Vili Beros on Coronavirus Summer: “Without Tourism We’d be Worse Off”

Lauren Simmonds

Copyright Romulic and Stojcic
Copyright Romulic and Stojcic

Copyright Romulic and Stojcic

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 15th of August, 2020, RTL reporter Jelena Tesija talked with the Minister of Health, Vili Beros, about the record number of newly infected people and the huge challenges that await the health care system.

We recently had the worst day since the beginning of the epidemic. Did you expect such figures?

Today we have 208 infected people. The tourist season is in full swing, 830 thousand tourists are in our country and an increase in the number was to be expected. It isn’t possible to predict exactly how much it would rise and what it would be. However, it is important to note that in some counties, such as Split-Dalmatia County and in the City of Zagreb, the number of new cases is significantly higher. But we have four counties with only one new patient, we have 14 counties in which there are less than 10 new patients. The most important thing is that everything is under control, that we know the source of the infection and that our epidemiological profession is working out in the field. It’s necessary to constantly emphasise that we ourselves, with our caution and effort, can contribute to reducing the spread of the infection. That’s what is important to say at this point.

Did we open up again too much and too soon?

I don’t think so. We made this decision fully consciously. We’ve made life and tourism possible. Without tourism, which is one of the more important branches of our economy, everything would be far worse than it is now. We’ve purposefully accepted this risk. We’re still of the opinion that it is controllable. I spoke this morning with my Slovenian and Austrian colleagues, in a way we’re all on the same track. What was, and that is the tourist season, is now coming to an end and we need to turn to autumn, turn to the beginning of the new school year and think about what’s needed.

More and more countries are putting Croatia on the red list, are we still too late with the introduction of some measures?

I wouldn’t say so. As you yourself have witnessed from the beginning of this threat, we’ve always started with a certain supervision, and then with a gradual tightening of those measures. So far, this has always yielded certain results. As important as the measures are, the responsible behavior of all of us together is equally important. With minimal personal effort, meaning wearing a mask when recommended, maintaining distance, personal hygiene, and avoiding handshakes, we can do the most to prevent the spread of this infection. That’s why it’s very important that we detected certain foci, and these were nightclubs at this time, where the application of this mode of behaviour could have prevented the spread of the infection. I’m sorry that didn’t happen. However, we must therefore continue to repeat and appeal, especially to young people, to adhere to these measures.

What will Croatia look like in the coming days? Doctors are already saying they have too much work on their hands, can the healthcare system cope with what awaits us?

Thank you for your concern. However, the fact is that today there are only seven newly hospitalised people in Croatia, there’s only one patient on a respirator. This, however, shows that the clinical picture is much milder due to certain circumstances and of course that doctors, especially epidemiologists, are burdened. But we’re not thinking about any greater threat or burden on the health system at this moment in time. But we need to be thoughtful and prepared so we have some plans in place for September, especially for autumn, when we expect a different clinical picture and we have to be, as we were in March and April, ready for that.

What does it mean we have to be prepared? Will we have to mobilise the Zagreb Arena again, or will it not come to that?

We’re not going to talk about that now, you know I don’t like to get too ahead of myself. However, even now there are some capacities that are being preserved if needed. But we will do whatever is necessary at the given time and in accordance with the epidemiological situation.

Are you on vacation, you’re in Jelsa, when will you return to work?

I’m an envoy of the Prime Minister on the day that is celebrated in the municipality of Jelsa. So, I’m officially here. But there’s no rest. This morning I spoke with my Austrian and Slovenian counterparts, with the Deputy Prime Minister several times, with the Prime Minister as well. As long as the situation is like this and as long as the virus is active, there is no rest.

Is there a fear that the situation could spiral out of our control?

No. Not at this point.

What would you advise citizens? You’ve already mentioned wearing a mask, keeping a distance, is there perhaps anything else that citizens should be warned about?

No. But what really needs to be emphasised is that with minimal personal effort, we can do a lot for both the economy and the preservation of health and jobs in Croatia. Therefore, wearing a mask where necessary and recommended, maintaining a distance, personal hygiene, and avoiding shaking hands is absolutely a recipe for combating this infection.

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