The third case of coronavirus infection in Croatia has been confirmed, this time in the Adriatic city of Rijeka after the two previously confirmed in the capital of Zagreb, the country's interior minister and head of the national civil protection authority, Davor Bozinovic, said on Wednesday evening.
Test results conducted in the Zagreb Fran Mihaljevic hospital for infectious diseases confirmed the third case in Croatia in a man who had recently returned from the northern Italian city of Parma, where he works. He was placed in quarantine in the Rijeka hospital.
The second case of infection was found earlier on Wednesday in a young man, a brother of the first confirmed case, a 25-year-old man who had tested positive on Tuesday after showing mild symptoms of this disease.The first confirmed patient had recently returned from a trip to Milan in northern Italy, where he is thought to have picked up the virus, and was placed in quarantine at the Fran Mihaljevic hospital in Zagreb on Tuesday.
After confirming the infection, health authorities said they would focus on tracking down and testing everyone patient zero had been in contact with. According to local media, his girlfriend, who was also in Italy with him, tested negative on Wednesday but will be put in isolation and tested again later today.
Health Minister, Vili Beros, appealed for calm in a news conference on Wednesday.
"This is not a disease that is a serious threat, it is very much like the common flu, and 80 percent of everyone infected only show mild symptoms of the disease. We hope that the confirmed cases in Croatia will remain like that as well," Beros told a news conference.
Beros also called on people who appear to have the flu, and who had not been to China or Italy recently, to contact their family doctors. For those who had visited either of those two countries recently, Beros instructed them to call the epidemiology service by phone.
"At the moment the situation is under control, and we believe there will be no escalation. However, this does not depend solely on us and the measures we implement - a lot of it depends on how the virus itself will behave - but at the moment, we are seeing no signs that anything outside of our control is going on."
Local media reports say that the first patient had travelled by bus to Milan to watch a football match, and that all other passengers who shared the same bus are being tracked down by Croatian authorities.
'We are fully prepared'
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said that Croatia is prepared to take any measure necessary to contain the coronavirus, including coordinating with the Italian government.
"As the virus has spread across the world, Croatia raised preparedness levels, our crisis management team has experienced staff, and I expect them to engage fully. The message to the public is that all the relevant services are fully prepared," Prime Minister Plenkovic said.
On Tuesday, Croatia's Health Minister, Vili Beros attended a meeting in Rome hosted by Italy's Health Minister Roberto Speranza, with their counterparts from France, Switzerland, Slovenia, and Austria.
Beros told reporters after the meeting that the ministers agreed that there would be no border closures due to the outbreak, as it "would not yield adequate results," and that these six countries would standardise travel information and protocols and exchange information on the outbreak.
Croatia's foreign ministry issued a travel advisory on Tuesday, recommending caution when travelling to Italy and its regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Piemonte, and Lazio. On Monday, the country's education ministry told all elementary and middle schools to cancel trips to Italy for at least a month.
Italy hardest-hit European country
In neighbouring Bosnia, three Chinese tourists who showed signs of a possible infection had been admitted to a Sarajevo hospital, before testing negative on Tuesday. In Slovenia, 44 suspected cases have been identified, but all tested negative, the country's health ministry tweeted on Tuesday afternoon.
Also on Tuesday, first two cases have been confirmed in Austria, both in persons who had recently spent time in the north of Italy, and both have been quarantined at a hospital in the city of in Innsbruck.
According to an interactive map developed by the Johns Hopkins University which tracks the coronavirus outbreak in real time, there have been 81,000 confirmed cases globally since the outbreak started in December last year. The vast majority of these were detected in China and its province of Hubei.
As of Thursday, the total includes more than 30,100 recoveries and about 2,700 deaths from the disease.
The hardest hit European country so far is Italy, which by Tuesday reported 322 confirmed cases and 11 deaths, most of them located in the northern part of the country, in the regions of Lombardy and Veneto.