Stricter Lockdown Expected Due To Worsening Covid-19 Situation in Czech Republic
The government is expected to further tighten anti-epidemic measures in response to the significant number of active cases of coronavirus in the Czech Republic, the strain on hospitals and the presence of coronavirus mutations which spread at a faster rate than the original. Photo: Press conference after the government meeting, February 22, 2021 (Cropped). Photo Credit: Vlada.cz.
Czech Rep., Feb 24 (BD) – On Wednesday morning, the government held an extraordinary meeting to discuss the current coronavirus situation and possible tightening the current anti-epidemic measures. Prime Minister Andre Babiš (ANO) said that the government will meet again this evening to discuss a request to extend the state of emergency past Saturday.
Babiš explained that stricter measures are needed due to the rise in the number of cases, the low capacity remaining in intensive care units, where 1,326 covid-positive patients are already hospitalised, and the presence of the South African and British mutation of the virus in the Czech Republic. Babiš stressed that previous guidance about transmission was obsolete due to the mutations, and that it can now be transmitted within seconds.
Although the Senate is debating the pandemic law today, Babiš explained that the government believes the measures of the pandemic law are insufficient to fight against the spread of the virus, given the current situation, and that the opposition are in agreement with this.
According to data from the Ministry of Health, 15,672 positive cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the Czech Republic on Tuesday. This is the highest figure since January 5th and 6th, when over 17,000 cases were recorded. A record 127,240 people are currently infected with coronavirus across the country. This figure indicates that the national epidemiological situation may be as urgent as it was at the end of October last year, when the number of active cases reached over 120,000.
Trend profile of the current number of people with laboratory-proven COVID disease ‑ 19
Graph to show the development of active coronavirus cases since the beginning of the outbreak in the Czech republic. Source: Ministry of Health, updated on February 24th, 2021 at 9:01am.
‘‘We are convinced that the measures need to be changed, tightened, because if we do not do so, indeed, for the next two weeks, three weeks, we will have huge problems in our healthcare system, which is at the limit of its strength,’’ said Babiš. Negotiations will be held with the opposition parties in the late afternoon, followed by negotiations with representatives of employers and trade unions, then with the National Economic Council of the Government (NERV).
The prime minister confirmed that the return of students in the final years to school would not go ahead as planned on March 1st, even if the antigen tests arrive in time. The Ministry of Health should present a proposal to the government for further tightening of measures.
The government also discussed the acceleration of vaccinations, considered the “most important and only solution”, with governors, representatives of general practitioners and the General Health Insurance Company (VZP) on Tuesday. According to the Prime Minister, there are 174 vaccination sites in the country, and a further 70 or more will open from the beginning of March. The government intends to vaccinate teachers and continue vaccinating doctors. The country will receive 190,000 vaccines in February, over one million vaccines in March and 2.6 million in April.
‘‘Until we vaccinate, we need to, unfortunately, limit ourselves again and endure this period before we have vaccinated enough of our fellow citizens that we will be able to start thinking about loosening again,’’ Babiš explained.
The government is trying to acquire more vaccines. Israel responded to a request from the prime minister and has given 5,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, half of which will be given to Czech soldiers who are helping care for coronavirus patients. In a conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, the prime minister tried to negotiate for the EU to lend the Czech Republic 100,000 Pfizer / BioNTech vaccines in March which would be returned in April, but was unable to convince anyone. However, Germany has offered free beds for patients from the Karlovy Vary region and the Ústí region.
‘‘So, I repeat, this is not good news, but it needs to be done, because otherwise there would be a total catastrophe in our hospitals. So I appeal again to everyone, please everyone, to understand that we have not really had such a situation here. On March 1st, it will be a year since the beginning of the pandemic in the Czech Republic, and unfortunately it seems that on the anniversary, the situation in our country will be the absolute worst for the entire period of the dramatic year we have had,’’ said Babiš, concluding that ‘‘It’s not good news, I’m sorry, but there’s no other solution.’’