The third case of coronavirus infection in Croatia has been confirmed, this time in the Adriatic city of Rijeka after the two previously confirmed in the capital of Zagreb, the country's interior minister and head of the national civil protection authority, Davor Bozinovic, said on Wednesday evening.
Test results conducted in the Zagreb Fran Mihaljevic hospital for infectious diseases confirmed the third case in Croatia in a man who had recently returned from work abroad, from the northern Italian city of Parma. He was placed in quarantine at the Rijeka hospital on Wednesday afternoon.
Health Minister, Vili Beros, said on Thursday that 131 suspected cases on infection are currently awaiting test results.
The first two cases were detected earlier this week in Zagreb, in a 25-year-old man who had recently visited Milan in Italy and his brother. They were both placed in quarantine at the Fran Mihaljevic hospital in Zagreb on Tuesday.
Prime Minister, Andrej Plenkovic, appealed for calm in a news conference on Thursday, amid reports that panicked shoppers have invaded some supermarkets in Zagreb to stock up on supplies.
"Three cases have been confirmed, but the public health situation is under control. I appeal to citizens that there is no reason for stocking up on supplies and emptying store shelvess... Please remain calm and responsible," Plenkovic said in a cabinet meeting.
Earlier this week, Health Minister Beros called on people who appear to have the flu, and who had not been to China or Italy recently, to contact their family doctors to ease the burden on hospitals. For those who had visited either of those two countries recently, Beros instructed them to call the epidemiology service by phone.
"At the moment the situation is under control, and we believe there will be no escalation. However, this does not depend solely on us and the measures we implement - a lot of it depends on how the virus itself will behave - but at the moment, we are seeing no signs that anything outside of our control is going on."
'We are fully prepared'
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said that Croatia is prepared to take any measure necessary to contain the coronavirus, including coordinating with the Italian government.
"As the virus has spread across the world, Croatia raised preparedness levels, our crisis management team has experienced staff, and I expect them to engage fully. The message to the public is that all the relevant services are fully prepared," Prime Minister Plenkovic said.
On Tuesday, Croatia's Health Minister, Vili Beros attended a meeting in Rome hosted by Italy's Health Minister Roberto Speranza, with their counterparts from France, Switzerland, Slovenia, and Austria.
Beros told reporters after the meeting that the ministers agreed that there would be no border closures due to the outbreak, as it "would not yield adequate results," and that these six countries would standardise travel information and protocols and exchange information on the outbreak.
Croatia's foreign ministry issued a travel advisory on Tuesday, recommending caution when travelling to Italy and its regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Piemonte, and Lazio. On Monday, the country's education ministry told all elementary and middle schools to cancel trips to Italy for at least a month.
Italy hardest-hit European country
In neighbouring Bosnia, three Chinese tourists who showed signs of a possible infection had been admitted to a Sarajevo hospital, before testing negative earlier this week. In Slovenia, 44 suspected cases have been identified, but all tested negative, the country's health ministry tweeted on Tuesday afternoon.
North Macedonia confirmed its first case of infection on Wednesday, in a woman who had recently returned from Italy.
Also on Tuesday, first two cases have been confirmed in Austria, both in persons who had recently spent time in the north of Italy, and both have been quarantined at a hospital in the city of in Innsbruck.
According to an interactive map developed by the Johns Hopkins University which tracks the coronavirus outbreak in real time, there have been 82,000 confirmed cases globally since the outbreak started in December last year. The vast majority of these were detected in China. As of Thursday, the total includes nearly 33,000 recoveries and about 2,800 deaths from the disease.
The hardest hit European country so far is Italy, which by Thursday morning reported 453 confirmed cases and 12 deaths, most of them located in the northern part of the country, in the regions of Lombardy and Veneto.