Croatia has recently moved into the third stage of lock-down life.

As of 11 May, kindergartens have reopened and students in the first years of primary have returned to school. Domestic air travel is allowed and cafes and restaurants are open for outdoor seating only.

However, this all comes with the huge caveat that people must continue to observe social distancing rules. They are also expected to wear masks when out in public.

It really seems like Croatia has managed to stay afloat through the pandemic. Much of this is due to its health minister, Vili Beros, who is being hailed as a national hero.

I interviewed Edo Plovanic, editor in chief of to find out more.

What’s all this about a national hero?

The Ministry of Health was determined and very responsive from the start. Health Minister Vili Beros has become a national hero in our country, due to the speed and quality of his measures. That’s incredible as he is a politician after all, and we typically don’t think much of politicians.

Some early social distancing measures started on 12 March, with a ban on gatherings larger than 100 people. Soon after came self-isolation, travel bans and a system of e-passes.

We never implemented curfew, even at the height of lock-down. People could still go outside, but only for necessities. Other important rules included keeping a strict distance from each other and disinfecting things they came into contact with.

The silver lining

What I find remarkable is that the otherwise sluggish and outdated bureaucracy suddenly accelerated and everything was moved online. It seems as if we are finally in line with Europe thanks to this crisis.

The government quickly put together a website with relevant and up-to-date information about the pandemic. They also set up a system of e-passes for anyone needing to travel outside their immediate area.

Another wake up call may have been the 5.3 Magnitude earthquake that hit Zagreb on 22 March. Though it made an already difficult situation even harder, it was handled efficiently.

What now?

We didn’t have a large number of cases at any point in the pandemic. From a health perspective, I believe we responded very well. However, economic and other kinds of reactions are more of a problem now.

That is, some measures are only partly aligned with people’s real needs. Unlike those in the health sector, these officials simply don’t have enough practical experience.

There have been some cases of people flaunting the lock-down, either because they think it doesn’t concern them or that it’s all a fabrication. However, it seems for the most part, we took to the measures and rode out the situation quite well.

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