In a bid to revive the local tourism industry, Croatian government announced plans on Thursday to drop Covid-19 restrictions for incoming nationals of ten countries where the peak of the epidemic seems to be over, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said in a cabinet meeting.
"Considering the great results that we have had (in fighting the pandemic), we devised a plan to drop entry bans for nationals of Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia," Plenkovic said in a cabinet meeting.
Since the start of the epidemic in late February, Croatia had more than 2,200 confirned cases, including 101 deaths and more than 2,000 full recoveries.
After draconian social distancing measures, bans on travel, and closures of non-essential shops had been introduced in March, the daily rate of new cases dropped off significantly, trickling down to single digits by mid-May, with only one new case reported over the last five days prior to the Thursday announcement.
At the same time, the unprecedented restrictions imposed all over Europe have effectively shut down Croatia's tourism and hospitality industries, which are thought to account for at least 20 percent of the nation's GDP and employ about a quarter of its 1.5 million workforce.
The easing of restrictions is hoped to bring in visitors to Croatia's Adriatic coastline, ahead of the summer tourist season which usually peaks from June to August. In 2019, more than 18 million tourists visited the country, with largest groups by country of origin coming from Germany, Slovenia, Austria, Poland, and Italy.
Croatia had dropped the mandatory 14-day isolation for nationals of neighbouring Slovenia earlier this month, after Slovenia had reported only a handful of new cases over the last couple of weeks.
It remains unclear when the new border regime for nationals of other nine countries will come into effect.
The government also launched a website titled Enter Croatia later on Thursday, which foreigners can use to fill out forms before coming to Croatia, which is expected to help avoid traffic jams at road crossings.
Earlier this month, state railways HZ re-launched its domestic passenger train service and flag carrier Croatia Airlines moved to restart domestic air traffic. The company operates two flights a day flights connecting capital Zagreb to the major coastal cities of Split and Dubrovnik. The single international route served from Zagreb Airport is the company's one daily flight to Frankfurt, a major European airline hub.
On Wednesday, the national coronavirus crisis task force had eased a number of restrictions, including increasing the size of public gatherings allowed, from 40 to a maximum of 100 in closed spaces or a 300 in open air venues.
Sports matches will also be allowed to take place behind closed doors from May 30, and weddings and funerals - limited due to the pandemic to only a handful of family members and priests - will now be allowed to host other guests as well.