Croatia’s “Relaxed Restrictions” Debate Takes Shape

Total Croatia News

April 15, 2020 — While some EU member states have begun to open up their economies, Croatia remains quarantined. Despite the growing pressure from businessmen to begin the process of unfreezing the domestic economy as soon as possible, the Government is not giving up a millimeter of its restrictive “policy corona” as of now, according to Jutarnji List.

“There are pressures, we are aware of that,” a source within the government told the paper. “However, we will only be able to consider abolishing certain measures and prohibitions when the epidemiological picture permits. So far this is not the case yet.”

A process of gradual unwinding began on the European Continent this weekend. Spain allowed almost two million construction and industrial workers to return to work. Italy opened bookstores and children’s clothing stores. Denmark opened schools for students. The clearest plan to exit the “corona regime” is implemented by the Austrian government, where all stores up to 400 square meters are open. If there is no significant increase in the number of new infections, they will open all other shops, shopping centers and some services such as hairdressing and beauty salons on May 1.

Does the Croatian Government have at least a preliminary plan for reopening the economy?

“It works on various models, but it’s still too early to talk about it. There are no comparisons with Austria,” the government source told Jutarnji. “Their curve of the daily number of newcomers has been going down for some time, and here the curve is oscillating.


“The number of new patients has to fall five to ten consecutive days to consider the phasing out of individual measures. While the number of new cases fluctuates between 40 and 70 per day, it is not yet time for that.”

It leaves Croatia in the same precarious situation as many other nations — squeezed between keeping a pandemic at bay while also hurting an economy.

“It is important that we be careful when withdrawing the measures,” Branko Kolarić, Head of the Public Health Gerontology Department of the NHIF “Dr. Andrija Štampar” told Jutarnji. “The measures are intended to preserve the life and health of people and prevent the collapse of the health system. In addition to physical health, there is also mental and social health. The economy and standard of living are also determinants of health and longevity.”

While there is no clear answer from the government on how long the quarantine will last, economists Velimir Šonje said that the economy must be started immediately.

“From an economic perspective, irreparable damage has already occurred and the only economic sense is to start the economy immediately in order to try to return to the point we were in February this year in a year or two,” he said. “Now that is still possible, with luck. As time goes by in this isolation, the likelihood of such a happy outcome will be less and less.

“If the Germans calculated that their economy could not withstand more than 11 weeks of such a regime, and we know what the German economy is and what the strength of their measures is, what do you think is the endurance limit for a weak economy like the Croatian one that operates with an indebted country?”

Šonje added it is necessary to open the now-closed section of trade and the service sector “with the necessary modalities to comply with anti-epidemic measures,” as soon as possible.

The National Civil Protection Directorate has not said when — or whether — it will extend the restrictions on work and movement set to expire on April 18.

The headquarters passed the largest package of restrictive measures – from the ban on the operation of cafes, restaurants, hairdressers and beauty salons, through cinemas, swimming pools and gyms, until the ban on serving masses and operating a driving school – on March 19, with a 30-day deadline.

“Croatia is too small to recover as a closed economy, whereby I don’t just mean tourism because this branch is hit hard anyway,” Šonje said. “It is important to monitor data, harmonize measures, and integrate some information systems and protocols in the future because Central European economies are closely linked, and the flow of goods and services, which is vital for all these countries, depends on the people.”

Kolarić warned against rushing through reopening the economy. “The world has never stopped this way,” he said. “When we have already assessed the threat of this contagion to the global and significantly reduced personal freedoms and so-called a free market, it is important that when withdrawing measures we are careful not to spoil what we have done well.”


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