The Director of the Infectious Diseases Clinic "Dr. Fran Mihaljevic," dr. Alemka Markotic, commented on RTL Television on what we can expect in the coming weeks regarding coronaviruses and how long it will take for the infections to start falling.
“We expect that in a few regions where the virus has not been widely reported, if kept under control for the next three weeks, we could reach that plateau and even begin to fall. It also depends on the virus, but I believe that all these measures have so far proved to be good and that this is the way to go,” she commented.
Dr. Alemka Markotic at the daily press conference of the Civil Prtoection Directorate
She also commented on why Croatia is one of the more successful countries in the fight against coronaviruses and how the country has been so successful in combating the spread of coronavirus when compared with other countries. “I would not comment on whether someone is doing wrong, it would take a couple of hours to analyse someone else's measures to see where the mistakes were made. What we did well was that as soon as the diagnostic test appeared we introduced it, we started testing early,” added Markotic. She added “For 27 days, we tested and there were no patients; we identified the first patients immediately; epidemiologists marked their contacts. We were quickly focused on discovering new cases and isolating contact.”
And there can be no doubt that Croatia and the Croatian authorities have been quick off the mark and indeed resolute and determined to combat the spread of COVID-19. Whilst other countries have dithered and waited before introducing strict quarantine measures, Croatia acted immediately and resolutely. This can, to a certain extent, be confirmed by the figures and data. However, when you bear in mind that the main epicentre in Europe for weeks was northern Italy, and are aware of that regions geographical closeness to Croatia, then the job of closing down the country and halting the spread is even more impressive.
“I have to admit I feel much safer here in Zagreb than I would in the UK at the moment. The authorities have done an excellent job and have closed down the country early,” commented a British ex-pat to the Dubrovnik Times. He added that “When I saw people drinking in pubs and public transport running I was screaming at the TV just close them down. I was speaking to a friend in London who told me that as the pubs were closing at midnight he was going out with a large group of friends to get drunk and celebrate the last night of pubs being open. That approach kind of defeats the object,” added the Zagreb ex-pat.
And the data shows that the strict approach taken by Croatia is working. The country has just over 1,000 cases and only eight deaths. To put these figures into perspective, due to the size of populations, a better judgement is the number of cases per 1 million inhabitants. Here we can see that Croatia has 264.7 cases, whilst Italy has 1,989.05 and Spain 2,530.74. The USA has 842.01, the UK 582.37 and Germany 1,105.95. Interestingly the Chinese ultra-strict approach of basically putting whole cities under house arrest has meant that their cases per million is as low as 58.23.
“We were fortunate that the virus did not enter through health care institutions as happened in Slovenia and Italy. We introduced reasonable and gradual measures, not abrupt but deliberate, expert and reasonable. We have accumulated experience, I think it is a matter of approach of rational introduction of measures,” concluded Markotic.
One step that certainly worked was the early introduction of the Civil Protection Directorate. Early in the coronavirus pandemic the Prime Minister and the President, who have been signing off the same hymn sheet even though they are from opposing political parties, made a conscious and deliberate decision to hand over all power to the Civil Protection Directorate. It is this body, which also includes Dr. Alemka Markotic, that set the regulations, hold all the press conferences, answer all questions and give all recommendations. The leading politicians in the country basically lifted their hands and said we will leave it to the experts, whatever they advise is the law. Quite clearly a massive positive step that has clearly worked. No mixed messages, no campaign rallying, just a clear and unified message from people whose job it is to do this.
“It is reasonable for me to know that I, too, can become infected, but it is our and your job to help others. It's my job to be a doctor, now I'm more in the organization, my colleagues are with patients, but I hope that I will be with patients soon. Journalists are doing a great job and I congratulate you on your professionalism. The influence of the media is one of the reasons we are successful because you have clearly communicated information to the population and help spread the message of stay at home,” concluded Markotic.
Every media outlet in Croatia, from radio, television, newspaper and internet sites, were asked by the government to clearly display the message #stayathome as much as possible. Just one of the measures that the Civil Protection Directorate took, another example of joined-up thinking when it is most needed.