18:18 / 21.01.2022.

Author: Katja Miličić

Expanded testing shows rapid spread of Omicron



Foto: Emica Elvedji/Hrvoje Jelavić/ Sasa Miljevic / PIXSELL

Croatia continued to report a very high number of daily COVID-19 cases on Friday. PCR and rapid antigen tests detected around 16,700 new infections. 

Croatia expanded testing this week by ramping up rapid antigen testing at family doctors’ offices. More than 120 thousand people were tested this way since the beginning of the week.

Another 35 people have died, including an 11-year-old with no known medical conditions. The child, who had tested positive for Covid earlier, was admitted to Fran Mihaljević Hospital in Zagreb Thursday afternoon with a sore throat, weakness, and fatigue. The child died early Friday morning. Doctors will perform an autopsy to determine if the cause of death was Covid or something else.

Although the super-contagious Omicron variant is spreading with lighting speed, the number of patients in hospitals is not increasing, at least for now. Hospitals are treating 1,799 patients, 193 of whom are on ventilators.

Primorje-Gorski Kotar County reported 1,060 new cases on Friday. The test positivity rate was 38%. The county's chief epidemiologist, Dobrica Rončević, says self-isolation no longer makes sense because it is not being consistently applied. It should be replaced with broad and accessible testing because there are so many infections that are going undetected, he says.

"This is characteristic of Omicron, which spreads so easily and quickly that no measures, save for early isolation of those infected, can help,” Rončević.

Istria County reported a record number of Covid cases on Friday, 376. Local public health authorities are urging the public to abide current restrictions or face tougher ones.

Split-Dalmatia County, the county with the lowest vaccination rate in the country, reported 1,400 new cases today. Split Clinical Hospital is treating 213 Covid patients. Five Covid patients have died in the last 24 hours. Although, the situation is slightly better than a week ago, the hospital is still under an enormous amount of pressure. The county continues to see high hospitalization numbers but interest in the vaccine is falling, says the head of the local Covid task force Damir Gabrić.

"Over the past three months, we've had nearly 70 thousand Covid cases in Split-Dalmatia County but interest in the vaccine has fallen over the past week,” Gabrić.

Other hospitals are reporting fairly good news. Varaždin hospital has not seen an increase in patients and is actually treating fewer patients than in November and December of last year. In Zagreb, Dubrava Clinical Hospital is treating 76 Covid patients, most of them unvaccinated. That number has remained fairly steady but the hospital is facing another serious problem: a shortage of staff, as more and more doctors and nurses test positive for the coronavirus.

The Omicron variant is also spreading rapidly through schools. Nearly 12 thousand students are out with Covid and more than 1,300 schools have switched to remote learning due to the high number of infections. The largest number of schools back on-line is in Osijek-Baranja County.

Around 42 thousand people around the country are currently under orders to self-isolate.

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