Coronavirus: Croatia reports 77 new cases, drive-in testing launches in Zagreb

NEWS 31.03.2020 14:17

Seventy-seven new COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Croatia over the last 24 hours, putting the total to date at 867, health authorities said in their regular daily briefing on Tuesday. No new deaths have been reported over the last 48 hours, so the country's death toll remains at six.

“The number of new cases is the same as yesterday, there hasn’t been a major increase,which indicating that restrictions are effective,” Health Minister, Vili Beros, told reporters at the daily coronavirus crisis press conference at 2 pm.

A total of 7,015 samples have been tested, ministry said, including 611 over the last 124 hours. Officials figures say 32 patients are currently in intensive care, using ventilators to breathe.

The total case load includes six deaths, and as of Tuesday, 67 recoveries. 

Head of Croatia’s public health service HZJZ, Krunoslav Capak, said that there seems to have been no spikes in infections following the powerful the March 22 earthquake which hit Zagreb.

Local media speculated that the 5.3 earthquake which hit early on a Sunday morning might hamper efforts to contain the epidemic, as it sent thousands of panicked residents out into the streets, violating the social distancing measures imposed earlier to prevent the spread of the disease. 

Meanwhile, the Andrija Stampar Teaching Institute of Public Health based in northern Zagreb introduced drive-in testing, the first place in Croatia to do so, which should speed up the health care system’s diagnostics capacity.

Although each tests will still take more than three hours to complete, people will be able to drive up to the institute’s building to give samples without leaving their vehicles.

“Higher rate of testing is the best method for early diagnostics and the prevention of the spread of the coronavirus, so the new way of testing at the institute, where people can drive up the building and get tested without leaving their car, will contribute to efforts to identify infected persons quickly,” the Institute said on Tuesday.

The institute added that the drive-in testing will be performed for patients referred by general practitioners, i.e. the service will not be open to the public.

In neighbouring Slovenia, authorities reported 4 new deaths over the last 48 hours, bringing its death toll to 15. The case counts increased on Tuesday by 46 to reach 802. More than 22,000 people have been tested so far, and more than 100 are currently in the care of Slovenian hospitals.

Slovenia, which had also introduced sweeping restrictions on public life earlier this month, albeit stopping short of imposing a curfew, stepped up containment efforts in recent days. Wearing face masks and gloves at all indoor public places has been made mandatory, public transport has been largely banned, and multi-story residential buildings will all be disinfected.

Serbia’s case count reaches 900, Bosnia’s passes 400

Elsewhere in the region, Serbia’s case load rose by 115 new cases, or more than 14 percent up from Monday, putting its total at 900 cases. These include 23 deaths – seven of which have been reported over the last 24 hours.

Although Serbia had already introduced one Europe’s strictest set of restrictions, including a nationwide 12-hour curfew rolled out on March 19, the government announced on Monday that it is considering extending the curfew to the entire 24 hours in a day, which led to long lines in front of Belgrade shops.

The government recently banned walking of pets outdoors, which was met with a considerable backlash from angry dog owners and animal rights activists. An online petition launched to ask the government to allow daily walking of pets was signed by 37,000 people in five days

In Bosnia, two more COVID-19 patients died in Bosnia’s ethnic Serb-majority half of the country on Tuesday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 12.

“Despite maximum efforts on behalf of our doctors and staff of the Republika Srpska Clinical Centre (in Banja Luka) to save their lives, two patients – both elderly men – have passed away,” the hospital said on Tuesday.

The total number of infected people in Bosnia and Herzegovina is currently 411, including 17 full recoveries. 

In Montenegro, which had been the last European country to confirm its first case, on March 17, a total of 105 cases have been confirmed as of Tuesday, including one death. The country’s government moved to impose a 10-hour curfew on Monday.

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