Richest Town in Croatia Keeps Travel Restrictions, For Now

Total Croatia News

April 21, 2020 — A tourism hub on the island of Pag opted out of loosened travel restrictions to prevent a surge in new COVID-19 infections during the coming Mayday holiday, which it fears could have repercussions on its profitable summer season.

The decision comes as the rest of Croatia tosses aside an ePass system which created an administrative — if not literal — barrier between municipalities and counties during the first month of Croatia’s lockdown. 

A drop in new infections gives local directorates a chance to ease back on restrictions. Novalja said, “No thanks” and received an exemption allowing it to maintain stricter policies.

The head of Novalja’s Civil Protection Directorate Marijan Suljić reportedly told HINA the town will keep the ePass regime, preventing weekend visitors from returning to second residences and vacation homes.

“It may be a case of thousands of people who would come to their apartments when no catering facilities were working,” Suljić said. “Everyone would go out to the waterfront and that’s dangerous. With this unpopular decision, we are protecting ourselves and them.”

Novalja made waves with an ad campaign asking tourists to stay at home, a jarring message for a town whose economy relies almost exclusively on a booming tourism season.

The comparatively affluent municipality helped local businesses weather the lockdown’s economic plunge, covering state-mandated social safety net contributions for every worker in the hospitality industry.

Suljić acknowledged the continued lockdown would anger the owners of summer homes and apartments. He said Novalja will welcome back weekenders, eventually, but not at the cost of progress made containing the coronavirus. 

To date, the small town had only two cases of COVID-19, a married couple reportedly recovered ready to be declared healthy on Sunday, 28 days after testing positive.

The municipality will probably open to outsiders when hospitality and food service companies resume business.

“We just have to endure a little more because it would be pointless to give up and ruin everything now,” Suljić added.


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