Since Sunday afternoon, 52 new cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed in Croatia, bringing the tally to 306, Health Minister Vili Beros said on Monday, as the country’s capital, Zagreb, continued to deal with the aftermath of a powerful earthquake that hit the north part of the city on Sunday morning.
The new figures mirror the exponential spread of the contagion observed in other countries in Europe.
After banning gatherings of any kind and sealing off parks around the country on Saturday, the authorities announced new, even more stringent measures aimed at slowing down the spread of the virus. A ban on intercity travelling of any kind was announced on Monday morning.
This ban came in the wake of a powerful earthquake that hit Zagreb early on Sunday, further complicating the efforts to contain the outbreak in the city which accounts for nearly a half of coronavirus cases in the country.
The initial quake, measuring some 5.5 on the Richter scale, was the strongest the city has seen in the last 140 years. Buildings in the city’s historic centre, many of them built over a hundred years ago, were severely damaged. The spire of the city’s iconic Cathedral broke off, and among other damaged constructions are the Parliament building, the Zagreb University building, and the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The quake caused several fires and knocked out mobile networks and electricity in some areas. More than 20 people were injured, 18 severely, including a 15-year-old girl who remains in critical condition. No fatalities have been reported.
The city's largest maternity hospital at Petrova Street, housed in a historic turn-of-the-century building, was quickly evacuated on Sunday.
On Monday, Health Minister Beros reported that the Zagreb Jordanovac clinic for respiratory diseases was also damaged in the quake and did not yet seem safe to take in patients. The 36 patients who had been admitted there were evacuated and transferred to the university hospital centre in Zagreb. The Salata orthopaedic care clinic was also damaged.
Everything else is functioning in an orderly manner, Beros said.
The initial quake and more than 50 subsequent, albeit weaker, tremors continued to shake the city all through Sunday and Monday, the latest coming on Monday at 11 am and measuring 3.3 on the Richter scale. They caused a number of Zagreb citizens to flee the city and forced the government to introduce the travelling ban.
“I invite everyone who fled Zagreb yesterday to come back… It’s a reflex reaction, the same as when people ran out of their homes (after the initial quake on Sunday), breaking the self-isolation measure. Some people just took it a step further, impulsively sat in their cars and left. That would be completely understandable and justified, if we were not facing another crisis,” said Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic, who leads the coronavirus crisis management team.
The army was called in on Sunday to help clean the debris from the streets, and the people whose homes were severely damaged were temporarily housed in the Cvjetno Naselje student dormitory.