Coronavirus In Croatia & The Balkans

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Coronavirus In Croatia & The Balkans

First published February 25th, and now updated daily as new information comes to hand. 

Coronavirus. A word that has been in the media for a few months. Lots of worrying media reports as well as many good news stories about the healed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-2019).

There is no denying the virus continues to spread globally, now including into the Balkans and across the Adriatic in Italy.

On February 25th Croatia reported its first case. Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic confirmed that a young man was placed in isolation after testing positive for COVID-2019. He had recently returned from Italy.

Update 8 April

  • 1343 cases in Croatia

  • 19 deaths

  • 179 recovered

Where Are The Coronoavirus Cases In Croatia

See the map here

Coronavirus In The Balkans

Yes.

  1. Albania. 400
  2. Bosnia-Herzegovina. 794
  3. Bulgaria. 581
  4. Croatia. 1343
  5. Greece. 1832
  6. Kosovo. 125
  7. Macedonia. 617
  8. Montenegro. 140
  9. Romania. 4761
  10. Serbia. 2666
  11. Slovenia. 1091
  12. Turkey. 34109

As you already know, COVID-2019 (also known as SARS-CoV-2) was first reported in Wuhan, China, and has now been reported in dozens of countries globally. You can see up to date worldwide stats here and in Europe here thanks to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. So far 90%+ people have been reported as recovered (some cases still being treated and sadly some 2% deaths).

So the question remains, should you cancel your trip to Croatia or the Balkans with Coronavirus now confirmed?

As of 18th March: I say yes!

Why?

This is why:

As for March 19th, all bars and restaurants in Croatia are to be closed down, for 30 days, with the exception of the delivery of food and the operation of public kitchens. All stores except those selling food and hygiene items, pharmacies, bakeries, pet stores, gas stations, baby equipment will also be closed down.

All services that are not necessary for daily functioning – saunas, swimming pools, cinemas, night clubs, museums, theaters, libraries and so on are also to be closed down.
The work of gyms, fitness centers and exhibitions, fairs, shows, and religious gatherings will also be suspended.

Employers are required to arrange work from home if they are able to. They must cancel appointments and business trips other than necessary and prohibit those who have acute respiratory illness from coming to work.

A decision to ban cross-border movement is also being prepared. And some measures regarding public transport are also to be announced tomorrow.

I am not telling people to “calm down” or stop panicking” as those kinds of messages, just have no value in my humble opinion.

The WHO says “It is prudent for travelers who are sick to delay or avoid travel to COVID-19 affected areas, in particular for elderly travelers and people with chronic diseases or underlying health conditions” That is now Croatia.

We have canceled all travel and social plans. You can follow along with my new lockdown here.

If you plan to continue to travel, you must follow the travel advice from your home country about travel to Croatia (and the Balkans). You can also stay up-to-date with information from RELIABLE sources*.

For example: As an Australian, I love to look at the Australian Smarttraveller website. The Smartraveller is provided by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and has all the latest information, and they will update the information on that site if travel restrictions for any country are required.  This website also allows you to sign up to travel alerts for the countries you plan to visit.

My American friends use this site which has similar information to the Australian site and also this one from the CDC

Canadian colleagues, have told me this site is where they look.

* Only reliable sources have been used for this post, mostly from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Australian and Croatian government sites.

Be Informed, & Do Not Take Advice From Random Social Media Posts  

Kind of ironic to say, given I am writing about the topic, though it’s important to note that you should rely only on credible sources – like the government websites I mentioned. Here are a few more from Croatia:

The Croatian authorities have published the following information and contact details:

  • For urgent queries call the 24-hour on-call epidemiologist: +385 98 227753
  • The Clinic for Infectious Diseases “Fran Mihaljevic” advises those WITH symptoms as described for COVID-19 to contact: +385 91 4012 784 or +385 91 4012 790
  • Public inquiries related to Coronavirus can be sent to the Civil Protection Crisis Committee: stozercz@mup.hr

Is Croatia Taking Coronavirus Seriously?

100%, yes they are.

Croatia is taking the advice of the WHO, in conjunction with global experts, governments, and partners to rapidly expand scientific knowledge on this new virus, to track the spread and virulence of the virus, and to provide advice to countries and individuals on measures to protect health and prevent the spread of this outbreak.

Croatia is following all WHO guidelines, and has set up isolation centers and is providing doctors with up-to-date information across the country on how to deal with potential patients.

You can also find daily (updated at 15:00h) information about Croatia here on this link about Coronavirus in Croatia.

19th March Update: Croatia has tested some 1264 people so far, and more than 10,000 people are under epidemiological measures, which include home isolation and reporting to the epidemiologist twice per day.

Restrictions Getting Into Croatia

The Croatian Ministry of Health has strict rules for individuals traveling from any COVID-19 affected areas within the prior 14 days.

Each day the rules are updated – and are expanding. These rules are to reduce the spread of the virus in the population and to strengthen the current control Croatia has on the virus.

Rules Around Coming & Going 

Border crossings with Serbia and Montenegro have been closed to all but their citizens and truck drivers, and checks at all border crossings between Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, and BiH have intensified.

Persons coming from the following destinations are required to undergo 14 days of health surveillance in government quarantine (or home quarantine if they are a Croatian citizen) facility. 

– People’s Republic of China: Hubei Province
– Italian Republics
– Germany: Heinsberg County in the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia
– Republic of Korea: Daegu City and Cheongdo Province
– Iran

Persons coming from Category 2 are required to undergo 14-day home quarantine / self-isolation health surveillance. 

Foreign citizens who do not have a permanent residence in Croatia must show proof of secured accommodation in Croatia during the 14-day self-isolation. If they are staying in Croatia for a short period of time, they can leave Croatia before the expiry of 14 days if they are healthy.

– People’s Republic of China (except Hubei province area)
– Hong Kong (People’s Republic of China)
– Republic of Korea (except Daegu city and Cheongdo province)
– Japan
– Republic Singapore
– French Republic
– Federal Republic of Germany (except Heinsberg County in North Rhine – Westphalia)
– Republic of Austria
– Swiss Confederation
– Kingdom of Spain
– Kingdom of the Netherlands
– Kingdom of Sweden
– United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
– Malaysia
– Republic of Slovenia (Bela Krajina only)
– Australia
– Republic of the Philippines
– Socialist Republic of Vietnam
– Kingdom of Cambodia
– New Zealand
– Kingdom of Denmark
– Kingdom of Norway
– Czech Republic
– Republic of Finland
– Hellenic Republic
– State of Israel
– Ireland
– Republic of San Marino
– Republic Iceland
– Republic of Poland
– Romania
– Portuguese Republic
– Slovak Republic
– Republic of Belarus
– Republic of Bulgaria
– Republic of Northern Macedonia
– Kingdom of Thailand
– Republic of India
– Republic of Indonesia
– Republic of Maldives
– Kingdom of Bahrain
– United Arab Emirates
– Republic of Iraq
– Arab Republic of Egypt
– Lebanon Republic
– Islamic Republic
of Bangladesh
– United States of America
– Canada
– Federal Republic of Brazil
– Republic of Chile
– Republic of Costa Rica
– Algerian People’s Republic Democratic Republic of
– Cameroon
– Republic of Peru
– Republic of Ecuador
– Principality of Andorra
– Republic of Albania
– Republic of Cyprus
– Montenegro
– Principality of Liechtenstein
– the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
– the Republic of Malta
– the Principality of Monaco
– the Republic of Turkey
– Ukraine

Croatian citizens coming from these countries are required to have 14 days of home health quarantine/self-isolation. That is they cannot leave Croatia until the 14-day health surveillance expires.

Rules Around Gatherings & Events

Everything including mass is now banned.

Other Croatian Restrictions

  • Also as of 13th March all kindergartens and schools in Itria, are to be closed
  • As of March 15th, all schools in Croatia will be closed
  • The Prime Minister has appealed to the elderly to be especially careful and to be lead a disciplined lifestyle at the moment. Ie to stay indoors where possible, and limit contacts
  • Valamar Hotels will now be closed, in all locations
  • Ryanair has canceled all routes for 2020 into Zadar

Restrictions From Balkans Countries

Please check with your airline and the country you plan to travel to directly for the latest most up-to-date information (links below). As a guide here is what I know so far:

Serbia

The Government of Serbia has declared a State of Emergency in relation to the COVID−19 pandemic. There is a nationwide curfew in place from 8:00 pm to 5:00 am daily. During this time everyone must stay indoors. All people over 65 in urban areas and over 70 in rural areas must stay indoors at all times. Restrictions on gatherings of over 50 people are in place. Borders are closed to all foreign nationals, except transport crew, accredited diplomats and those who are temporary or permanent residents. All international airports are closed. Anyone arriving in Serbia will need to self-isolate for between 14 and 28 days, depending on where they arrived from.

Romania

There are several rules and restrictions in place in Romania, you can find the latest here on this Government website. Some rules to note are:

Romanian authorities have declared a state of emergency due to COVID−19. Emergency regulations include a series of restrictions. Gatherings of more than 3 people (from different families) are banned. Supermarkets, pet food shops, pharmacies and dry cleaners will remain open, but most other businesses are closed. Restrictions continue to apply to gyms, fitness rooms, spa salons, cosmetics stores, gambling halls and casinos. Serving food and beverages has been suspended in restaurants, hotels, bars at indoor and outdoor locations. Free movement is limited. Individuals are permitted to go to work, if they are unable to work remotely, and to those shops which remain open. Only Romanian and EU citizens and their family members, and foreigners with a Romanian or EU residence permit, can enter Romania. 

Bosnia-Hercegovina

Entry to foreigners is heavily restricted. Curfews are in place and non-essential services are closed. 

You can find more details here.

Slovenia

Information can be obtained on the Government site here.

Macedonia

North Macedonia declared a State of Emergency on 18 March. A nationwide curfew from 9:00pm to 6:00am is in place. All international airports are closed until further notice, and all borders are closed to non-citizens and residents. 

All public transport has been suspended and there is a limit of two persons per car. All restaurants and retail stores are shut except for grocery stores, petrol stations, and pharmacies. T

Greece

From 23 March, Greece will implement a nationwide curfew. Only movements that serve specific needs will be allowed. You’ll need a permit and you’ll be fined if you breach curfew. Restrictions and bans are in place for hotels, maritime arrivals, public gatherings and venues, and public institutions. Supermarkets, banks, pharmacies and medical centres remain open with restrictions on numbers inside. 

Bulgaria

The Bulgarian Government has proclaimed a state of emergency and has temporarily closed the borders to all non-EU citizens until 17 April. This period may be extended. Airlines have reduced the number of flights in and out of Bulgaria. The Ministry of Health has announced a ban on entry into Bulgaria of citizens from high-risk countries.

Albania

Albania has now closed all land and sea borders. Air travel to and from Italy and Greece has also ceased. Note that airports remain open but commercial options are increasingly limited. 

There are restrictions on internal travel within Albania. Other restrictions include the closure of shops, except for food shops and pharmacies, and suspension of public transport in a number of cities.

Balkan Website Links

CONTACT NUMBERS IN THE BALKANS - CORONAVIRUS

Here are other government links for the Balkans that you may find helpful:

So far, the best advice has been to follow the local government rules and to follow basic hygiene rules as a way of protection. Those are:  

Basic Protective Measures Against The New Coronavirus

Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others.

All the government websites say there is no need to stop traveling, and you must take care of your health and protect others by doing the following simple steps:

Wash Your Hands Frequently

Covid-2019: Should You Cancel Your Trip To Croatia With Coronavirus Now Confirmed? _ Wash Hands

Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water for a minimum time of 20 seconds.

What is the best way to wash hands properly?

  • Step 1: Wet hands with running water
  • Step 2: Apply enough soap to cover wet hands
  • Step 3: Scrub all surfaces of the hands – including the back of hands, between fingers and under nails – for at least 20 seconds.
  • Step 4: Rinse thoroughly with running water
  • Step 5: Dry hands with a clean cloth or single-use towel

Wash your hands often, especially before eating; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; and going to the bathroom. 

If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water, if hands are visibly dirty.

Covid-2019: Should You Cancel Your Trip To Croatia With Coronavirus Now Confirmed? _ Wash Hands 2

Maintain Social Distancing

Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Why? When someone coughs or sneezes, they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth, which may contain the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

Avoid Touching Eyes, Nose And Mouth

Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose, or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

Practice Respiratory Hygiene

Covid-2019: Should You Cancel Your Trip To Croatia With Coronavirus Now Confirmed? _ Cover Mouth

Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

Droplets spread the virus. By following good respiratory hygiene, you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu, and COVID-19.

If You Have Fever, Cough And Difficulty Breathing, Seek Medical Care Early

Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention, and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority on how to report suspected cases of having Covid-19.

National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to direct you to the right health facility quickly. This will also protect you and help prevent the spread of viruses and other infections.

What Are The Symptoms Of Covid-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • fever
  • tiredness
  • dry cough.

Some patients may have:

  • aches and pains
  • nasal congestion
  • runny nose
  • sore throat or
  • diarrhea.

These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell.

Once infected with the virus, symptoms can take up to 14 days to show. You can still spread the virus to others during this period. A person is most contagious when they are exhibiting symptoms of the virus.

Should I Wear A Medical Mask?

The use of a medical mask is advised if you have respiratory symptoms (coughing or sneezing) to protect others. If you don’t have any symptoms, then there is no need to wear a mask. 

If masks are worn, they must be used and disposed of properly to ensure their effectiveness and to avoid any increased risk of transmitting the virus. 

Is Coronavirus Fatal?

Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every six people who get COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. About 2% of people with the disease have died. People with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

One thing to note is that as this is a new virus, there is not yet enough known how it affects children or pregnant women. We know it is possible for people of any age to be infected with the virus, but so far there have been relatively few cases of COVID-19 reported among children. The virus is fatal in rare cases, so far mainly among older people with pre-existing medical conditions.

How Is Coronavirus Diagnosed?

Coronavirus is diagnosed by a polymerase chain reaction test. A sample of a person’s nose or mouth secretions is collected and tested. The swaps are then checked for genetic markers for the virus.

Before You Go Home

If you do travel to Croatia (or other places that have confirmed Coronavirus cases), you should check in with your local authorities in what is expected (if anything) of you before returning home. 

As an example, Australia has these rules for returning home –  and Canada has this advice for Canadians.

So tell us, what are your thoughts on travel plans for Croatia and the Balkans in 2020.

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Comments (4)

  1. thanks for sharing important blog please stay to home snd your blog very useful to us today covid -19 very serious

  2. It is very important to not copy information from any media and to go to primary sources and credible sites for information As of now, Feb. 25 at 21:23 there is no word on the Croatian Ministry of health website (I am reading it in Croatian) about the first case of covid 2019 in Croatia. What is stated in this blog is simply not true. The link in the article takes to a news portal, and not to the information that relates to this subject on the Croatian Ministry of Health page. Some individuals have been hospitalized, but no one tested positive. Please don’t spread misinformation.

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