Friday, 29 May 2020
Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas

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.

Email: mark.thomas@dubrovnik-times.com

What are the procedures for crossing the Croatian border? Despite the recommendations of the Civil Protection Headquarters, there is still ambiguity, and the recommendations can be interpreted differently, reports N1.

"Ten days ago, the decision to ban border crossings was changed. New categories of foreigners were allowed to enter the Republic of Croatia. These are primarily business visits or visits in the economic interest of the Republic of Croatia. In order to enter, they had to prove the purpose of their entry. Tourists at the border crossing must show police officers the reservation of hotels, apartments, etc. Otherwise, tourists cannot cross the border, " commented the Head of the Ministry of the Interior’s Border Administration to HRT.

Tourists at border crossings do not fill in any forms but receive a form with epidemiological instructions regarding social distance, hand washing, etc. And Kufner added that the border police are adapting to the new situation.

 

 

"We are looking for documentation about the place of accommodation and a phone number, so that they can be contacted in case of any infection or problem."

Kufner says that in the last 9 days there have been about 17,000 entries into Croatia. "There were traffic jams at some border crossings, especially in Istria and Primorje-Gorski Kotar County. These are additional jobs that we have to check when each tourist enters," he says.

He adds that "there are no privileged countries" although in countries like the Czech Republic or Slovakia the epidemiological situation is more favourable than, for example, in Germany. But he added that “we treat everyone equally.”

"We are talking to colleagues every day, possibly if they or we have made some changes around the border crossing. Cooperation is at a good level. It is difficult to predict what will happen in the July or August, but we are ready to do the job,” he said.

The Croatian Minister of Health, Vili Beroš, posted a graph on his Twitter account regarding the ever downward cycle of Covid-19 across Croatia.

"We see on the graph the trends of testing and new patients, and if the graph speaks a thousand words, here are the main ones: thank you all and stay responsible,” wrote beroš on his Twitter.

The graph clearly shows that with a relatively high number of tests, the number of new cases has decreased at the same time. The Civil Protection Directorate announced on Sunday that there have been only two new cases of Covid-19 reported in the past 24 hours.

Currently, it has been confirmed in Croatia, that a total of 2,226 people have been infected with Covid-19 and 1,936 people have made a full recovery.

 

Ten days have passed and no new cases of Covid-19 have been detected in the entire Dubrovnik – Neretva County. According to information from the Civil Protection Directorate of the Dubrovnik – Neretva County there have been no new cases in the past 24 hours, meaning that ten clear days have passed. The remaining findings from Friday were all negative, and 34 samples taken on Saturday are still being processed.

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic a total of 118 people have been infected in the county, with 90 making a full recovery and unfortunately 8 people have passed away. 2,654 samples have been sent to Zagreb for analysis.

As of today there are 3 positive patients who are hospitalized in the Dubrovnik General Hospital with 1 patient in the Intensive Care Unit.

A total of 17 citizens are in self-isolation, and in the last 24 hours no violation of the self-isolation measure has been established.

In spite of Croatia relaxing the Covid-19 measures over three phases starting on the 27th of April the number of new cases hasn’t risen, or even spiked, in the past weeks. There were fears from a section of the public that a second wave of Covid-19 would begin immediately after the strict regulations were eased. Thankfully, at least for now, these fears have proved ungrounded as the overall numbers continue to decrease drastically.

 

Croatia’s national airline has announced the reintroduction of international flights for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic struck. On Monday the 11th of May Croatia Airlines reopened flights between Zagreb and Dubrovnik and Split as restrictions on internal flights were lifted. And now Croatia Airlines has gone one step further by opening up international flights from the 25th of May.

Croatia Airlines will fly a daily service between Zagreb and Amsterdam with a 76-seat Dash aircraft with the first flight on Monday the 25th of May. This smaller capacity plane will open up flights and then according to the airline a larger Airbus plane will be deployed.

And as well as these flights to Amsterdam the airline has also stated that from the 25th of may they will fly from Frankfurt to Zagreb twice a day, an evening and morning flight.

According to reports Croatia Airlines is considering a number of other international routes in the near future.

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Before the Covid-19 lockdown meant that people were unable to leave their homes a few, just a few, tourists found themselves on the wrong side (of maybe the right side) of the border. They spent their 14 days in quarantine and braved it out in the Adriatic sunshine. One such couple are Bryan Tobian and Jennifer Peterson from the USA. We caught up with the pair to see how they were coping with life in Dubrovnik.

So let’s first get to know our stranded Americans -

Jenn and I met last year. We are in our early 30’s, and both raised in the Midwest region of the United States (Kansas City and Indiana respectively). We are pretty adventurous, and each moved to different parts of California in our 20’s. Last year we both ended eight-year relationships around the same time. We met pretty quickly after that and shared lot of chemistry and many interests. About two years ago, I started an IT consulting business that allowed me to work completely remote. After my last relationship ended, I had aspirations to work abroad and started making plans to become a digital nomad of sorts.

I sold my house and my car and made plans to leave before Christmas. Jenn and I had very strong feelings for each other and talked about the different possibilities of what a relationship could look like. In the end, we decided to go on this adventure together. After all, what a great story that would be: falling in love together on a yearlong journey through Europe. We made a plan to live in a new country every month for the year 2020. We left in December and made it through Portugal, Morocco, and Spain (with stops in Iceland and London), before all of the COVID-19 madness began.

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Their adventure took an unexpected turn 

How long have you been in Dubrovnik? And how did you wind up being “stuck” here?

We arrived in Dubrovnik on March 16th after spending a couple of weeks in London. Our next stop was intended to be Istanbul, but as news of the pandemic started to unfold, we had to decide where to go quickly. Home was not an option. We didn’t have a place to live or even valid health insurance inside the USA. We decided on Dubrovnik for three reasons: the weather was already looking sunny and fairly warm in March, we didn’t need to worry about our Schengen visas, and with the stoppage of airlines and cruise ships, we thought that it would be a safe and quiet place for us to stay since no other tourists would be coming.

Do you feel safe in Dubrovnik? And are you following the news on the COVID-19 pandemic here?

When we arrived in Dubrovnik, we were required to isolate in our apartment for two weeks. It was difficult to be stuck inside for so long, but we believe it is restrictions like this that has kept the number of cases so low in the country. We talk often about how thankful we are to be here instead of in the USA where things are continuing to spiral out of control. After our quarantine, we have been able to explore Dubrovnik a little more. We go to the beach and swim in the sea almost daily. The people of Dubrovnik are very friendly and welcoming. To stay informed and provide a little comfort, we read the Dubrovnik Times and Total Croatia News every day. At first it was to keep up with the pandemic news, but now we are also interested in the goings-on around Dubrovnik and Croatia as a whole.

How do you feel the Croatian authorities have handled the pandemic?

I read a study published last month by Oxford University that said Croatia was the strictest country in the world regarding adherence to the COVID-19 guidelines. I think that, coupled with the success of this strategy says it all.

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Digital nomads in Dubrovnik 

Are you keeping up with news from back home? And how are you keeping in touch with your family and friends?

We have limited ourselves on the intake of US news. It is mostly depressing, infuriating, and distracting. We worry about our loved ones, but even if we were home, there is nothing we could do to change what’s happening. Instead, we continue to talk to our friends and family often, as we have throughout this journey. We use video chat and send messages through social media. There is a certain feeling of “survivor’s guilt” because we are here where it is safe and beautiful while our friends and family are at home worrying about the rise of COVID cases and food shortages. It is scary that they are starting to “open up” without having a decrease in cases.

Now that the situation seems to be calming down, at least in Croatia, are you planning to leave and go back home?

We have seen so much natural and historical beauty, been treated so kindly, and have really enjoyed the sunshine. We have grown incredibly fond of Dubrovnik, especially the peacefulness of Zaton. With everything opening back up, we are now getting the opportunity to get a better taste of the food and culture. We are hoping to stay through the summer, and are considering applying for a one year visa to make Dubrovnik our home base.

How did you find the accommodation you are staying at? And are you happy with everything there?

We found our accommodation on AirBnB and ended up making a deal with our host personally once we decided to extend our stay. It’s a beautiful and very sunny apartment with a terrace where we eat most of our meals. It’s a lovely place to call home and we feel very happy to be here.

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Fun in the Adriatic sun

Is there something that you are missing, apart from your friends and family, whilst being “stuck” in Dubrovnik?

We both enjoy concerts, theatre, and the arts. We also are avid gym-goers. While this is not an issue unique to Dubrovnik, it’s been something we’ve missed. We are very excited to be able to lift weights again.

What life lessons have you learned whilst being in self-isolation in Dubrovnik?

This is my favorite question of all. For the last two months we cooked almost every bite of food that we ate. We did not spend frivolously on junk from Amazon. When we arrived, we had nothing and knew nobody. The Red Cross and brought us food. Once isolation was over, we were able to get our own groceries. We have made whatever we had at the time work for us. Life has been much simpler. We have time to read, think, and enjoy each other’s company. We walk around our neighborhood, lay in the sun, and swim in the sea. Someday, when we go home – wherever that may be – the lesson we will take with us is that we don’t need so many “things” to be happy. We are grateful for our health and each other.

 

In the last 24 hours only two new cases of coronavirus infection have been recorded in Croatia, so that a total of 2,224 people have contracted the virus since the pandemic began, announced the National Civil Protection Headquarters on Saturday.

So far, 52,425 people have been tested, of which 857 were tested in the last 24 hours.

The headquarters also states that the total number of people who have made a full recovery from Covid-19 is 1,913, which is 44 more than yesterday’s figures, as the number of people making a recovery outweighs the new cases detected. So far, 95 people infected with coronavirus have died.

The headquarters warns again that adherence to all measures and instructions adopted so far is of key importance, because by acting responsibly we can reduce the spread of coronavirus infection.

"Everyone must be aware of the responsibility for their own health, the health of their families and fellow citizens. Every stay in a closed public space represents an increased risk of Covid-19 infection compared to staying in a family home or household," they concluded.

 

American Airlines has pencilled in a flight schedule between Dubrovnik and Philadelphia for 2021 but clearly nothing is set in stone. Earlier on in this year the airline cancelled all flight operations to Dubrovnik for 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. American Airlines was due to operate daily flights to Dubrovnik this year, and there were even rumours that they would open up flights from Chicago to Dubrovnik in 2021, these plans are now clearly up in the air.

The carrier’s Vice President for Network and Schedule Planning, Brian Znotins, commented this week that, “We anticipate that demand for long haul travel will be the most impacted. A flight such as the one from Philadelphia to Dubrovnik saw a huge increase in traffic in recent years, partially because it was a popular filming location for the HBO series Game of Thrones. Airlines ramped up flights to those types of destinations partially because traditional launching point airports in Europe and Asia were full. Until traffic recovers, international travellers will likely have to make a stop in London, Madrid, Rome or Milan before continuing on to Dubrovnik,” reports Ex-Yu Aviation.

Clearly this statement doesn’t give a resounding guarantee that flights for 2021 will actually get back online, even though the airlines has for now stated that the service will restart in June 2021. In 2019 Americans were the second most numerous tourists in Dubrovnik, in terms of nationality, and a large part of this interest was driven by the success of Game of Thrones. But as the HBO serial slowly fades from memory and the new Covid-19 future will probably deter many travellers to spend 10 hours on an airplane the American market will presumably start to look elsewhere. And even though the number of active cases of Covid-19 in Croatia is falling on a daily basis, as the country sees itself as one of the safest destinations in Europe, the situation in the US is still from settled.

 

Planning a trip to Croatia in the near future, you’ll need to read this first to keep up-to-date with all the Covid-19 regulations in effect across the country. This data was published by the official website, koronavirus.hr, that the Croatian authorities opened up to keep citizens and indeed visitors informed on the current and actual situation.

Here is the travel information to Croatia in full

Information regarding entering Croatia for non-Croatian citizens

Recommendations and instructions of the Croatian Institute of Public Health.

Croatian and foreign nationals entering the Republic of Croatia must comply with these recommendations and instructions in the period of 14 days following their crossing of the state border, as follows - 

- During the first 14 days following the entry into the Republic of Croatia, accommodation may be left only in absolutely necessary situations: carrying out business activities if business was the purpose of entry into the Republic of Croatia, carrying out necessary activities with continuous increased hygiene measures in place.

- When leaving accommodation in absolutely necessary situations, it is recommended to wear a mask or a covering for the nose and mouth, to keep a physical distance from others (a minimum of 1.5 meters) and to practice hand hygiene.

- Hands should be washed as often as possible with warm water and soap and/or a hand disinfectant should be used that needs to be well rubbed on the palms. Touching one’s face, mouth, nose and eyes should be avoided.

- Using public transport should be avoided. In the means of transport, a person should preferably be alone or exclusively with persons with whom he/she shares accommodation.

- Grouping and public gatherings should be consistently avoided.

- During business meetings, it is necessary to meet with as few persons as possible, to ensure a physical distance of 1.5 meters and availability of disinfectants, to avoid unnecessary meetings.

- During their stay in the accommodation, the persons concerned prepare the food themselves or use food and beverage delivery services.

- Payments are made by using non-cash card payments or online services.

- Body temperature should be measured every morning. If it exceeds 37.2 degrees, it should be taken again after 10 minutes. If the temperature again exceeds 37.2 degrees, the person should stay at home/one’s accommodation and contact the chosen general practitioner, if any (Croatian nationals), or a competent local epidemiologist.

- In case of any symptoms of acute respiratory infection (cough, sore throat, high temperature, short breath/difficulty in breathing, loss of smell and taste), it is necessary to stay at home/your accommodation and contact the chosen general practitioner, if any (Croatian nationals), or a competent local epidemiologist.

- In case of sudden onset of severe, life-threatening symptoms, the person should contact the emergency medical services.

In case of respiratory disease symptoms. If you develop respiratory disease symptoms (high temperature, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing, sore throat, weakness), you should contact your chosen doctor by phone who will, based on your medical condition, assess the need for you to be tested for the new coronavirus. If you require medical assistance for reasons other than a respiratory disease, you should phone your chosen doctor or one of the members of your household can contact the doctor for consultations and arranging a house call. Do not visit healthcare facilities without having previously contacted them by phone. You can find more information on the coronavirus disease and measures for reducing the risk of spreading the disease on the website of the Croatian Institute of Public Health at https://www.hzjz.hr/sluzba-epidemiologija-zarazne-bolesti/koronavirus-najnovije-preporuke/, or from your chosen general practitioner and a competent local epidemiologist.

Croatian and foreign nationals may request additional information and clarifications by calling 112 or 113.

 

The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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