictions.

They underscore that it must be seen what will happen when classes for lower grades of elementary school and for high school seniors start and how the recent holiday gatherings and holidays spent outside one's place of residence will affect the spread of the epidemic.

Since Croatia has been registering a drop in the number of infected people among those tested, as well as a drop in the number of hospitalised patients, there has been an increasing number of appeals for relaxing the measures. Many hope that after 31 January, the date by which the current measures are in force, outdoor cafes, gyms and fitness centres could reopen.

The head of Istria County's COVID-19 crisis management team, Dino Kozlevac, has already announced he "will discuss the matter with the national team", without whose permission that cannot be done as local measures can only be stricter than national ones.

However, it is certain that there will be no relaxation of measures until the end of January. Also, it is too soon to predict what could happen in ten days, and current temperatures are not helping. Experts explain that even if bar and restaurant terraces were to open, heaters would have to be turned on, around which a large number of people would gather, Jutarnji List said.

Friday, 15 January 2021

Vili Beros on Relaxing Measures in Croatia: Magic Number Is...

January 15, 2021 - Health Minister Vili Beros spoke about relaxing measures in Croatia on February 1 and the magic number needed to get there. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Headquarters has successfully avoided giving a heads up of when something will open or close.

However, Minister of Health Vili Beros knows best about what will open, when, and what we can hope for and revealed that magic number to RTL Direct on Thursday night.

The magic 14-day incidence rate is 300 per 100,000 inhabitants.

"More precisely, we are at 344 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants over 14 days, so we are not below 300 yet. This is why our epidemiologists avoid this famous traffic light. Precisely because the number of newly infected is not the only parameter. It’s not the same if you open in the winter or summer, it’s not the same if you have a mutated virus in the environment, it is not the same if the incidence is different in the environment and it is growing in some neighboring countries. Therefore, there are a number of parameters," Beros said.

However, the main epidemiologist Krunoslav Capak stated that something would change when the number falls below 300.

"Insisting on a certain orientation number, it is around 300, but at the moment, caution is needed above all. This good epidemiological situation offers optimism, but it is also encouraging the path we must take. The situation in Europe is not good, the virus mutation is not good, all these are factors that we must take into account when deciding on relaxing measures," Beros said.

The question remains when the measures will be relaxed. This is of particular interest to parents whose children are athletes.

"We have been saying since the beginning that it is necessary to monitor the epidemiological situation from day to day and make decisions. Therefore, at this moment, I cannot say that we will relax measures on February 1. This will depend exclusively on the epidemiological situation and several other factors that will be relevant in those days. If we do relax measures, it will be gradual, at this moment, we still do not have an order," said Beros and added:

"We can say that this will be one of the first activities, especially if these activities take place outside, in conditions that are epidemiologically satisfactory."

Croatia has the biggest decline in the number of new infections in Europe.

"We always say that it takes some time for the measures to take effect. There is also the responsibility of citizens, which is extremely important, and I think they increasingly realize that it is a serious disease that leads to death. Responsible behavior of citizens, as well as measures, have yielded these results," the minister said.

Vaccination in many countries is not going according to plan.

"Given that we are a small country, not so economically powerful, it is fortunate that we are a member of the European Union. It is on the principles of solidarity and fairness that ECDC has determined the dose for all EU countries using the Eurostat methodology. There is no dose war. We have a large number at our disposal, but the problem is that running in production is not easy. All producers have this problem, and later when it develops, it is a bit easier," Beros said, adding:

"Basically, I've been talking about spring, but it's more realistic to expect herd immunity by summer because 70 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated for it."

He also explained the course of vaccination, i.e., when young people should be vaccinated.

"We have seven priority groups in our plan. The seventh group is younger people who do not have any health problems, and, realistically, they will start getting vaccinated at the end of March and the beginning of April," Beros told RTL.

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

Monday, 14 December 2020

Bozinovic: "We Will Provide a Framework for New Measures in Croatia this Week"

December 14, 2020 - The National Civil Protection Headquarters held a new press conference at 11 am on Monday. Interior Minister and Head of the Headquarters, Davor Bozinovic, announced a framework for new measures in Croatia this week. reports that on Saturday, the highest number of deaths was recorded so far - 78, and the same number of deaths was recorded on Sunday.

Today, all high schools have started online classes, and in some counties, students from 5th to 8th grade are also online.

On Saturday, new stricter measures for shops and shopping centers came into force, which further limits the number of people in them, depending on the store's size.

Current epidemiological measures are in force until December 21, except for new measures for shops and shopping centers until January 10. There will be no easing of measures on December 21, and if the situation does not improve significantly by then, it is possible to introduce new, even stricter measures on December 21.

In the last 24 hours, Croatia recorded 1,472 new cases and the current number of active cases 22,769. The total number of positive cases is 177,358. 5,798 people were tested. The average age of those tested was 43.76 years. 258 people were admitted for treatment in 24 hours. There are 284 people on ventilators, 29 new in 24 hours. 65 people died. The average age is 77.7 years. 

"We had a 5.7 percent increase this week," Capak said. "Our incidence is high; it is 1196. Currently, the highest incidence is in Međimurje and the lowest in Dubrovnik-Neretva."

Capak confirmed that we are the worst in the EU in terms of incidence.

"We are currently ranked 27th out of 27 countries in terms of incidence, 1 incidence higher than in Luxembourg. Our mortality rate is 628.5 per million inhabitants."

KBC Osijek has 197 covid patients, Varaždin 268 patients, Zarazna 116 patients, Dubrava 472 patients, Čakovec 163.

"The numbers are incomparable to the spring," Beros said. 

Will the measures be tightened on December 21 and will passes be introduced?

"Intensive talks have been held since the last press conference, and everything is being considered. This week we will have more specific information to start lowering the numbers. We know that people are interested in the predictability of the measures, so we are in constant talks. We are careful with announcements, and this week we will clarify some things so that a few days before the decision expires on the 21st, we can announce what the framework will be. Today, we can still repeat that we ask all fellow citizens to keep from gatherings and traveling for the holidays. We will provide a framework aware that no decision can replace the decision of individuals not to visit each other, omit celebrations, and refrain from gathering people outside of your households," he said.

"40 percent of new infections today are from contacts, which shows that the contact tracking system has not broken down," Capak said.

The headquarters was asked about the impression that decisions are not made on time.

"We have been completely focused for 10 months thinking about how to reduce numbers; we are doing the best we know how. The measures are similar in the world but differ in various socio-economic factors.  We look, we compare indicators in our country and the immediate environment. This is not an epidemic that lasts 7 to 14 days. I am sure that everyone, including the Headquarters and the government, will analyze everything," Bozinovic said.

"It's not a problem for me to pay the price for all this. I'm interested in what scientific facts you base us on not making decisions on time. It's possible, I don't deny it, but it's also possible that it's not. I'm doing the best I can at this point; at some point, citizens will judge. It is not a problem for me to bear the consequences," Beros said.

"You asked me on what scientific data we are based; is it not enough for you to know that we are the worst in Europe in terms of incidence," the journalist said.

"I hope I'm in a good place, that this is a press conference without a courtroom," Markotic said. "We are doing the best we know," Markotic said, adding that there will be an analysis after all. "It is easiest to adopt a measure; it should be adapted to the environment in which you live. When the analyzes are done, we will see who did well and who did not. We will draw the line at the end of the epidemic," Markotic said.

Capak says the entire epidemic in Croatia should be analyzed from the beginning. He said it would be assessed whether a measure was adopted on time or not.

"I hope that, given that we have a light at the end of the tunnel - vaccination, we will have time to evaluate everything, and that others will evaluate us," said Capak.

Bozinovic was again asked about the introduction of passes to travel between counties.

"Intensive talks are being held on the measures; I won't comment on any of them. We will provide more precise information this week," he said.

To read more about coronavirus in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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