The COVID-19 pandemic in Croatia is part of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case in the Republic of Croatia was reported in Zagreb on 25 February, when a patient who had come from Italy was tested positive. On the same day, the second case related to the first one was confirmed. In March 2020, a cluster of cases were reported in numerous Croatian cities. On 12 March, the first recovery was reported, and on 18 March, the first death from the virus was confirmed.
Concerns over the virus began as soon as it began its rapid rise in China and its effects on the international scale became clear. Concerns were raised about the increased probability of the virus entering Croatia because of the number of Chinese workers working on Pelješac Bridge. Some of the institutions in Croatia preemptively reacted to the potential threat.
The airports in Croatia were prepared and they started going through passive measures and being vigilant. The Ministry of Health warned those travelling to China to avoid sick people, animals, and markets, not to eat any raw or semi-cooked animals, and to wash their hands often and to notify their doctor of their plans to travel to China.
After relieving Milan Kujundžić from the position of Health Minister, on 31 January, Vili Beroš was confirmed as the new Health Minister by the Croatian Parliament.Prime MinisterAndrej Plenković cited the coronavirus problem as one of the reasons for the change. Beroš held a meeting with the Ministry's Crisis Headquarters on his first day regarding the coronavirus epidemic. On the same day, the Ministry announced the formation of a National Crisis Headquarters for the coronavirus pandemic.
Beroš adopted a decision to establish a quarantine unit at the Hospital for Infectious Diseases "Dr. Fran Mihaljević" in Zagreb on 21 February, for suspected or confirmed infected persons with coronavirus. A Croatian citizen who spent time on the Diamond Princess cruise ship was quarantined in that unit on the following day. He had no symptoms, but was placed in a 14-day quarantine as a precautionary measure. Plenković said that the Crisis Headquarters will meet on a daily basis and that the Government will take any measure necessary to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
On 19 March, the number of recorded cases surpassed 100. On 21 March, it surpassed 200. On 25 March, it surpassed 400. On 31 March, it surpassed 800. On 12 April, it surpassed 1,600. On 14 April, the number of active cases reached its peak of 1,258. On 28 April, the number of active cases dropped below 800. On 7 May, it dropped below 400. On 17 May, it dropped below 200. On 26 May, it dropped below 100. On 3 June, it dropped below 50. However, on 20 June, the number of active cases hit 50 again, surpassing it the next day. On 23 June, it surpassed 100 again. On 25 June, it surpassed 200 again. On 28 June, it surpassed 400 again. On 5 July, it surpassed 800 again. On 6 July, the number of recorded cases surpassed 3,200. On 15 August, the number of recorded cases surpassed 6,400. On 5 September, the number of active cases reached the new peak of 2,771. On 10 September, the number of recorded cases surpassed 12,800. On 19 October, the number of recorded cases surpassed 25,600. On 1 November, the number of recorded cases surpassed 51,200. On 22 November, the number of recorded cases surpassed 102,400. On 12 December, the number of active cases reached the new peak of 25,270. On 27 December, the number of recorded cases surpassed 204,800.
On 4 April, the number of recovered cases surpassed 100. On 9 April, it surpassed 200. On 13 April, it surpassed 400. On 21 April, it surpassed 800. On 6 May, it surpassed 1,600. On 22 July, it surpassed 3,200. On 27 August, it surpassed 6,400. On 22 September, it surpassed 12,800. On 26 October, it surpassed 25,600. On 9 November, it surpassed 51,200. On 30 November, it surpassed 102,400. On 6 January 2021, it surpassed 204,800.
On 25 May, the number of deaths reached 100, surpassing it the next day. On 7 September, it surpassed 200. On 22 October, it surpassed 400. On 9 November, it surpassed 800. On 27 November, the number of deaths reached 1,600, surpassing it the next day. On 21 December, it surpassed 3,200. On 15 April 2021, it surpassed 6,400.
According to Oxford University, as of 24 March, Croatia is the country with the world's strictest restrictions and measures for infection reduction in relation to the number of infected. Strict measures, early detection of spread routes, prompt government reaction, extensive media coverage, and citizen cooperation have been credited for successful containment of the pandemic in Croatia.
For the citizens, the Government set up a website koronavirus.hr for all information they are interested in, as well as a new phone line 113 that has volunteers answering their questions. On 3 April the Croatian Institute of Public Health implemented a Facebookchatbot named Nada, and on the 14 April, the Government presented a WhatsApp chatbot nicknamed Andrija, after Andrija Štampar, whose purposes are to give personalized advice to citizens who suspect they are infected. Nada and Andrija are also intended to relieve human medical workers of the pressure by "working on the phones 24/7".
On 20 March, Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc in Rijeka started with an online virtual program Zajc With You on their YouTube channel, as an act responsibility and in solidarity with its audience, citizens of Rijeka and the wider community, especially those most vulnerable ones, either because of their age or because they are "on the front line of defense against the virus". Some ensembles will not continue their regular and usual work, because it involves gathering of more people, such as orchestras or choirs, and physical contact, such as ballet ensembles.
"It is very difficult to forecast what will happen because the situation is changing on a daily basis. The situation is very serious, so I have to choose my words carefully. A lot of people are making off the cuff statements. No one in government is negating the problem, the problem is quite evident. But right now we cannot forecast the scope of its effect. No one can. Primarily because no one knows how long the coronavirus crisis will last."
Minister Marić added that it was far too early to make any predictions regarding the national economy in 2020 and budgetary revenues:
"Right now I don't want to speculate on what its effects will be. Our budgetary projection for economic growth, GDP growth this year is 2.5%, it remains to be seen if we will have to adjust the figure down and if so by how much."
The city of Dubrovnik began to brace for the economic impact that the coronavirus could cause in Croatia.
On 17 March, Prime Minister Plenković announced closing shopping centres, some shops, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, reading rooms, libraries, gyms, sports centres, fitness centres, recreation centres, dance schools, children's and other workshops, exhibitions, fairs, nightclubs and discos. The government proposed short-term economic measures, like postponement of tax payments and loans for struggling businesses for at least three months in response to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
On 18 March, a hotel Le Méridien LAV in Split announced it would close from 23 March to 15 April.
On 1 April, the government proposed a second set of economic measures. The net minimum wage was increased from 3,250 HRK to 4,000 HRK (725€), and the Government would pay benefits contributions on the minimum wage of up to 1,460 HRK (192€). Companies that were out of work or were seriously hampered by the pandemic were partially or entirely exempt from tax payments on profit and income, and from contributions.
On 9 April, World Bank predicted 6.2% decrease in Croatian GDP and 9% increase in unemployment rate. On 14 April, International Monetary Fund predicted an even worse scenario, a large decrease of 9% in GDP by the end of 2020. However, the former predicted a 6.2% increase in GDP in 2021, while the latter predicted a 4.6% increase.
On 19 April, the Institute of Economics stated that Croatian public debt would increase to 90% of GDP in the "most favorable" case, but only if the crisis ended in the next three months.
On 6 May, European Commission predicted 9.1% decrease in Croatian GDP by the end of the year and then 7.5% increase a year after. On 7 July, they predicted an even worse scenario – 10.8% decrease – while their prediction about next year recovery did not change.
The City of Zagreb reported 6% fewer arrivals in February than in the same period the previous year. The impact was visible from the contrast to January, which recorded 10% growth compared to the same period the previous year.
According to data from evisitor.hr, in the first ten days of March, arrivals decreased by 30% which is an unprecedented decline in recent Croatian history.
On 14 March, Split City Museum limited its activity and closed the Cellars of Diocletian's Palace and Gallery Emanuel Vidović for visitors. In the week from 16 to 22 March, hotels and restaurants in the country recorded 78% decline in revenue compared to the previous week.
Croatia generally opened borders for tourists in May 2020, and the summer tourist season recorded roughly two thirds of stays compared to the previous year. By the end of August, however, the infection rates grew so much that epidemiologists started to express concern about autumn and the coming flu season's effect on the health system.
COVID-19 warning sign on Zaprešić elementary school
On 11 March, it was announced that kindergartens, schools and universities in Istria County would be closed from 13 March, with students of the first four grades of primary school keeping up with classes via the TV channel HRT 3 or via SharePoint from Microsoft Office.
On 13 March, Prime Minister Plenković announced that all kindergartens, schools and universities in Croatia would be closed for a fortnight starting on 16 March.
On 16 March, Minister of EducationBlaženka Divjak confirmed that the same day CARNET, responsible for online classes in Croatia, had been a victim of a cyberattack making the online classes impossible at that moment. Later the same day, Minister Divjak reported that CARNET had been under ten cyberattacks during the day; however, she confirmed that the online classes had gone successfully.
On 1 April, Minister Divjak announced that Matura exam in Croatian language would be postponed from 16 May. On 15 April, she confirmed that Matura will most likely be held in June. On 6 May, Minister Divjak announced that Matura in optional subjects would not be held. However, a day later, the decision was withdrawn after the public pressure.
During April 2020, there had been widespread media speculation that the 2020 Croatian parliamentary election would be called earlier than originally planned, due to the uncertainty created by the still-ongoing worldwide pandemic. Namely, though the spread of the virus had been brought under control by that time, fears still persisted that the number of infected cases could once again begin to rise in autumn and that this could, therefore, impede or even prevent the holding of the election.
The election was held on 5 July. The voter turnout of 46.85% was the lowest recorded in the history of Croatian democracy. All parties drew major criticism for not wearing masks or keeping social distance in their headquarters, most notably the winning Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) whose members hugged and sang together.
On 9 April, on Maundy Thursday, Civil Protection Directorate allowed the inhabitants of the island of Hvar, which had no active cases, to hold five centuries old night processionZa križen under the condition that only fifteen people take part in it. Groups of fifteen cross carriers exchanged between settlements of Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirče, Vrbanj and Vrboska, while locals kept up from their balconies and front yards. On 1 July, brotherhood of Jelsa that organizes the procession presented the Prime Minister Plenković with a thank you note for allowing them to preserve the annual tradition.
On 12 April, Parson of Sirobuja Don Josip Delaš verbally assaulted a Dalmatinski portal journalist who came to his Easter Mass and who was also physically assaulted by one of the believers. Don Delaš sparked controversy throughout previous week when he invited believers to his Palm Sunday Mass, held Masses despite misdemeanor charges and warnings from the Archdiocese of Split-Makarska, and even verbally assaulted the police officers who intervened during one of his Masses a few days prior.