17:39 / 20.01.2022.

Author: Katja Miličić

Covid cases hit record high for second consecutive day: 17 thousand cases

Omicron is driving a new surge in cases

Omicron is driving a new surge in cases

Foto: Nel Pavletic/Goran Stanzl / PIXSELL

Croatia broke a new record in daily COVID-19 cases for the second consecutive day on Thursday, as the super-contagious Omicron variant continues to gain ground. 

Public health authorities reported more than 17 thousand cases today, 11,343 of which were detected through PCR tests and the rest by rapid antigen testing. The test positivity rate on the PCR test was 51%.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković issued another appeal to the public to get vaccinated and boosted.

"According to our data, more than 700 thousand people have taken the booster. To reduce the spread, the only thing that can help us is the combination of vaccination and basic prevention measures,” the Prime Minister said on Thursday.

Despite the surge in cases, Croatia is seeing a modest decline in hospitalizations, said Health Minister Vili Beroš.

"The most important thing is that although we are seeing a high number of cases, for now, we are not seeing an increase in hospitalizations," said Beroš.

As of this week, Croatia expanded rapid antigen testing at family doctor's offices. These tests are now recognized as confirmation of a COVID-19 diagnosis. Primary care physicians were not happy about the extra burden and many voiced concerns about keeping potentially COVID-infected patients away from their other patients. Dr. Kristijan Dujmenović, a family doctor in Pula, says Covid testing was “a drop in the bucket” when compared to the amount of work health care workers have been doing for the past two years.

“It's extremely difficult but doctors are doing their best to provide patients with the quality of care they deserve,” Dr. Dujmenović said.

Only 56% of Croatia's adult population is fully vaccinated. In Split-Dalmatia County, which has the lowest vaccination rate in the country, only 22 people came to get their first shot at the mass vaccination site at Split's Spaladium Arena on Thursday. This is happening in a county whose main hospital has been overwhelmed with unvaccinated COVID patients for weeks. What's worse, there is strong resistance to the vaccine among the elderly, who need it most, says Dr. Berna Pavić.

"They have chronic conditions and they are afraid it could make their conditions worse," Dr. Pavić said.

MP Dario Hrebak from the Croatian Socio-Liberal Party, a member of the ruling coalition, is the first member of the majority to suggest doing away with the Covid pass requirement.

"If we have a drastic increase in Covid cases, hospitalizations are falling, and we have a huge number of people self-isolating, which is going to cause a huge problem. Covid passes will have to be scrapped one day. Let the experts decide when that will be, but I believe the time is now,” said Hrebak.

Epidemiologist Branko Kolarić, a member of the government's Covid advisory council, disagrees.

"We have a lot of infections and we have to wait until we get passed the peak. In about a month cases will probably start dropping rapidly and then we can talk about ending the passes,” said Kolarić.

Covid passes or a negative test is required for all public sector jobs and entry into government buildings.

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