ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia said on Thursday bars and restaurants can reopen outdoor terraces next week after a more than three-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite a small rise in the number of daily infections over the seven days.
The small southeast European country reported some 4,500 new daily cases three months ago but that number has since fallen to several hundred a day. On Thursday there were 544 new cases reported, somewhat more than the 365 of a week ago.
"We must remain cautious despite having at the moment one of the lowest weekly (COVID-19) incidences in the European Union. From March 1, outdoor spaces of bars and restaurants will be reopened. We think it is an appropriate move," Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic told a cabinet session.
Thousands of people, mainly owners of small businesses like restaurants, bars and fitness centres, jammed the capital Zagreb's main square a few weeks ago to protest at closures preventing them from working.
The indoor areas of bars and restaurants remain closed.
Sports-training sessions indoors will also be permitted starting on Monday.
"However, measures can always become more restrictive (again) if the situation worsens," Plenkovic said.
Shops have remained open in Croatia all winter albeit with limits on customer numbers at any one time. Face masks are obligatory in all public indoor spaces and on public transport, while employees are urged to work from home wherever possible.
Public gatherings are limited to 25 people.
Like elsewhere in the EU, vaccinations against COVID-19 have got off to a slow start with delays due to supply bottlenecks.
(Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Mark Heinrich)