Omicron variant fuels record number of infections in Croatia
ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) – The omicron variant of the coronavirus has fueled the highest number of new daily infections in Croatia since the start of the pandemic, officials said on Wednesday, while other Balkan countries also reported strong increase in cases.
A total of 8,587 new cases have been confirmed in the past 24 hours in Croatia, which is a 50% increase since last week, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said at a government session.
“The numbers show that omicron is spreading, we know it’s a highly contagious variant that’s present here,” he said. “This is a warning about how important it is to use everything at our disposal to protect ourselves from the coronavirus. “
Plenkovic said authorities would monitor the situation and discuss a possible tightening of the rules in the coming days. He said about 63% of adults out of a population of 4.2 million people have been fully vaccinated so far.
A sharp rise in new infections has also been reported in other Balkan countries following the Christmas and New Year holidays and as the omicron variant apparently takes over. The poorly vaccinated region was hit hard during the fall when the delta virus variant was dominant.
Croatia’s neighbor Slovenia on Wednesday reported a record 4,068 seven-week cases in the past 24 hours in what the state-run STA news agency described as a new wave fueled by Omicron.
In Montenegro, some doctors criticized the lack of compliance with measures such as mandatory masks and recommendations to avoid gatherings during the holiday period. Montenegro last week tightened virus rules after cases started to rise, including limited working hours in bars and a ban on all gatherings.
In Serbia, long queues formed outside COVID-19 medical centers as infections began to skyrocket after New Year’s celebrations with outdoor concerts and bars, restaurants and crowded clubs.
Experts have warned that new cases could reach “dramatic” numbers in the coming days due to the omicron variant and non-compliance with COVID-19 rules. Public television RTS quoted unnamed health ministry officials as saying that “this is just the start of a new wave which apparently is going to be very difficult.”
Serbia and most central and eastern European countries have around 50% of the population fully vaccinated, which is well below the European Union average.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic