The fight against coronavirus is the biggest crisis since the Homeland War and the biggest challenge for us all, he said. This fight, just as in the Homeland War, "demands our unity, responsibility and self-possession, because only in that way will we overcome this setback together."
"In this fight, the health and lives of our people are the number one priority. We must all do our best to save every human life," the prime minister said, adding that it was not the responsibility only of the health system but everyone.
Let's behave responsibly, we are all equally in danger
Doctors won't be able to help us if we don't behave responsibly and listen to instructions, he said. "We should all realise that we are equally in danger and that even when we don't have the symptoms, we can carry the virus and infect our dearest ones, notably those weakest - the elderly, chronic patients and the infirm."
Plenkovic said it was necessary to understand that the virus did not travel but was carried by people who were in contact with others, who disregarded hygiene instructions or spread it by moving across the country.
"That's why I call on all of you to abide by the instructions of the Croatian Institute of Public Health, not to shake hands, to keep a sufficient distance from others and to reduce the number of daily meetings. That's crucial for containing the epidemic. Only in that way will the average number of people an infected person infects go down."
He said that especially applied to all Croatians arriving from abroad, or who did so over the past two weeks, notably from contagion regions. "It's important that we are all responsible and that we don't withhold valuable information from Croatian doctors. It's about people's lives and an effective fight against this epidemic."
Plenkovic said the containment of the epidemic in China was proof of the effectiveness of rigorous measures. He particularly appealed to the 12,000 Croatians in self-isolation to strictly abide by the rules.
I realise it's not easy for them, but it's necessary, and I would like to thank them for behaving responsibly because by doing so they protect both themselves and others, he said.
"At the moment, we are firmly managing this crisis, not it us, but for this fight to be successful, everyone's help is necessary."
Our economy's health is our second priority
The prime minister said the economy's health was the government's second priority and that the extent of the crisis demanded emergency measures.
"We already know the coronavirus epidemic will have significant consequences on our economy, notably transport, tourism and hospitality, as well as other sectors. Thanks to the fact that today our economic situation is better than a few years ago, our economy today is more resilient to shocks."
The government has therefore adopted a package of 63 measures, worth over HRK 30 billion, aimed at preserving jobs and the economy's liquidity, Plenkovic said. "We support job preservation and will pay employers a net minimum wage of HRK 3,250 for each worker, and they will be able to pay the additional part of the wage, for which we stimulate them with our measures."
Businesses are also being helped with the deferral of profit and income tax as well as pension and healthcare contributions, he said and welcomed banks' announcement that they would defer loan payments. "In line with the talks we held, we welcome the measure directed at deferring loan payments, not just for businesses but households too."
Gov't will not let private sector bear the brunt of the crisis
This is a time for the nation's unity and for social responsibility, Plenkovic said, reminding employers once again that "those who lay off workers" will not be able to benefit from the government's measures.
"This set of measures that we have proposed is the first one and we will be following the situation on the labour market on a daily basis. We will prepare additional measures. We do not intend to let the private sector bear the brunt of the crisis," he stressed.
The PM also said that considering the current situation, all budgetary items would have to be reexamined to reduce spending as much as possible.
"All ministers were instructed to cut all expenses that are not necessary except for those related to the health system, pensions and social contributions," he said, noting that the burden of the crisis had to be shared equally by all and that Croatia should be solidary as a society and a nation.
Gratitude to all on the first line of defence against coronavirus
Plenkovic expressed special gratitude to all medical workers - doctors, nurses and other medical staff - who are on the first line of defence against coronavirus.
He also thanked all other workers, from shop assistants to truck drivers, from border police, inspectors, civil protection, Red Cross volunteers and all others involved in protection against the epidemic and in ensuring the functioning of the economic sector and normal supply.
As the current chair of the Council of the EU, Croatia has been active in managing the crisis at EU level as well, Plenkovic said, recalling a decision on the temporary closure of the EU border to people from third countries.
"We will continue to coordinate activities in the fight against the virus and in alleviating economic consequences as well as in research and efforts to find a vaccine," he said.
No time for divisions but for consensus
At the end of his address, Plenkovic again called for unity and consensus, saying that Croatia is at war against the virus, panic and negative socio-economic consequences.
"That is why we all have to demonstrate unity, this is no time for divisions but for consensus. We have opened constructive dialogue with all parliamentary parties, we are cooperating with the President of the Republic, we are consulting with employers, unions, business people and bankers. Cooperation with the media is also important as they have the key role in providing quality information to the public and in non-dissemination of fake news, which often causes panic," he said.
The government's focus is on citizens' lives and health, and in its decisions the government relies on opinions of experts and researchers, the PM said, stressing that the government would continue communicating about the situation regarding the coronavirus epidemic transparently and in a timely manner.