1. Preventing transmission
The section on PREVENTING TRANSMISSION includes information on key public health measures that aim to prevent the further spread of the disease. It details how countries are advising the general public and people who (might) have the disease to prevent further spread, as well as measures in place to test and identify cases, trace contacts, and monitor the scale of the outbreak.
1.1 Health communication
On 5 May, the national "stay at home" campaign was replaced by a new "stay responsible" campaign.
On 27 July, the mobile application "Stop COVID-19" was presented at the Ministry of Health. "Stop COVID-19“ is an application that serves to warn citizens that they may have been at risk of being in contact with the COVID-19 virus . The application requires the explicit consent of the user which can be withdrawn at any time, but its use is completely voluntary and each user fully manages the data they want to share.
In addition to the aforementioned communication channels (Andrija and Stop COVID-19), there are several other applications to help inform and communicate with the public. These have been developed either through public-private partnerships or as private citizen initiatives. They include:
• A chatbot application for Messenger, which has been active on the Facebook page of the Croatian Institute of Public Health since April 3. Using this, citizens can find out everything they want to know about coronavirus (https://www.hzjz.hr/priopcenja-mediji/omogucena-chatbot-komunikacija-korisnika-i-hrvatskog-zavoda-za-javno-zdravstvo/).
• An application for assistance in patient triage was developed for the purpose of providing assistance to doctors, developed on the initiative of a doctor (https://etrijaza.web.app/)
Official advice on hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, physical distancing
Since the first case of COVID-19 infection in Croatia was diagnosed on 25 February 2020, the relevant institutions have informed the population about transmission routes, as well as measures on how to reduce the risk of disease transmission.
The Croatian Institute of Public Health, in cooperation with the University Hospital for Infectious Diseases “Dr. Fran Mihaljevic”, has issued general protection measures for citizens, which include the following:
• frequent handwashing with soap and water or by using antiseptic,
• covering mouth and nose with a tissue paper when coughing and sneezing, throwing it into a bin and washing hands
• avoiding close contact (maintaining a distance of at least 1 metre, preferably 2 metres) with people who have symptoms of respiratory infection, or who have at least one of the following symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath (https://www.hzjz.hr/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Stariji-i-kroni%C4%8Dni-Mjere-za%C5%A1tite-2.pdf).
The Croatian Institute of Public Health, in collaboration with the Red Cross, has also issued guidelines on proper handwashing (https://www.hzjz.hr/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Pranje_ruku_.pdf).
Communicating information on outbreak severity and responses to the public
Initially, the Expert Group of the Ministry of Health had the role of coordinating communication with all stakeholders in the country. After a while, due to the increasing number of infected people and the need for higher level supervision and coordination, a National Civil Protection Headquarters was established together with Local Civil Protection Headquarters. Representatives of the National Civil Protection Headquarters have taken an active role in informing citizens through the media. They address the public daily through a press release at 2pm. The information provided includes statistical analysis of the number of infected people and an overview of measures taken against the spread of coronavirus and how will they be implemented.
Public communication is conducted as follows:
• Updates are posted at 3pm every day on the website of the Croatian Institute of Public Health (www.hzjz.hr). These include new information on the number of infected people in Croatia, Europe and the world as well as the current measures
• The Croatian Institute of Public Health has launched a Facebook and Instagram page for maintaining communication through social networks
• Daily press conferences by the National Civil Protection Headquarters (initially there were two daily conferences, later just one at 2pm)
• Special telephone lines have been introduced to inform citizens on epidemiological, health topics and to provide psychological assistance and support in the network of the Croatian Institute of Public Health (national level) and county institutes of public health (county level)
• Additional telephone lines of epidemiologists on standby (24/7) were introduced to ease the existing telephone lines and facilitate communication with fellow professionals
• On 18 March, the Croatian government established a COVID-19 call center . Citizens can call the number 113 where epidemiologists and other professionals can answer their questions every day from 8am to 4pm.
• At the end of March, the Government of the Republic of Croatia opened a dedicated website which provides all the latest information on COVID-19 (www.koronavirus.hr)
• Various private companies and national and private broadcasters are regularly advertising spots and prevention messages with a slogan #stayathome.
• On 14 April, the Ministry of Health introduced Andrija - the first digital coronavirus assistant in Croatia. Citizens can communicate with this digital assistant through the Whatsapp application. The idea of this platform is to provide assistance to Croatian epidemiologists, the overall health care system as well as social care providers in the welfare system in the control of COVID-19 outbreak. It was named after Dr. Andrija Štampar. Andrija provides several options:
o It helps people to recognize the symptoms of coronavirus infection - a self-assessment of their own health status
o It connects people with competent institutions - directs everyone to the right address, saves time and energy for citizens and doctors in these moments of burden on the health system
o It allows people to report relevant information from their household (https://vlada.gov.hr/vijesti/predstavljen-andrija-prvi-digitalni-asistent-u-borbi-protiv-koronavirusa/29226)
o It helps nursing home employees better understand the protection and testing protocols for COVID-19
o It can also help the families of nursing home users. Families can easily get the latest information on measures in nursing homes (such as food delivery, organizing visits, etc.).
On 28 April, the Open Data Portal was established. The Croatian Institute of Public Health and the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Croatia are the main institutions in charge of data collection. The goal of the portal is to make institutions more transparent and accountable. This platform ensures transparency with real-time data that citizens can access at any time.