Health official: Tight pandemic restrictions are highly unlikely anytime soon

NEWS 24.08.2022 11:19
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Source: N1/ Ivan Hrstić

Head of the public health service HZJZ, Krunoslav Capak, said on Wednesday that "strict Covid-19 measures" are unlikely to be imposed again, adding that if the situation worsened, softer rules like physical distancing and mandatory face masks would be introduced.

“We can say that restrictions such as lockdowns or bans on gatherings will probably no longer be used,” Capak said in an interview for state television HTV.

“If the situation deteriorates, the national Covid-19 task force will certainly introduce standard measures such as physical distancing and face masks, in situations where there is a large number of people in one place, such as public transport or at concerts,” he said.

He warned that the recent numbers of new cases were “fairly high,” adding that they averaged at about 790 PCR-positive cases a day over the past week, and that there was roughly the same number of cases diagnosed via rapid antigen tests.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, HZJZ has been publishing daily reports on Covid caseloads, which only includes PCR-positive cases. Though rapid antigen tests are recognized as valid, they are statistically tracked separately.

By Wednesday, HZJZ had reported 6,786 new cases over the past seven days, averaging 969 new cases per day.

Capak said that since the currently dominant strains are the Omicron variant and its milder but more infectious sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5 the number of asymptomatic cases “was probably large.” He noted that the current wave of Covid-19 was “probably at its peak” because the number of new infections was no longer growing but was rather stagnating, “varying slightly on a daily basis.”

Commenting on assessments that the number of Covid-19 fatalities was large despite the currently prevailing milder variants,

Capak was asked to comment on the fact that in spite of milder variants currently prevailing in the population, the numbers of Covid-related deaths is relatively high. By Wednesday, there were 84 reported deaths over the past week, averaging at 12 per day.

Capak responded by offering statistics, saying that while “the average daily number of PCR-positive cases of infection with the Omicron variant was around 700 and the number of fatalities 12, the daily number of new infections and fatalities in November 2021, during the Delta variant wave, was 5,000-6,000 and 52 or even higher, on average.”

“So it’s clearly a milder form of the disease now,” Capak said, even though the ratio, using his numbers, is one death per 58 cases today, whereas it used to be one death per 96 cases in November 2021 during the Delta wave.

He added that the vaccination rate among the older population, including people aged 60 and up, is 70-80 percent, which is lower than in other European countries, where the rate goes up to 90 percent.

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