Mark Thomas - The editor and big chief of The Dubrovnik Times. Born in the UK he has been living and working in Dubrovnik since 1998, yes he is one of the rare “old hands.” A unique insight into both British and Croatian life and culture, Mark is often known as just “Englez” or Englishman. He is a traveller, a current affairs freak and a huge AFC Wimbledon fan.
Following a series of decisions taken to increase security and appeal to citizens to abide by them, there remain a large number of irresponsible individuals who are violating the provisions of the Civil Protection Staff, despite numerous warnings.
"For the sake of your safety and the safety of the sellers who come to the markets, and in agreement with the City of Dubrovnik, we have decided to close the overall operations of all city markets until further notice. We hope that this crisis will calm down as soon as possible and that we will all be able to return to normal life as soon as possible. We do not take this measure lightly, but we believe you understand that it is absolutely necessary to protect you and your health as well as that of our staff. Once again, we urge all citizens to seriously adhere to the instructions and the mandatory minimum distance and to avoid gatherings,” stated the City of Dubrovnik.
And the Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Frankovic, urged people to stay at home. “In truth, I don't know how to explain to our fellow citizens to stay at home? In this situation we all have to show responsibility, but unfortunately one part of society doesn't want it. From today we know that the coronavirus has begun to spread. By our behaviour we will turn into an Italian scenario. Is that what we want? Show responsibility!”
Croatian Health Minister, Vili Beros, confirmed at a press conference this morning that the number of coronavirus cases in Croatia has risen dramatically to 168. And overnight Dubrovnik has jumped from 2 cases of coronavirus to 12.
"The situation is still under control; it is also good that we have information about persons and their movements. It is bad that individuals do not follow the rules on self-isolation and the instructions given by the headquarters. I demand that everyone obey the instructions we have given!" the minister urged.
Minister Davor Bozinovic said that obviously the main problem today is the adherence to the instructions of the medical advice and experts. “If there were no awareness and conscience there would be no need for more drastic measures. Therefore, we will make more restrictive decisions that will have to be implemented. The police will keep an eye on how they are implemented and reacted. Our lives will change more and move indoors,” added Minister Bozinovic.
He also said that inter-city lines for trains and buses have been discontinued from today, bus and railway stations are being closed.
Dr. Alemka Markotic, head of the Infectious Diseases Clinic, Dr. Fran Mihaljevic, said that "this is not a movie but reality."
The highest number of patients is in Zagreb, where 60 cases of infection have been identified. This is followed by the County of Istria with 16 and Primorje-Gorski kotar with 13 confirmed cases.
At a press conference at County Civilian Protection Headquarters in front of Dubrovnik General Hospital, the Prefect of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County, Nikola Dobroslavic, reported that there are 12 positive cases of coronavirus in the Dubrovnik region.
He added that most of the cases were with people who had contact with previously infected people.
County Chief of Staff, Josko Cebalo, reported that of the 66 samples sent for analysis, 12 were positive and three were under development. There are currently 389 people in the county in self-isolation.
There are 33 reports of violations of self-isolation, and four people have been sanctioned for misdemeanours. In addition to a previously hospitalized employee of Dubrovnik Airport and a 65-year-old man who had returned from skiing in Bulgaria, yesterday a man from Korcula, who had been in contact with the man were hospitalized.
Members of the County Headquarters urged all fellow citizens not to leave their homes unnecessarily.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” opens the classic A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. And once again when things turn from bad to worse, on what seems like a daily basis, we are reminded of the power of human kindness. It’s strange that sometimes we need a collective kick up the backside to remember to think about each other. When we have a common enemy we draw together, but without we are our own worst enemy.
It is amazing how all our other problems fall like leaves in autumn when something so serious arises on the horizon. Nobody is talking about Brexit, North Korea, Iran or even Trump. The world truly has no borders, only the borders that man has made. They just seem so inconsequential in light of the bigger picture.
“It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,” the second line from Dickens. So we are getting used to a different way of life, at least for the immediate future. I have started to spend my quarantine days learning Maths. I say quarantine days because I have had an annoying cough for a few days. And I say Maths as, along with the school children throughout the country, I used to watch sport on TV and now I watch maths, geography and history. And by the way there is no way that I would pass maths!! It is of course a time that we all need to draw together. A time to help those who can’t help themselves, to pull together, because it is amazing what we can do when we all pull in the same direction. Often our problem is that one person in pulling, one pushing and one arguing that we shouldn’t push or pull.
“Neighbour, have got any room in your garage for a few thousand toilet rolls,” joked my next door neighbour. And yes, it is a time for humour. I can just imagine when this is all over, and it must come to an end, the menus in homes up and down the country. “OK, today we have pasta with olive oil, followed by rice pudding and by the way we still have another 27 loaves of bread to eat…anyone for a glass of milk?” I can remember my mother-in-law once saying that if you have flour in your house then you’ll never be hungry. Hungry, maybe not. Bored, probably yes. And there are no signs that this virus produces diarrhoea, so why toilet rolls? Are people making face masks from rolls of Violeta?
By the time you read this column you’ll either be working from home, or wishing that you were working from home. Social contact in these remote times will be a problem, and if you were thinking that being on social media would give you some human touch, think again. There is probably nothing as anti-social as social media. Of course there is another way to forget the current pandemic. Be a contestant of Big Brother in Germany. You would think that everyone on the planet knows the word coronavirus. No these contestants weren’t told about the virus. They have been blissfully unaware of the chaos whilst locked away in a house together. In fact, only last night were they actually told of the situation, for the past weeks people have been tuning in and watching a group of people talking about anything and everything apart for the virus. I guess it was some light relief for all the viewers.
If you watch too much news these days, you’ll go mad. “It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,” the third line from Mr. Dickens. Yes, we are living in those times now Charles.
It will probably get worse before it gets better, but it will get better. And in the meantime we must remain united. Or as Charles Dickens said “Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.” Keep safe and keep those hands clean!
Thanks to a donation of 11.5 tonnes of medical equipment from the United Arab Emirates, the Croatian government yesterday cancelled a deal to buy protective masks worth 19 million, which has already been agreed with a recently established Pula-based company, writes Slobodna Dalmacija.
A sudden donation of masks and other equipment was sent to Croatia by a wealthy Sheik from Abu Dhabi who wanted to remain anonymous, state officials explained. Apparently Croatian authorities contacted him a month and a half ago, and yesterday the agreement was reached. And news has leaked to the media that the generous donor of the medical equipment is 58-year-old Prince Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
He is one of the most influential people in his country, is the fourth son of the founder of the United Arab Emirates, a former foreign minister and deputy prime minister. He is the chairman of the board of the Red Crescent, a charitable organization alternative to the Red Cross, which explains the logic behind the generous donation to Croatia.
Yas in Dubrovnik - Photo Ivana Smilovic
The Sheik is a regular summer guest in the most famous Adriatic destinations. He owns one of the largest yachts in the world, Yas, 141 meters in length. And in recent years, the vessel has often been seen in Croatian waters from Split to Dubrovnik. He even partied in a popular Dubrovnik night club last summer.
The wealth of Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan is estimated at over $ 150 billion, while his son alone is said to be worth more than $ 30 billion.
Protecting the health of the nation is the absolute priority in these challenging times, however also securing the economy is also high on the list of concerns. As the Croatian Prime Minister, Andrej Plenkovic, recently stated “The health of our economy is our second priority. We already know now that the coronavirus epidemic will have significant effects on the economy.”
And the Croatian National Bank (CNB) has joined the call for economic matters to be considered. The governor of the CNB, Boris Vujčić, had a calm and measured message for the nation when asked questions about the state of Croatia’s finances by Nova TV.
"We have very high liquidity reserves in both banks and the CNB. We have stabilized the exchange rate and the government bond market. We still have a lot of ammunition, if the crisis continues and we have the reserves to intervene as needed," Vujčić said. The CNB Governor believes that Croatia can endure such a crisis for a long time.
The governor said that the banking system in Croatia is very stable because, due to a decision of the CNB, which has forbid banks to pay themselves profit, therefore the banking system has more than 60 billion Kuna of capital.
"We keep the exchange rate stable, we kept it stable in the war, so we will continue to do so," said the governor. He urged citizens to make more use of online banking and to minimize cash and to visit bank branches as little as possible.
"We will come forward with recommendations next week that everyone has access to banking services with as little risk of spreading the virus," Vujcic announced.
Although he is convinced that Croatia would be in a much better position if it were within the Eurozone.
"Such a crisis shows how smart it was for the CNB to build such reserves of international reserves. If we were in the euro at the moment, we would have half the problems," concluded CNB governor Vujčić.
The world’s most popular online streaming service plans to downgrade their video quality in Europe for the next thirty days to reduce the massive demand from people in self-isolation. The increasing number of people in self-isolation across Europe has led to a massive load on the popular streaming site Netflix.
Not only are more and more people actually watching Netflix but the signups for new users has increased in many parts of Europe, writes the BBC. Netflix explained that reducing image quality would reduce data consumption by 25 percent, but that nevertheless, the image quality would still be good.
The company will reduce bitrates, which affects how clear the image is. Videos with higher upload speeds use more data. Thierry Breton, Chief of the European Internal Market, suggested that users "switch to standard resolution when HD resolution is not needed". HD resolution consumes up to three GB per hour, compared to one GB at standard resolution.
Breton praised the company's decision and swift response, saying it "will preserve the smooth functioning of the Internet during the COVID-19 crisis." Netflix has not yet stated whether changes will occur in other areas, specifically in North America.
Internet usage has increased in recent weeks due to the fact that more and more people are working from home and avoiding leaving home. Telecommunications giant Vodafone reported a 50 percent increase in internet usage in Europe earlier in the week. Facebook's social networking director Mark Zuckerberg has also confirmed major leaps in using the popular platform through which people seek to stay connected with friends.
Croatians bought more bottles of wine than they did soap throughout the first few weeks of the coronavirus crisis. According to data from the GfK analysts, one of the largest research companies in Croatia, the rate at which wine and alcohol sales grew as higher than that of soap.
Over the first three weeks of the coronavirus pandemic 20 million shopping carts across Croatia were analysed and then compared with the same period from last year to see the differences.
From the 24th of February to the 15th of March a total of 300 million Kuna was spent on food, drinks and personal care products. And as expected in these times online sales saw a massive growth, with a 51 percent increase over the same period from 2019. In general, all of the major supermarkets in Croatia saw an increase in sales in that time period, although smaller shops and bakeries have seen a decline in sales.
And according to the data more people in Zagreb stocked, or rather overstocked, their shelves than in Dalmatia.
What are people buying in coronavirus crisis?
By far the biggest seller in that time period was salt, which saw sales rise by an incredible 290 percent. Flour, yeast and toilet paper all finished in the top ten, although oddly soap was placed in 20th position, while sales of wine were in eleventh place and sales of cider were in fifth position.
The top twenty products, in terms of growth was headed by salt, followed unsurprisingly by frozen readymade meals and making up the top three was readymade salads. In fourth position was canned meat, then cider, flour, yeast, rice, canned fruit and vegetables, sugar and wine.
Whilst on the other side of the coin the products that saw the worst growth levels were fish delicacies, depilatory products, frozen fruit, shaving products and honey. And although Croatians might be buying more wine and cider than before the coronavirus crisis they are actually buying less beer.