May 9, 2020 — The island home of olive picking championships, swimming boars, and Boris Johnson on a bicycle has a new guest: the coronavirus. The unwelcome intruder on the island of Brač sent locals scrambling for safer shores just before authorities limited movement.
Brač, off the coast of Split, became a COVID-19 hotspot overnight when 22 new infections emerged on Friday, up from zero. More may be on the way, with 54 reported contacts found and close to 100 tests conducted.
The Civil Protection Directorate decided on Saturday Brač would spend another two weeks adhering to strict measures, including “stay at home” rules and limited travel, which are being lifted across the rest of Croatia.
The spike in infections reportedly sent islanders headed for the mainland Friday and Saturday, as rumors of a quarantine spread. A video shot by N1 reporter Hari Kočić shows the ferry bound for Split packed, with several cars left in the lurch.
Bijeg s Brača nakon što je objavljeno kako bi otok mogao završiti u karanteni? Nisu svi uspjeli stati na trajekt. Mještani kažu kako su bijesni jer su se držali svih mjera, a sada ce ponovno biti zatvoreni! #n1info #korona pic.twitter.com/HNFV0buTSo
— Hari Kočić (@HariKocic) May 8, 2020
“Escape from Brač after it was announced that the island could end up in quarantine?” he wrote. “Not everyone was able to get on the ferry. The locals say they are furious because they have adhered to all measures and will now be locked up again!”
Ivana Marković, Mayor of Supetar on the island of Brač, asked the authorities to send professionals from Zagreb to replace the local Civil Protection Directorate. The mayor is herself in self-isolation after finding herself two degrees of separation from patient zero.
Brač was already battling to keep what’s left of the tourism season alive while also easing life for locals. The island is home to some of Croatia’s more picturesque vistas, including the Zlatni Rat beach.
It’s also been at the epicenter of the debate over smart development, with some municipalities nixing the creation of new tourism apartments.
Marković called for a freeze on ferry ticket prices, keeping the lower winter rates.
The island’s emergence as a new coronavirus epicenter shows the precarious balance Croatia’s Civil Protection Directorate seeks as it loosens restrictions.
“Let this example be a lesson to us,” Health Minister Vili Beroš said on Friday. “There is no relaxation. We must continue to be careful and keep our physical distance, adhere to hygienic measures.”
Brač’s “patient zero” was a local returning from hospital for non-coronavirus issues and reportedly required care at home, hence the high number of contacts.