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.

Friday, 19 February 2021

Quarter of Smokers in Croatia Smoke More Because of Pandemic and Earthquakes

ZAGREB, 19 February, 2021 - One in four smokers in Croatia smokes more than before as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and last year's devastating earthquakes, a survey conducted by Ja Trgovac magazine and the Hendal market research agency shows.

The survey of tobacco consumption habits in Croatia was carried out in January on a nationally representative sample of citizens aged 18 and over.

A quarter of smokers interviewed, namely 26%, said they smoked more, while 18.5% said they smoked less. On the other hand, 56% said that the coronavirus outbreak did not affect their smoking habits.

Most of smokers (41.5%) spend up to HRK 200 (€26.5) a month on tobacco products and 32.8% up to HRK 500 (€66.5)). 22% spend up to HRK 1,000 (€133) and 3.7% more than HRK 1,000.

33.9% of respondents said they used tobacco products (cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, new generation products such as IQOS and glo, cigars or rolling tobacco), while 66.1% said they did not use tobacco products.

The survey revealed that cigarettes were the most popular tobacco product, used by 76% of consumers, ahead of rolling tobacco (22.9%), new generation products (13.2%), e-cigarettes (12.2%), cigars (1.4%) and chewing tobacco (0.4%). 1.4% of tobacco product consumers said they used something else.

70.4% of smokers buy tobacco products at newsagents', 46.1% do so at petrol stations, 42.5% at supermarkets, 36.4% in local shops and 16% in specialised tobacco shops. On the other hand, 9.1% buy tobacco products on the black market.

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Situation with Pandemic Requires National Unity, Says PM

ZAGREB, Dec 16, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has said the situation with the pandemic requires national unity, solidarity, and a high degree of responsibility in order to save as many lives as possible and the economy, accusing the opposition of irresponsibly undermining everything that is being done to fight COVID-19.

In an interview with Globus weekly, Plenkovic says new COVID measures are being considered as well as an extension of the ones in force in order to reduce the number of infections.

"I'll reiterate that our priority was and remains to preserve the health of our citizens and save every life. One should clearly say that the choice is not between health and the economy, it is a health and the economy. It would be easiest to introduce another lockdown, but few are asking where the money would come from for salaries and financing the economy."

He says it is extremely important that everyone complies with the COVID measures so as to reduce, through joint efforts, the number of infections and the pressure on hospitals and the medical staff "who are giving their all to save every life and keep the healthcare system running."

Plenkovic says the economy is "key for financing the healthcare system."

Speaking of the arrival of a vaccine, he says that if a large portion of the population gets vaccinated, the infection will disappear sooner.

Announcing a public campaign, he says the wish is for all the information on the vaccine to be transparent, clear and based on science so as to explain to citizens the benefits and how the vaccine can protect them from the disease.

Speaking of the opposition's moves, Plenkovic says it is a pity that their contribution to the COVID crisis "boils down to undermining the work" of the national response team.

"The opposition's attempts to have everything decided in parliament only additionally reveals their deep lack of understanding of the nature of this crisis in which it's necessary to make decisions. How, for example, would a two-thirds majority be achieved in parliament on whether the physical distance should be one meter, a meter and a half or two, how many people can be in shops or on the farmers' market?"

Plenkovic says parliament passed all the laws necessary to enable the government and the COVID response team to make the necessary operational decisions, adding that such a system "has ensured the necessary flexibility for adopting all the necessary measures on short notice."

Plenkovic says the opposition has the right to "irresponsibly undermine all we are doing in the fight against COVID-19, but we will continue to adopt the optimal measures for protecting the health and maintaining the economy."

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Pensioners' Union Warns of Neglect in Aged Care Homes

ZAGREB, Dec 2, 2020- The SUH pensioners' union and the "Treca Dob" association of aged persons on Wednesday warned of neglect of elderly people in private aged care facilities, particularly during the pandemic, and called for urgent control of those facilities.

"Even though Minister Josip Aladrovic has informed that the number of welfare inspectors has doubled (to possibly 20) and that criteria for private facilities have been made stricter, in reality, there has not been any improvement," the pensioners' associations said.

Some beneficiaries are in absolute isolation and are not receiving regular health and welfare attention or support and we are getting more and more reports of residents in aged care facilities that their movement is being restricted and personal hygiene has been reduced and that they are not being fed regularly or even being given water. Some are not being showered at all but just wiped down with wet wipes, they say.

The worst thing is that considering they are not allowed to leave these facilities their fundamental rights are being jeopardized, the SUH and the NGO said.

"Due to a shortage in staff, they are not being fed regularly, showered, allowed to step out in the yard, to call family and everything is being justified with the COVID-19 situation."

In those facilities where social welfare workers are employed, they cannot be reached on the phone and are rude to residents and their families, and cover up all the misdoings, SUH said.

The associations called on the Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy to urgently take action and form an expert inquiry commission that will systematically investigate the situation in these facilities.

They also call for a reform of the welfare inspection and for its de-centralization and for citizen volunteers to be introduced who will be allowed to enter these facilities.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

European Travel Volume to Return to Pre-pandemic Levels by 2024

ZAGREB, Nov 11, 2020 -  In the first eight months of 2020, Europe was visited by 68% less international tourists than at the same time in 2019, while for all of 2020 those arrivals are expected to drop 60% due to the new pandemic wave and lockdowns, and the European travel volume is expected to return the pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

That is said in a new European Travel Commission report, "European Tourism: Trends & Prospects", which notes that new pandemic waves, lockdowns, consumer confidence decline and a recession continue to diminish European tourism's prospect of recovery.

The latest forecasts predict a quicker rebound for domestic travel in Europe, surpassing 2019 levels by 2022.

The report notes that all European destinations recorded declines in arrivals of over 50%, with Cyprus and Montenegro seeing the steepest falls at 85% and 84% respectively, attributable to a higher dependency on foreign travelers.

Among the other countries most impacted are Romania where arrivals plunged 80%, Turkey (-77%), Portugal and Serbia (both -74%). Iceland and Malta (both -71%) also performed poorly, challenged by their geographical location and strict border restrictions.

Croatia among countries with the smallest declines in foreign arrivals

In the report, Croatia is among the first five or six countries with the smallest declines or foreign tourists' arrivals and overnights, ranking sixth in Europe with 50% fewer foreign overnights.

Austria recorded the smallest drop in foreign overnights, by 30%, due to pre-Covid-19 winter travel at the start of the year.

Denmark, Germany, Lithuania and Monaco also recorded somewhat smaller declines of foreign overnights than Croatia, close to 50%.

In the summer, Croatian tourism ranked fourth, behind Austria, Belgium and Bulgaria.

The report notes that the demand for air travel in Europe in August dropped 73% in the year, after dropping 91% in July and 94% in June.

ETC Executive Director Eduardo Santander said cooperation and solidarity were key for the recovery and strengthening of European tourism, underlining the importance of restoring travelers’ confidence and protecting "the millions of businesses, jobs, and enterprises that are at risk, so they can survive the economic fallout. The direction of the economic recovery across Europe will depend significantly on the recovery of the tourism sector, a sector which generates close to 10% of the EU’s GDP and accounts for over 22 million jobs."

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Wednesday, 21 October 2020

PM: New Lockdown only if Situation Escalates

ZAGREB, Oct 21, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Wednesday that a new lockdown could only be expected as the last resort if the situation escalated so much so that there was no other option.

Croatia today registered 1,424 new cases of the coronavirus infection. Asked whether more restrictive measures, such as a curfew, are being considered, he said that there were two methods.

One method is to view the problem rationally, take measures and raise public awareness of the seriousness of a problem, which is what we are doing, Plenkovic said.

Restrictive measures inevitably lead to negative economic effects, but at the same time state and public institutions receive their salaries, pensioners receive their pensions, and the private sector will get €1 billion. We are taking care of the general interest, he said.

A curfew, restrictive measures, a new lockdown, they are the last resort if the situation escalates so much so that there is no other option, Plenkovic said.

I believe in the strength, vigilance, and responsibility of the Croatian people, he added.

He reiterated that the problem of the pandemic should not be underestimated.

If this were nothing, there would not be 40 million infections in the world, there would not be restrictive measures in Slovenia. We have to get serious, the question is whether we will approach the problem seriously or in a way that will lead to confusion, Plenkovic said.

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Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Minister Says Redesigned Job-keeping Measures to Go into Force soon

ZAGREB, Oct 14, 2020 - Labour and Pension System Minister Josip Aladrovic said on Wednesday that the government, together with restaurant and bar owners, employers and trade unions, was expected to redesign job-keeping measures by Friday, after which they would be activated next week.

Speaking to reporters ahead of a government session, Aladrovic said that the government would do what was necessary to help retain jobs.

He said that there were currently no mass-scale layoffs due to the coronavirus crisis in relation to the most critical months of the pandemic, which he said was a good indicator.

However, the government must act considering the epidemiological and economic situation that changes quickly, he noted.

The reason for redefining government measures is that in past months, the revenue of restaurant and bar owners had improved and some of them did not have to use government aid, said Aladrovic.

"We have been in touch with employers and trade unions on a daily basis. If different measures prove possible, to enhance the possibility to prevent layoffs, we will adopt them," he said.

Asked whether he believed, in the context of Monday's shooting in St. Mark's Square, that young person in Croatia were neglected, Aladrovic said he could not agree with that impression.

"... as regards youth employment policies, in the last term we reduced the youth unemployment rate from 50 to 18%," he said, adding, in response to a reporter's question, that he did not know the exact amount of the average wage of a young person but that a general wage increase had been recorded and that it must have had an effect on young people's wages.

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Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Croatian Hoteliers' Revenues Dropping 25-75%, Recovery Expected in 2 or More Years

ZAGREB, Oct 7, 2020 - Croatian hoteliers expect this year's revenues to drop 25-75% due to the COVID pandemic and half believe recovery will take two or more years, with holiday tourism expected to recover faster and convention tourism much slower, a director in the Horwath HTL consulting company says.

Such findings come from the company's analysis of the so-called COVID year in which the pandemic has affected every industry around the world, notably tourism.

Sinisa Topalovic says the forecasts for 2021 and the growth of the global GDP are somewhat encouraging, but that recovery by country will depend and be faster if they are industrially strong, while being harder and slower in those focused on services such as Croatia.

Global and country forecasts say consumption is expected to recover in 12 to 24 months, which is a very long time, notably in tourism, which has been globally affected by the pandemic, from air travel to the hotel industry, which are recording drops in revenues from 60% to 80%, and they will not recover soon, says Topalovic.

Croatia at EU's bottom in hotel occupancy but near the top in prices

In such circumstances, Croatia managed to generate above-average results when compared with the competition in the first eight months of the year, about 40% of last year's turnover, but next year could be at least 10 to 20 percentage points better, also thanks to this year's experience, according to a Horwath HTL analysis.

Croatia's average hotel occupancy rate in the first eight months of this year was 24%, ranking it at the bottom of the EU, but in terms of prices it ranks relatively high because during the short summer holiday season Croatian hoteliers managed to keep relatively good prices, which is good given that after being lowered due to the 2008-09 crisis, they took a long time to recover, says Topalovic.

Three markets saved the season

The analysis shows that only three markets, of the more than 70 from which tourists came to Croatia in the past, saved this year's season, generating up to 60% of the total turnover - Germany, Croatia, and Slovenia.

Croatian tourists "gave life to numerous destinations" and their arrivals and overnights registered the smallest decreases from the record year 2019, the analysis says.

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Saturday, 26 September 2020

Journalists' Union: Employers Using the Pandemic as an Excuse to Reduce the Rights

ZAGREB, Sept 26, 2020 - Employers in the media sector are using the pandemic as an excuse to reduce the rights of journalists and media workers, it was said on Saturday at a meeting of the Journalists' Union of Croatia (SNH).

Such conditions emphasize the need for union action, said SNH head, Maja Sever.

According to her, employers have lately been shifting coronavirus-related business difficulties to employees, whose salaries have not improved despite savings made by working from home.

She said that the situation in the local media was "catastrophic", which was especially felt by freelance journalists and contract workers.

Sever said that the main task of the trade union was to ensure the signing of collective agreements that protected the interests of workers in addition to the Labour Act and to make a branch collective agreement at the national level, which the union had been trying to do for years without success.

She said that the SNH would advocate changes to the "outdated media legislation" which "does not recognize modern models of work at all."

Some of the problems mentioned at the meeting include wage cuts disproportionate to the drop in revenue, reporters not receiving compensation for commuting expenses despite going on assignments, and no financial compensation for job expenses incurred by working at home.

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Thursday, 24 September 2020

Higher Interest in Croatia among Foreign Investors, Conference Hears

ZAGREB, Sept 24, 2020 - There is a markedly higher interest in Croatia among foreign investors, partly owing to EU membership and partly to the business transactions of recent years, Daniel Radic of the KPMG consulting firm said on Thursday at the ''Investing in Times of Uncertainty'' conference.

Companies from the Agrokor system have also put Croatia on the investors' map, he said, adding that he did not see the COVID-19 pandemic as having affected investor confidence.

The conference was organised by the Enterprise Investors fund and the American Chamber of Commerce in Croatia.

Enterprise Investors has been continuously looking for new investment opportunities in the Adriatic region, including Croatia, while the Studenac retail chain has identified potential acquisitions expected to be made by next year, said Michal Kedzia, a partner in the fund.

Enterprise Investors is one of the leading private equity funds in Central and Eastern Europe. Last year it bought the Pan-Pak bakeries chain and Studenac in Croatia, having previously bought the Intersport sporting gear chain.

Kedzia said the fund was looking for new investment opportunities not just in retail but in IT and technology as well.

Asked if the fund was interested in investing in Croatia's Ledo frozen food producer, he said the fund, as a rule, did not comment on transactions.

The question was put because the Fortenova group said this week that it had received a score of non-binding offers for Ledo Plus, Ledo Citluk and Frikom, which make up the Ledo group.

EBRD focused on green investment

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is focused on helping the private sector, notably green investment such as renewables, the food industry and the IT sector, said Miljan Zdrale, head of the EBRD agriculture sector for Central and Southeast Europe.

The EBRD's goal is for green investment to account for 50 percent of all investment by 2025, he added.

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