Letter from Dubrovnik

The origins of quarantine

We can learn something from medieval times as the world now deals with COVID 19 pandemic. There have always been some key measures to prevent spreading some unknown disease. Black Death devastated Europe in the 14th century. 

My hometown Dubrovnik, Croatia introduced probably the first quarantine in the world in 1377 and started to develop legislation throughout the following centuries as an independent city-state of Ragusa (nowadays Dubrovnik). The law was simple – those who come from plague-infected areas shall not enter Dubrovnik before they spend 30 days on the remote island or mainland some 10 miles south of Dubrovnik. At the very beginning, isolation was 30 days but later prolonged to 40 days (quaranta) due to unknown incubation period. Quarantine carried out the basic idea of separation of the sick, while today we separate in self-isolation against the unknown enemy. The practise of quarantine was spread across Europe in the 15th century, but let’s not forget where it all started.

Ivan Vuković Vuka

About Ivan

Traveller by soul and the profession. Tour guide in Dubrovnik and King’s Landing, travel writer, co-host of National Geographic’s ‘Croatia’s finest’. Philanthropist and volunteer on various missions across the globe.

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