Thursday, 20 January 2022

Prof Ivica Luksic of Dubrava Hospital: Omicron Changing Course of Pandemic

January the 20th, 2022 - The emergence of the far more infectious but apparently far more mild strain of the novel coronavirus, Omicron, has altered the course of the pandemic for many countries who are now opting for much different measures which resemble the ''old normal''. Prof Ivica Luksic of KB Dubrava has also noted that this variant is changing things.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the wave of the epidemic caused by the Omicron variant is still resulting in a large number of new infections, but there are indications that something is changing in the course of the epidemic.

"Over more recent days, we've had a continuous number of patients. We aren't experiencing significant growth, but we don't have a continuation of decline either. At KB Dubrava, we have about 70-80 coronavirus patients and about 20 of them are in the intensive care unit,'' said Prof Ivica Luksic, the director of the Dubrava Clinical Hospital, for Dnevnik.

He pointed out that apparently something in the course of the coronavirus pandemic is indeed changing.

"We have an enormous increase in new infections, but fortunately it is not accompanied by an increase in patients. Obviously, Omicron has changed the course of the pandemic, and we're adapting to these new circumstances within the hospital system," he said.

Regarding the age structure of patients requiring hospital treatment for their more severe clinical pictures, Prof Ivica Luksic said that the patients who are hospitalised are mostly older people and those who are unvaccinated.

"In the fourth wave of the pandemic, there was an increase in younger patients, those who were unvaccinated, and now we're returning to the situation in which we mainly have older people needing treatment," Prof Ivica Luksic said.

Asked if he could confirm that Omicron is mostly retained in the upper respiratory tract and doesn't descend further down into the lungs, Prof Ivica Luksic said it was too early for more serious conclusions to be firmly made, but that according to the clinical pictures of some of the first hospitalised Omicron patients, it does appear milder than it was before.

“You could say it’s going in the direction that the upper respiratory system is affected more often,” he said.

Asked if Omicron was the beginning of the end, Luksic said that its emergence has accelerated some things in any case.

"It's to be hoped that Omicron may have accelerated the end or indeed be end of the pandemic and the transition to the endemic phase of the disease," responded Luksic, emphasising the continued importance of vaccination.

"There are currently no patients who have received two doses of the vaccine or received a booster among those admitted to hospital," he told HRT.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

Thursday, 20 January 2022

150 Million Kuna to be Spent on Public Croatian Irrigation Projects

January the 20th, 2022 - 150 million kuna is foreseen for public Croatian irrigation projects after a tender was announced by the Ministry of Agriculture earlier on this week. With the scorching long days of summer often causing damage to Croatian agriculture, the move is very much welcomed by those who are engaged in the field.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, a tender for investments in public Croatian irrigation worth 150 million kuna was announced on Monday this week. This is a tender from the Rural Development Programme for investments in basic public Croatian irrigation infrastructure in order to reduce the negative effects of droughts during the warm, dry summer months, ensure the stability of domestic agricultural production and increase the competitiveness of agricultural production on the whole.

The total amount of available public support funds stands at the aforementioned figure of 150 million kuna, and the deadline for submitting applications for support and submitting a certificate of the said application submissions will last from the 1st to the 28th of February, 2022.

Eligible beneficiaries for this tender are regional self-government units, and eligible projects are projects for the construction of a complete irrigation system in accordance with technical solutions and building permits (reservoirs, canals, surface and/or underground drainage systems as elements of the functional unit of the project, pumping stations, pipelines, distribution networks, control systems, etc).

The intensity of the financial support on offer to those it concerns and who apply for the tender will amount to a maximum of 100 percent of the total eligible costs of the project, the competent ministry noted. They also stated that so far, within the operation 4.3.1 entitled "Investments in basic infrastructure of public irrigation" through seventeen different projects, the amount of support has been agreed to exceed the 666 million kuna mark.

For more on agriculture in Croatia, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Over 1000 Croatian Post Offices Now Allow Aircash App Payments

January the 20th, 2022 - Croatian Post (Hrvatska posta) has apparently been introducing brand new services in order to up its game left, right and centre of late, and yet another new one has been launched. Aircash app payments can now be made in more than 1000 post offices across the country.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Lucija Spiljak writes, from now on, customers can pay for goods and services carried out by Croatian Post in a total of 1,016 post offices with Aircash app payments, ie through the very first Croatian digital wallet which was and continues to be a roaring success on the domestic market.

In addition to following the trends and habits of consumers and customers in order to keep the existing ones and attract new ones, Croatian Post says that they want to strengthen their role of "a leader in the digitalisation of business in Croatia."

“Each of our post offices has a prominent QR code on the counters that the user of the Aircash application should read on his mobile phone when paying for something. You can pay for the retail range digitally in our post offices (except for HAC ENC vouchers, e-vouchers from mobile operators and lottery tickets), for all postal services, Paket24 express delivery services and philatelic products,'' they explained from Croatian Post.

Aircash is otherwise the fastest growing Croatian fintech with more than 200,000 active users based in Croatia alone, and it offers its users the ability to pay for items and withdraw cash through the application. This move in which Aircash app payments will be allowed for a range of Croatian Post's services will certainly appeal to many.

They are also registered with the European Banking Authority (EBA), which is the umbrella regulator and gives them the right to do business across all European Union (EU) member states. In addition to being very much present here in Croatia, they are available in neighbouring Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Spain and Romania, with plans to spread their wings even further across the bloc.

For more, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Minister Says 2022 to be Best Year in Last 30 Years in Terms of Labour Market

ZAGREB, 19 Jan 2022 - Labour Minister Josip Aladrović said on Wednesday that he was confident 2022 would be the best year in the past 30 years regarding the labour market.

Aladrović made the statement while answering a question by HDZ MP Ankica Zmajić on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the labour market during Question Time in the parliament.

The minister said he based his optimism on data which showed that at the end of 2021 there were 35,000 more insured persons than in 2020, adding that positive indicators were visible also in the first 18 days of January.

He said that active employment policy measures, worth one billion kuna, would be implemented throughout this year.

At the start of the pandemic, the number of insured persons dropped by 25,000 in only 11 days, Aladrović recalled, adding that the government had responded promptly, investing HRK 12.5 billion in protecting the labour market, which, he said, had even been improved.

Commenting on the latest COVID-19 figures, with Wednesday seeing what is so far the highest number of new infections, 10,427, Health Minister Vili Beroš said that such a high number had been expected and he expressed satisfaction that the number of hospitalised patients had dropped by four from Tuesday, to 1,796.

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

PM Says Croatia to Respond "Clearly and Resolutely" if Russia Attacks Ukraine

ZAGREB, 19 Jan 2022 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday that Croatia would react "clearly and resolutely" if Russia attacked Ukraine.

Russia has caused concern in Kyiv and the West by amassing troops and equipment near the border with Ukraine and there are fears that it is preparing for an attack. Moscow denies this and says it has the right to deploy its troops on its territory any way it wants.

Speaking in the Croatian parliament, Plenković said that the situation in the east of Ukraine was very worrying and the tensest since 2014 and conflicts between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels.

"Croatia does not want the situation to escalate and it will react clearly and resolutely to prevent any instability," the PM said without being more specific.

An EU member, Croatia is also a member of NATO which has warned Moscow a number of times that it will face serious consequences if it attacks Ukraine. On several occasions, Zagreb has offered Ukrainian authorities its experience in the peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube region, which in the 1990s was under occupation by ethnic Serbs.

Submitting his annual report on meetings of the Council of the EU to the parliament, Plenković said that Croatia would raise the issue of people gone missing in the 1991-95 war as part of Serbia's EU accession talks.

"When the relevant policy chapters are put on the agenda, we will put the topic in the context of Serbia's further progress," he said.

He, added, however, that "it is not wise for a new member in a forum like the EU to block those who act slightly differently than we think they should."

Speaking of the most important topics of the Council of the EU meetings, Plenković cited the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the response to energy price increases and EU enlargement to the east, including the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He said that in 2021 Croatia made major progress on the path to membership of the Schengen area of passport-free travel and the euro area, noting that this time next year Croatians should be paying in euros in shops.

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Number of New COVID-19 Cases Stands at 16,017

ZAGREB, 19 Jan 2022 - A total of 5,590 new COVID-19 infections have been identified in the last 24 hours using rapid antigen tests, while PCR tests have identified 10,427 infections, which puts the total number of infected persons at 16,017.

Rapid antigen tests were used in the last 24 hours to test 22,344 persons, and 25% of the tests came back positive, officials at the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

Data from the national coronavirus crisis management team show that on Wednesday Croatia saw a record high number of new infections, 10,427, as well as 45 COVID-related deaths.

Previously the highest number of infections, identified with PCR tests, was reported last Wednesday, 9,894.

Croatia currently has 56,208 active cases of the disease, including 1,796 hospitalised patients, of whom 204 are on ventilators.

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

PM Comments on HNB Insider Trading during Question Time in Parliament

ZAGREB, 19 Jan 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday that the insider trading case involving Croatian National Bank (HNB) employees had nothing to do with his Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party.

"This thing at the HNB has nothing to do with the HDZ," Plenković said in response to a question from Sandra Benčić (We Can!) during Question Time in Parliament. She accused the prime minister that he had made it possible through rules and regulations for HNB employees to trade in bonds and shares of banks supervised by the central bank and thus allowed the elite to exploit the majority.

"We have requested that these allegations be checked and the HNB has been requested to present its observations, and I expect this matter to be discussed," Plenković said, adding that he has no reason not to believe what HNB Governor Boris Vujčić said.

Plenković questioned the timing of the HNB issue, which comes during Croatia's preparations for accession to the euro area. "Should the possible damage to the HNB's reputation compromise Croatia's euro area membership?" he asked.

He reiterated his view that attempts had been made in the last 12 months to destabilise the institutions of the state by claiming that nothing was good and there was no future in Croatia.

Benčić likened the prime minister's views to conspiracy theories, saying that shifting responsibility to others was not a characteristic of a leader. "I call on you to accept criticism sometimes and announce changes accordingly, including a change of some of the people sitting here."

Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković said that the government had responded to all the previous crises and that it would equally respond to the present increases in food and energy prices.

"Food prices are increasing in the world because of disruptions to supply chains caused by COVID, because of increased demand and bad weather. Energy prices are also increasing, which is affecting all sectors of the economy, including agriculture," Vučković said, recalling financial aid to Croatian farmers, direct payments in agriculture and aid to the livestock sector.

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Plenković: Government Might Limit Fuel Prices Again

ZAGREB, 19 Jan 2022 - During Question Time in the Sabor on Wednesday, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that the government might once again limit the prices of fuel if they increased again next week.

"If we estimate that prices will increase next week, we will again limit the prices of all fuels, except for premium fuel," Plenković told MP Miro Bulj (Bridge) who claimed that Croatia currently had the most expensive fuel and that fuel prices were increasing while the price of crude oil was decreasing.

Plenković recalled that the government had capped the fuel prices three months ago at HRK 11.10 and HRK 11.00 and kept these prices for two months which helped avoid a shock to citizens.

"All these years that you have been grunting we have been working to help citizens and make it better for them," Plenković told Bulj.

Buj's party colleague Marija Selak Raspudić asked how many people have been employed in state and public services in the past four years, while Plenković said that he did not have that information at hand and if anyone was employed it was to make the state administration more efficient.

MP Vesna Vučemilović (Sovereignists) asked Finance Minister Zdravko Marić whether a zero or lower VAT rate would be introduced and, if so, for which products.

"We will take this into consideration. VAT won't be neglected, and which measures these will be, we will inform the Sabor and the public in due course," Marić said.

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Plenković Asks MP if He's Alluding to Corruption between Him, Macron

ZAGREB, 19 Jan 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Wednesday called out Social Democratic Party MP Siniša Hajdaš Dončić for alluding in his questions about the purchase of Rafale fighter jets to corruptive activities between him and French President Emmanuel Macron.

The MP asked during Question Time how much the 12 French aircraft cost. "Since you are the president of a party convicted of political corruption and a French commission investigated a procurement of planes with India, I'd like to know why you don't show citizens that agreement. Will you make it public or not?"

"You are directly alluding to corrupt actions between the Croatian prime minister and the French president. Are you crazy? Do you know what is in those agreements?" Plenković responded.

"I will suggest to the defence minister to invite you all to the Defence Ministry to have a look and then, at your discretion, you can leak the types of weaponry to the portals. Every state will be glad to know what the agreement says," he added.

Plenković went on say that SDP president Peđa Grbin was "petty, irrelevant, ill-intentioned, worse than (previous SDP president Davor) Bernardić, which isn't easy politically."

He also commented on SDP MP Mirela Ahmetović's comparing him earlier with former prime minister Ivo Sanader, saying that she, who is the mayor of Omišalj, had tried to "dismantle the construction of the LNG terminal" there.

"That's the summary, that's your range," Plenković said, adding that he had to say something because today's Question Time was almost boring.

I'm really sorry for you, that a debutant could so sting and upset a person with such experience in diplomacy, Ahmetović countered.

SDP MP Sabina Glasovac said the prime minister was nervous and perhaps needed a break.

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Fuchs: Schools Won't Close Automatically in Counties

ZAGREB, 19 Jan 2022 - Minister of Science and Education Radovan Fuchs said on Wednesday that schools won't close automatically but will stay open as long as possible because "we can't gamble with the education of children and younger generations."

"As the number of infections is increasing in the general population, it is also growing among students. We have been informed that about 120 schools could go online. We are staying with our initial doctrine and that is that we will not fully transfer to online classes nor do we recommend to counties to do so," Fuch told reporters in Parliament House following the record number of new COVID cases in the country.

The global trend is in line with what we have been saying from the beginning, he underscored, and that is a change in doctrine as far as schools are concerned. "You all said that schools should be the last to shut down in order to avoid isolation for students. We are talking with the public health institute and national COVID response team to revise the approach of sending students into self-isolation because entire grades are being sent into self-isolation if only one student tests positive," said Fuchs.

He added that at the moment 50% of schools do not have even one infected student and 152 schools have one or two positive students, so the view that we should keep schools open as long as possible is correct.

"There are several cases where teachers and technical staff in schools are a problem and not just the children and we will talk with the institute to see what can be done," he added.

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