Monday, 4 October 2021

Protest Against Vili Beroš and COVID Certificates in Zagreb This Morning

October 4, 2021 - Fifty protesters arrived this morning in front of KBC Zagreb to protest against Vili Beroš, Health Minister of Croatia, who came to the hospital at 7 am to mark the beginning of the application of mandatory EU digital covid certificates in health care.

In recent weeks, demonstrations against measures to combat the still current COVID-19 have increased in different parts of the country. In Krapinske-Toplice, for example, some parents gathered for several days outside a primary school to protest against the mandatory use of masks for children. It does not matter if the vaccination rate in Croatia is one of the lowest in Europe, it seems that the position of a large part of the citizenry is clear: no more restrictions.

On a larger scale, some massive protests have been taking place recently in Zagreb, mainly after the Minister of Health, Vili Beroš, announced that from now on health personnel in hospitals should present EU digital covid certificates in order to be able to work. The decision was not well received by a large section of the population, prompting both a large "protest for freedom" in Ban Jelačić Square, as well as a protest led by nurses and other health workers against the measure.

This morning, as Jutarnji List reports, around 50 protesters and opponents of the measure gathered in front of KBC Zagreb to protest against Vili Beroš and EU digital covid certificates. The Croatian Health Minister was in the middle of a press conference to mark the start of the measure. Among the protesters was a priest, Father Zdravko Knezević.

- ''Hangman, hangman!'', shouted the priest.

- ''Hitler's associates ended up on the gallows. Betrayal, betrayal! Judas' misfortunes!'', the priest continued and added that the pandemic was false.

He had a short conversation with Minister Beroš.

"You know everything well", he told Beroš.


A priest, Father Zdravko Knezević, was among the crowd who arrived to protest against Vili Beroš and confront the Health Minister. Photo: (Patrik Macek/PIXSELL)

The protesters, most of whom were citizens and a small number of KBC employees, did not allow Beroš to speak, chanting "shameful decisions", "betrayal" and "resignation", so the minister had to give a statement to the media at the hospital's Directorate.

"No beginning is easy. I allow the right to different opinions, however, in a situation where the virus has been around for a year and a half to deny its existence, numerous deaths and difficult situations are not justified. My task is to ensure the security of the health system and I will try to do so", said Beroš, referring to the protesters.

"As the Minister of Health, my task is to ensure the safety of all service users but also employees. Everyone has the same conditions, there is no discrimination. We do not force anyone to get vaccinated, but testing is what the profession considers the basic condition for safe work, and we do it for the sake of Croatian citizens and our patients'', he said.

As of Monday, every employee in the health care system and social care institutions in Croatia must have an EU digital covid certificate, as well as visitors and accompanying patients. All healthcare professionals who come to work from today must show a covid certificate, whether they have been vaccinated or have recovered from covid, while others must be tested twice a week.

Beroš reiterated that the measures are temporary and that they will change depending on the development of the epidemiological situation and vaccination. "It's not clear to me why someone doesn't want to be tested, why someone doesn't want to contribute to the safety of the health care system. What are their motives? I really can't understand them at the moment".


Despite the protest against Vili Beroš, most health workers arrived with their EU digital covid certificates in order to work at the hospital. (Photo: Patrik Macek/PIXSELL)

He said 10 tests revealed 10 asymptomatic positive patients in hospitals yesterday. "They would get into the system and be able to spread the virus, and we don't want that. Therefore, that also indicates that the measure is justified at this point."

He said that before making a decision on the introduction of mandatory covid certificates, legal experts on constitutional law were consulted and they believe that health protection is above all.

The director of KBC Zagreb, Ante Ćorušić, stated that the police were called to the protest against Vili Beroš and that most of this morning's protesters were not hospital employees.

Testing of health professionals who do not have a covid certificate at that hospital started yesterday and everything went well. To date, 690 employees have been tested and two have been positive. Vaccination within the KBC is relatively good, 81.5 percent of doctors and 56 percent of nurses have been vaccinated'', said Ćorušić.

"Most employees follow the procedure. The work process continues normally, the operating program goes on, the polyclinic works, the day hospital. Everything is as before", he said, adding that 12,000 people pass through the hospital every day.

As a reminder, as of Monday, every employee in the health care system and social care institutions in Croatia must have an EU digital covid certificate, as well as visitors and patient escorts.

All healthcare professionals who come to work from today must show a covid certificate, whether they have been vaccinated or have recovered from covid, while others must be tested twice a week.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language.

Saturday, 7 August 2021

Bjelovar, Požega, and Šibenik First to Launch Vaccinations at Croatian Pharmacies

August 7, 2021 - Vaccinations at Croatian pharmacies could be a reality in three Croatian cities by the end of next week. 

"At three pharmacies, one each in Bjelovar, Požega, and Šibenik, the vaccination of citizens against Covid-19 could start by the end of next week, and other pharmacies will join them as soon as they are organized and have personnel ready for the job. In addition, a dozen more pharmacies have informed us that they have found doctors who are willing to vaccinate at pharmacies so that they could get involved in this work very soon," announced the president of the Croatian Chamber of Pharmacists, Ana Soldo, as reported by Jutarnji List

She adds that technical, more precisely IT problems regarding entering the system for those who will be vaccinated in pharmacies have just been solved. Namely, all pharmacies are connected to CEZIH, i.e., the health information system that enables data entry on the vaccinated person.

Soldo emphasizes that at least 40 to 50 pharmacies across Croatia have already announced they will be included in vaccinations. Therefore, the problem of other vaccination teams in which there must be a doctor should be solved after August 15.

"According to the current law, pharmacists are not allowed to vaccinate citizens, and therefore mobile teams must be formed to come to pharmacies. Of course, everything could have already started, but the current problems are doctors' vacations. But one of the possibilities is to include retired doctors who have already contacted us and could start vaccinations immediately.

We have resolved the doubts about their inclusion in the vaccination, i.e., they will do it through our connection with CEZIH, which means that all those vaccinated at pharmacies will be immediately on the vaccination platform," says Soldo. She adds that Covid certificates will be issued to those vaccinated. Those vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson will receive it immediately after the first dose, and others after the second dose of the vaccine.

After first announcing the news, there are more and more inquiries from citizens who would like to be vaccinated at their nearest pharmacy—namely the elderly who have a problem going to vaccine points in big cities.

Everyone who intends to be vaccinated at pharmacies will have to announce their arrival and will be able to choose the vaccine. Namely, it is known that, for example, there are six doses in one bottle of Pfizer, so six citizens who want this vaccine should be vaccinated in one day at a pharmacy.

Pharmacies will also be provided with an 'observation area' for ten minutes after vaccination due to possible allergic reactions, for which mobile teams will be equipped with anti-shock therapy as well as at health centers and public health institutes when organizing vaccinations.

Payment has also been resolved, which means that those who will participate in vaccinations at pharmacies will be paid.

"Like all other teams, these mobile teams that will be vaccinating at pharmacies will be paid in the same way and the same amount by the HZZO," says the director of the HZZO, Lucian Vukelic.

The president of HLJK says that it is illogical that pharmacists in Croatia cannot vaccinate because, during the pandemic in other countries, their employees vaccinated a large number of citizens.

"We will try to solve this problem by the end of the year with legal changes because pharmacies are interested, as evidenced by the fact that as many as 180 pharmacies in Croatia applied for flu vaccination last season. Given that pharmacies are very accessible to citizens, I believe it will solve the issue because we will thus achieve greater vaccination not only against Covid-19 but also against influenza, as evidenced by the example of the United Kingdom where pharmacists perform a large part of the vaccinations," says Soldo.

She adds that the recent news that pharmacies can issue Covid certificates has shown that they should have their place in greater access to health care.

Given that we cannot be satisfied with the vaccination rate against Covid-19, especially among those over 80, vaccination in pharmacies is an opportunity to improve these figures, i.e., to protect the most vulnerable part of the population against an epidemiologically demanding autumn. In addition to vaccination at pharmacies, this means that mobile teams should also be hired to vaccinate the elderly, immobile, and people with limited mobility in their homes.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and choose your preferred language.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

All Vaccines Allowed in Croatia? Latest Developments for Vaccinated Travelers

March 31, 2021 - A look at the vaccines allowed in Croatia and the latest developments for vaccinated travelers wanting to cross the Croatian border.

After Greece made a decision on vaccinated travelers, all travelers who have been vaccinated with two doses, regardless of whether it has been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), will be able to cross the Croatian border tomorrow, Jutarnji List unofficially finds out.

Anyone with a vaccination certificate will be able to cross the border without presenting a negative PCR test, regardless of whether they have received AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, or, for example, Sputnik or the Chinese vaccine which are not approved for use in the EU.

However, Jutarnji writes that the decision will be subject to change if the European Union is set differently according to vaccines that are not approved in Europe. Also, the Decision on Borders, which will be presented today by the National Headquarters, will include the possibility of crossing the border with the presentation of a rapid antigen test, but only one that has been validated and approved by the EMA. Persons who have contracted the coronavirus within a maximum of six months, and if they have a negative PCR test, not older than 48 hours, will also cross the border without quarantine. Children under the age of seven can still cross the border without restrictions.

The news comes just a day or two after the head of the Croatian National Public Health Institute, Krunoslav Capak, told Croats that he did not advise them to go to Serbia for vaccinations, among other things, because vaccines not approved by the EMA are being used in Serbia. Still, it seems that in the Croatian case, the advantage that vaccines have for the economy, primarily tourism, has prevailed.

Before Croatia, the decision to release people vaccinated with Sputnik and Chinese vaccines across the borders was announced by our competitor Greece, which, as the media reported so far, agreed to accept the vaccination certificate with these two types of preparations with Serbia. Greece will generally begin to recognize certificates to all their holders, all in pledge to save the tourist season that left Greece empty-handed last year.

As Ivan Pukšar, a tourism consultant and owner of Coned turizam, explained to Jutarnji List, it is good for Croatia to go in the direction of facilitating border crossings and allowing people who have been vaccinated with both Chinese and Russian vaccines to enable as many tourists as possible.

This decision is important to us, among other things, because of the Hungarian market, which has already enabled its citizens to be vaccinated with Russian and Chinese vaccines, so it would be desirable for these tourists to spend the summer on the Adriatic without the need to go to quarantine or perform testing, said Pukšar, adding that he is not surprised by the great engagement of Greece in this regard, given that they work extremely actively on the promotion and image of their country.

"There are several reasons for this, and the first is certainly the fact that Greece is highly dependent on tourism, and it is also an air destination that, along with domestic guests and visitors from ships, cannot compensate for tourist traffic, so it is imperative to attract every possible guest. Third, Greece is dependent on British tourists who this year threaten not to travel before the end of July, which is why Greek tourism is in a much worse position than Croatian," Pukšar believes.

Greek Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis and Serbian Minister Tatjana Matic reached an agreement on Monday, and it will take effect on May 14. Unfortunately, Jutarnji did not receive information from the Greek Ministry of Tourism of whether this decision will be applied to citizens of other countries. However, the unofficial information Jutarnji has about Croatia says that today, the public will be presented with new conditions for entering Croatia, which will make it as easy as possible for foreign visitors to visit our country.

Formally, there are no obstacles to such a decision that would prevent EU member states from making their own decisions on recognizing certificates for Chinese and Russian vaccines, as recently announced by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen when, presenting the Covid-passport project, she noted that EU members will have to cross the borders with a digital - green certificate, but that this decision can be extended to other vaccines. 

Neighboring Slovenia was the first country in the region to allow vaccinated people to cross the border in general. Still, this decision currently applies only to vaccines registered in the EU. The Slovenian border rules say that entry is possible for everyone who has been vaccinated with the second dose of Astra Zeneca 21 days before traveling, or seven days with Pfizer and 14 days with Moderna.

For the latest travel updates and COVID-19 news from Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

COVID-19 Vaccination Certificates in Croatia: How Will They Look?

March 9, 2021 - Krunoslav Capak explains that the look of COVID-19 vaccination certificates in Croatia and the EU has been defined, though they are currently only used for medical purposes and not for crossing the border. 

Jutarnji List reports that the appearance of EU COVID-19 vaccination certificates has been defined.

As Krunoslav Capak, head of the Croatian Institute of Public Health and a member of the National Civil Protection Headquarters, explained to Jutarnji list, the certificate must contain the name of the vaccinated person, the country they come from, the name of the vaccine used, the date of vaccination, the serial number of the vaccine and a bar at which the data can be read.

"The appearance of vaccination certificates has been defined, but for now, they are used only for medical purposes and not to cross the border. The use of certificates for crossing the border is now intensively discussed. The time will surely come when the EU will make a decision. However, there are still a lot of questions and controversies," said Capak, adding that no EU country has made a decision on crossing the border based on vaccination, but there are bilateral agreements.

"We also have some bilateral talks about recognizing vaccination certificates mutually," Capak added.

He further explained that there are still no visuals but an agreement at the EU level on the certificate's content.

"An agreement has been reached on the content of the certificate. It should contain the name and surname of the person, the vaccine that was used, the date of vaccination, and the serial number of the vaccine," Capak explained.

The state should also be listed. Given that it will be a smart solution, Capak says it will take up to three months for it to work. Namely, the EU is still discussing whether vaccinated citizens will receive smart cards or have a code that can be read on a mobile phone.

"It seems to me that the most probable variant is with a QR code, but as we are talking about a large number of people from all over the EU, it is clear that it is a big job for data collection, but also for experts who will find IT solutions," concludes Capak and adds that the rules will apply to Croatian citizens as well as to the rest of Europe.

Already now, all citizens who have been vaccinated, regardless of which vaccine - Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca - receive a vaccination certificate, i.e., a card with their name and surname, the vaccine they received, and the serial number. It is a cardboard card that additionally contains when the second dose is received. Different manufacturers have different cards, but the principle is the same. Each card also has a QR code, but it does not contain the data of the person who was vaccinated, but information about the vaccine they received.

As Capak also points out, such certificates can only be used for medical purposes for the time being. Still, the EU is discussing what kind of application they could have, especially in tourism. Although vaccination is voluntary, some airlines have already made it clear that only vaccinated passengers will fly. Some EU members have already announced that such certificates will substitute for a negative PCR test when entering their country. Israel, for example, announces that without such confirmation, citizens will not be allowed to enter mass gatherings, and unvaccinated employees will work in dislocated offices and will not be allowed to socialize with others.

Such an approach opens up many controversies, especially in human rights, given that vaccination is voluntary and that, at least for now, there are not enough vaccines on the market for everyone. Thus, the question arises whether vaccination can be required as a condition for entry, for example, on a plane.

Therefore, as Jutarnji finds out, in addition to IT requirements, the huge deficit of vaccines on the market is one reason why passports will not work for some time.

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