Croatia to loosen up lockdown as infection rates decline

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Croatia will gradually start loosening its coronavirus lockdown next week after signs infection rates are slowing, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Thursday.

Since reporting its first case of the virus in late February, the EU member state has detected 1,981 infections and some 50 deaths from the respiratory disease among its population of 4.2 million.

With daily infection rates on a largely downward trend for the past two weeks, the “epidemiological situation is for now under control,” Plenkovic told a cabinet session.

A gradual relaxation of restrictions will start Monday when libraries, museums and shops — except for malls or stores that involve close contact with clients — will be free to open, the prime minister said.

Public transport will also resume while top athletes will be able to train.

If the health situation remains stable, more measures will be relaxed in early May, such as a return to school for younger students and the re-opening of outdoor cafes.

Social distancing and other hygiene measures will be enforced throughout, Plenkovic stressed.

“Our task is to enable functioning of economy in changed circumstances,” he said, warning measures may be tightened again if the country sees another surge of infections.

The country entered lockdown in March when all businesses aside from the essentials were shuttered and travel was restricted.

Croatia’s economy could shrink by between five and nine percent this year, according to forecasts, as the virus hits its vital tourism sector, which accounts for some 20 percent of GDP.

Plenkovic told reporters he was in talks with his Austrian, Hungarian and Slovenian counterparts on finding a way to open borders safely for tourists. (AFP)

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