COVID-19 in Croatia: Civil Protection Weighs In on Lockdown Potential, Local Measures

Daniela Rogulj



August 25, 2020 – Croatia has recorded an increased number of coronavirus infections in the last ten days. However, on Monday, 136 new cases were detected, which is significantly less than in the past few days. The latest on COVID-19 in Croatia. reports that the National Civil Protection Headquarters, along with several scientists, believes that in the autumn, the symptoms will be significantly more severe compared to the symptoms in those infected this summer. In this context, new measures are being prepared, and the leaders of the National Headquarters have repeatedly described what the rules should look like in autumn.

In short and most importantly, there should be no new lockdown. Not all cafes, schools, restaurants, shops should be closed, like in the spring. There should be no passes, bans on leaving the place of residence, or most of what we have witnessed already. However, as Bozinovic emphasized, strict national measures are not completely ruled out, and everything will depend on the situation.

The measures to be adopted should be local. Although a ban on cafe work is currently in force throughout the country, no matter how many people are infected in each area, the Headquarters says that measures at the national level should be an exception.

What it should look like in the future, Bozinovic explained at Monday’s 2 pm conference.

“We emphasized that the system will make every effort to avoid closures, to keep it active as much as possible, and for local and county headquarters to detect hotspots more accurately. This would mean that National Headquarters’ decisions would not affect the same activities throughout Croatia, but would be aimed at a segment or a specific legal entity where measures of the Croatian Institute of Public Health are not applied as prescribed,” said Bozinovic.

He explained that this means the more precise extinguishing of hotspots, which will give local headquarters more work, and expressed the expectation that some local headquarters will soon come up with concrete measures.

“If we see that the majority has similar requirements, a measure can be adopted that will be valid for the entire territory of Croatia. This is the best way to leave as much as possible to function, and to deal with emerging hotspots at 14-day intervals,” Bozinovic said. 

Bozinovic emphasized that the meeting with the local headquarters aimed to encourage them to give the National HQ more information so that it could react.

“We deeply believe that we will not enter another lockdown, and we need to report in time for the hotspots so that we do not have to take decisions beyond what is necessary and possible at a given moment,” he said.

Speaking about the hotspots, Bozinovic said that weddings spread the virus, but should not be generalized. “There are 300 or so weddings a week in Croatia and not all of them are a source of infection. They will react where something appears, try to fix it, and where we have a favorable situation, let life go as normally as possible,” he said.

Bozinovic was also a guest on HRT, where he explained everything a little more. He says that local measures are nothing new, and they were adopted, for example, on Brac and Murter. One such measure is now in force in Imotski.

“This is nothing new, such measures have been so far, but there have been fewer. At the initiative of local, county headquarters, we have always responded, knowing that people in the field have a better insight into the situation and the potential hotspots because from the national level, you can’t have such an insight, ” Bozinovic told HRT.

Bozinovic admits that national measures have major shortcomings.

“On the other hand, the fact is that when decisions are made at the national level, they are applied indiscriminately to all activities. This was justified during the lockdown, and horizontal measures were taken. However, we now know more about the virus and how it can be can be significantly reduced by responsible behavior.

Given that there is no more lockdown, that there is no intention to close everything, that there is not even a need if the measures are applied, then we will, and we have already announced this, rely on this data from the field.

If local headquarters, which are not only the county but also city and municipal, report that something is happening in certain facilities and activities, we will quickly make decisions that will be applied. That means a lot of decisions. However, it is better to make a lot of decisions that are more precise than one that can hit indiscriminately,” says Bozinovic.

Large gatherings and nightclubs are often a source of infection. Bozinovic was asked whether some measures will be adopted at the Croatian level.

“It is not our intention, nor would it be proportionate to make a decision that would hit someone who has been adhering to HZJZ measures all along,” he says.

Bozinovic says the National Headquarters cannot monitor all these gatherings at the local level.

“That is why the responsibility lies with the local headquarters, because they all, especially the county headquarters, have the task of including epidemiologists who know the job, as well as those who are in the National Headquarters,” he said.

Bozinovic was asked what if there are 500 newly infected people a day.

“As long as it is possible, and I hope it will always be possible, these measures will be adopted locally, regionally. But we do not exclude national measures either. It is difficult to predict now. I am sure that if everyone engages to the maximum, we will achieve results,” said Bozinovic.

The director of the Croatian Institute of Public Health, Krunoslav Capak, was a guest on RTL Danas. He also commented on this new approach, which will be based on stronger localization of measures.

Asked if he had confidence that the local headquarters would make recommendations validly and promptly, Capak replied that the goal of the meeting and agreement with local headquarters was to lower the level of “snapshots of epidemiological assessments to the local level”.

“We believe that those who are on the spot can best identify the problem and the source of the infection and best direct a certain measure to reduce that source of infection and solve the problems. When we have information from local headquarters about it, then the National Headquarters can take more targeted measures. So far, when we have adopted horizontal measures that apply to all counties, there is always the possibility that for someone, this measure may be too strict or they do not need it,” he said, adding that the situation is always better somewhere and worse elsewhere.

“This way, we will now have the opportunity to focus on measures where the problem exists and try to solve the problem at its source. Local headquarters always have a member of the epidemiologist,” Capak said.

To the additional question that the local headquarters had epidemiologists so far and whether the meeting took place too late, Capak answered that they had communicated with them in the same way so far.

“However, we have now clearly presented this possibility of working to apply the principle of subsidiarity, record the problem and direct the measures where they are most needed,” Capak said, adding that the National Headquarters has supported the proposed measures of the local headquarters. He reminded of the cases of Vukovar-Srijem County and weddings or quarantine on Murter, where they obeyed local headquarters in the past.

Asked again if everything could have been done earlier, Capak replied: “We have always reacted by supporting the local headquarters. I think it is not too late. But now we have presented this possibility to all headquarters, that it exists, and that we will we certainly support when they spot a problem and give us suggestions.”

Minister Vili Beros also commented on this new approach for Dnevnik N1 television. He says there will be no such closure because the economy could not stand it.

“Measures used to be general and focused on the entire territory of the country, but we have already announced that the measures will be regional and focused on hotspots. That is why we emphasized the role of local and county headquarters, because they know the situation in their areas best and give a framework, but they should detect problems locally and emphasize to us those issues that will fit into the measures,” said Beros.

“There were many unknowns in the first part of the battle, but now we know the clinical picture, a number of elements are better known than before. Such closure is not even possible, and the economy would not tolerate it. By selective measures and finding ways to coexist in the second, we will learn to live with that virus as part of the fight,” Beros said.

When asked how he evaluates the work of local headquarters, he says that some worked more, some less.

“At the meeting, we emphasized the role of county headquarters. And in Murter, Brac, Istria … Initiatives were brought at the suggestion of local headquarters. I would not criticize anyone, and we should work in the field and talk to everyone. Communication should be permanent, and the information should be accurate. Some headquarters were more active, some less so, but everyone’s task is to prevent the spread of the epidemic and that is why today we have confirmed this once again and consider measures together,” the minister said.

Asked if he expects a drop in the number of newly infected, he says he expects it in a week or two, if there are no new epidemiological hotspots because they want to bring the situation under control by the autumn.

“We are currently controlling the epidemiological situation, and our epidemiologists believe that the measures adopted 10 days ago will now show the result and the picture. It is still possible that the number of infected will fluctuate, but that number should start falling. Our goal is to stabilize the epidemiological situation before the school year,” said Beros.

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