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Coronavirus In Croatia & The Balkans – Should You Cancel Your Trip To Croatia Or 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 15 March: 49 cases are confirmed in Croatia.
- Istria: 6
- Zagreb: 16
- Rijeka: 10
- Varazdin: 5
- Sisak: 2
- Osijek: 9
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?
Only you can make that decision for yourself and your family.
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”
I am planning to continue my travel plans. Update 11th March: 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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
15th March Update: Croatia has tested some 742 people so far, and more than 6300 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
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
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)
– 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
– Republic of Slovenia (Bela Krajina only)
– 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
– Republic of San Marino
– Republic Iceland
– Republic of Poland
– 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
– United States of America
– Federal Republic of Brazil
– Republic of Chile
– Republic of Costa Rica
– Algerian People’s Republic Democratic Republic of
– Republic of Peru
– Republic of Ecuador
– Principality of Andorra
– Republic of Albania
– Republic of Cyprus
– Principality of Liechtenstein
– the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
– the Republic of Malta
– the Principality of Monaco
– the Republic of Turkey
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
- It has been recommended postponing all meetings and organized gatherings attended by more than 100 people
- All sporting events to be without spectators
2. All meeting organizers are required to ensure the highest hygiene standards, including:
- Provide checkpoints with hand sanitizer
- Provide clear instruction to participants to refrain close social contact (eg: handshaking)
- Give clear instruction to participants if they have respiratory illness and/or fever (greater than 37.5 o C) not to attend events
- Prior to the start of the event, obtain the consent of the County Civil Protection Headquarters and the competent Public Health Institute that they have fulfilled the prescribed instructions
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
- It is recommended that public events of sports or entertainment are not held (night clubs, concerts, etc.)
Trump European Ban
President Donald Trump’s European travel ban is not in effect. Here’s a list of the 26 Schengen countries + others he added (15th Match) from where people will not be allowed to fly to the USA for 30 days:
- Czech Republic
- The United Kingdom
These European countries are currently not a part of Trump’s ban they are:
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
- North Macedonia
- San Marino
- Vatican City
Note: the ban applies to where people are flying from, not an individual’s nationality, so, a UK national flying from a Schengen country will still be covered by the ban.
Do Any Other Countries In The Balkans Have Reported Cases
Yes. (updated twice a day 10 am and 10 pm)
- Albania. 42
- Bosnia-Herzegovina. 21
- Bulgaria. 43
- Croatia. 46
- Greece. 228
- Kosovo. 2
- Macedonia. 19
- Montenegro. 0
- Romania. 131
- Serbia. 46
- Slovenia. 181
- Turkey. 6
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:
On 15 March, Serbia declared a state of emergency and has closed its borders to all non-Serbian travelers.
- As at 10th March, all primary and secondary, and higher education schools in Serbia will close until 30 March
- Kindergartens remain open
- All public gatherings over 100 people during this period are prohibited
- Serbia has closed several border crossings with Croatia
- More info can be found here or please contact 064 8945 235 (Ministry of Health)
- Road transit freight through the country has been restricted to a maximum of 12 hours.
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 citizens arriving from Italy, China, Iran, and South Korea at terrestrial border points will be allowed into the country only under the compulsory measure of being quarantined. Those returning to the country will be asked to sign a declaration that they do not come from a quarantined area and risk sanctions if proven otherwise
- At the same time, air carriers are compelled to not allow the boarding of citizens others than Romanians coming to Romania, with a layover, from Italy, China, Iran, and South Korea under any circumstance
- Romania decided to close all the schools from March 10 until March 22
- There is also a ban on events with more than 1,000 participants
- On Wednesday 11th a ban was placed on all cultural, entertainment, religious and scientific events held in enclosed spaces, limiting attendance to under 100 people. This includes theatres, cinemas, and churches
- Museums have also been shut until the end of the month
- Larger private companies have also been advised to stagger starting hours for employees, to avoid overcrowding on public transport, with larger public institutions required to enact these measures
- All direct bus lines and trains to and from Italy and all flights between Romania and Italy are currently suspended.
As of the 11th of March in Romania, there are more than 12,000 people who are in isolation at home and under medical supervision.
On the 9th March in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the Federal Ministry of Health (FMZ), announced enhanced epidemiological surveillance at border crossings. This entails “screening” for travelers coming from
- South Korea
Passengers are required to fill out a sanitary questionnaire, and travelers are provided with recommendations and a telephone number to contact in case onset of symptoms of the disease. They are also subject to health surveillance in co-operation with authorities. Which includes mandatory daily reporting to the competent epidemiological service and self-isolation at home for a period of 14 days. You can find more details here.
As of March 12, all school institutions in BiHwill be closed for 2 weeks.
Slovenia plans to cancel air traffic on Tuesday 17th March, a day after all public transportation will be shut down.
- Indoor gatherings of more than 100 people or more than 500 people at outdoor public events are banned
- As of Monday 16th, March schools will be closed
The National Institute of Public Health has set up a special phone number that you can contact to obtain more information. +386 31 646 617 9.00 am and 5.00 pm daily. More information can be obtained on the Government site here.
- Restaurants and cafes will be open until 6 pm
- Schools, kindergartens, and all educational; faculties are closed until further notice
In Greece, the government on 10th March, that all the schools, universities, daycare centers and other educational establishments across the country will close for 2 weeks.
As of 13th March Bulgaria has announced that it is now in a “State Of Emergency”.
- The border crossings between Serbia and Bulgaria at Oltomantsi, Strezimirovtsi, and Bregovo have been closed until further notice
- Traffic to and from Serbia is being diverted to pass through the Kalotina and Vrashka border checkpoints
- At Bulgaria’s border with North Macedonia, travelers arriving from Covid-19 infected destinations will be processed only through the Gyueshevo checkpoint.
- Bulgaria closed shopping malls, clubs, fitness centers, restaurants
- Ministry of Health and Social Protection announced that each passenger that enters Albania has to be self-quarantined for a 14-day period. All travelers have to fill in the form at the border checkpoints. They are forced to self-quarantine for a 14-day period. If they have signs of COVID-19 then they are referred for testing.
Balkan Website Links
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
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.
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
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:
- dry cough.
Some patients may have:
- aches and pains
- nasal congestion
- runny nose
- sore throat or
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.
So tell us, what are your thoughts on travel plans for Croatia and the Balkans in 2020.