Dr. Alemka Markotić, one of the country’s leading infectious diseases specialists and one of the faces of the country’s pandemic response effort, responded to criticism about the way experts have been communicating with the public about the coronavirus in an in interview aired on HRT on Sunday.
Asked about the criticism coming from some politicians, the media, and the public that public health officials have been sending conflicting messages about the pandemic, Markotić said communication on this issue from professionals needed to be clear and honest. Contradictory information does not contribute to that effort, she said.
“Everyone’s work is subject to review. We considered things, we made adjustments accordingly, and we continue to do so. The situation is not critical, but we do have to be careful. It is important that experts weigh in with their opinions. The task force is not alone, there are a lot of colleagues who are working very hard on this,” Markotić said.
Criticism should be clear and precise also, she underscored.
“We introduced measures gradually, then relaxed them gradually, now will have to reinstate them where the situation has become critical,” she said.
Health Minister Vili Beroš, Markotić and her colleague, epidemiologist Krunoslav Capak, have come under criticism from opposition politicians who have accused them of tailoring their messaging to fit the needs of the HDZ during the parliamentary election campaign. Beroš is an HDZ candidate in the election. Markotić and Capak have been criticized for their backing of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković’s refusal to self-isolate after meeting with Novak Đoković at a tennis tournament in Zadar last weekend that was shut down because of the coronavirus. Đoković has since tested positive. Plenković tested negative earlier this week.
Croatia is currently treating 80 patients for Covid-19 in hospital and 20 of them are receiving care at the Dr. Fran Mihaljević Infectious Diseases Clinic in Zagreb, where Markotić is he chief administrator. She said epidemiologist are following the situation closely and that the health care system had proven to be stable and effective.
“We have two major flashpoints, Đakovo, where epidemiologists are handling the situation well and we haven’t heard of any problems, and Zagreb. Zagreb is a large city and it is expected that large cities will have a large number of infections. One flashpoint here is at the Sveti Ivan hospital, where only one patient currently has more serious symptoms. One of the patients are on a ventilator or in grave danger, although 50% of the patients from Sveti Ivan are over 60 and are considered to be higher risk from Covid-19,” she said.
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