Croatia extends lockdown until May 4, begins to consider easing

ZAGREB (Reuters) – Croatia is extending its coronavirus lockdown for another 15 days, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said on Saturday, but added the government was looking at whether it was possible to gradually ease restrictions on movement.

A month ago, the government closed all the shops, bars, restaurants, schools and public transport leaving open only food stores, pharmacies and petrol stations.

Croats have been allowed to leave their homes to buy essentials or seek medical treatment, go for a walk or do an exercise, but not in a group and avoiding social contact. Many people have been working from home.

Croatia has recorded 1,832 cases of COVID-19, with 39 deaths. On Saturday the number of new infections rose by 18 which is the lowest daily increase registered since March 17.

The number of new cases has been dipping in recent days, with 50 new cases on Thursday and 23 on Friday. Last Sunday, health authorities confirmed 66 new cases.

“We decided to extend the measures for 15 days, until May 4,” Bozinovic said.

He said the government was considering the possibility of relaxing certain measures to help the economy, while at the same time continuing to protect the health of citizens.

One such measure could be easing the restriction on leaving their homes, but travel would be possible only within their region of the country. Travelling between different regions would remain barred unless people have a permit for specific business or medical reasons.

He gave no timeframe for a decision. The government is due to convene for a session on Thursday.

While the government has yet to release its projection of the impact the COVID-19 crisis will have on the economy, the International Monetary Fund forecast a downturn of 9.0% in 2020 and the World Bank projected a fall of 6.2%, mostly due to the country’s reliance on the tourist industry.

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