Coronavirus update, April 16, 2021: Health minister says summer might be without face masks

New record set for daily Covid vaccinations, Czech Waldorf school refuses testing, and a quarter million Czechs over 70 still waiting for vaccines. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 16.04.2021 09:58:00 (updated on 16.04.2021) Reading time: 5 minutes

Czech Health Minister: summer might be without face masks

Health Minister Petr Arenberger backpedaled remarks he made Wednesday in the Chamber of Deputies that respirators or face masks would have to be used outside in the summer, too, if the lockdown is not observed. "I apologies to all for yesterday. The summer could be without face masks outside!" he said on Twitter, when he also acknowledged that the Czech Republic would get 1.18 additional doses of Pfizer Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by June. Face masks or respirators have been required in built up urban areas since mid-February.

Babiš says there is a demand for Sputnik

Some firms and individual citizens have shown interest in the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said at a press conference with his Slovak counterpart Eduard Heger.

"We are trying to negotiate a volume of Sputnik for us to be prepared for the supplies as soon as the EMA gives a go-ahead to it … It is true that the demand for vaccination with Sputnik does exist on the part of [Czech] firms and citizens," he said.

The Czech Republic is trying to negotiate a supply of Russia's Sputnik V Covid vaccine in order to be prepared in case it is approved by the European Medicine Agency (EMA). "We have a law that does not allow for the state to buy other vaccines than what we ordered through the European Commission (EC). Nevertheless, the Health Ministry will definitely consider ways for us to possibly meet these requirements in case the [EMA] approval did not come true," Babiš said.

Hamáček's trips to Moscow for Sputnik negotiations is ‘not ideal'

Deputy Prime Minister and acting Foreign Minister Jan Hamáček's trip to Moscow on Monday to negotiate about supplies of the Sputnik V anti-Covid vaccine to the Czech Republic is not ideal, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) told the tabloid Blesk. Babiš said vaccines were not within Hamáček's agenda and the Czech Republic already had a concrete offer. On Wednesday Hamáček announced he would fly to Moscow for the talks on the deliveries of Sputnik V after their approval by the EMA.

Health Ministry is dealing with Denmark over AstraZeneca

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš says Czech Deputy Prime Minister and acting Foreign Minister Jan Hamáček is not involved in getting AstraZeneca vaccine from Denmark, which previously suspended and now definitively terminated its use. Hamáček said the Czech Republic is ready to purchase the AstraZeneca vaccine from Denmark. Babiš told Blesk that he did not know why Hamáček was settling this affair as this was within the remit of the Health Ministry. "And this ministry is dealing with this," Babiš said. Danish officials said yesterday they were considering donation the vaccine to poorer EU countries, and mentioned Lithuania. Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytéová said that she would like to take the vaccines. 

Deutsche Welle: obesity a factor in the high Czech Covid death rate

Many factors contribute to the high Covid death rate in the Czech Republic, according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW). Aside from poor political handling of the crisis, with rules that were too lax and not enforced, the general health of Czechs also plays a role. The Czech Republic leads the world in per capita beer consumption, is the European leader for marijuana use among young people; and has the most smokers per capita in the EU. “With some 57% of women and 71% of men in the Czech Republic overweight, the country leads the EU in that category, too,” DW wrote. Research cited by the World Obesity Federation (WOF) has drawn a link between obesity and the threat of dying from diseases like Covid-19, DW added.

Waldorf School in Semily won’t do antigen testing

The director of the Waldorf School in Semily, Ivan Semecký, refuses to make the school a testing center. According to Semecký the extraordinary measures place school principals in an absurd position to forbid some children from attending school, denying their parents their basic rights and making teachers employees of a "test center." "Schools should definitely not be used for this! In addition to completely disproportionate demands on the school, it is mainly a denial of the fundamental rights of children and parents. I leave the testing of children to the parents' decision," Semecký said on the school 's website. The school board does not agree with his procedure, but cannot intervene. On Monday, the Town Council will discuss its possible his dismissal at its meeting, Mayor Lena Mlejnková told ČTK.

Universities want in-person classes to restart

University rectors want the government to allow at least a partial resumption of practical and contact teaching, so that especially students of the last years of university can complete their studies in standard time and quality. They want classes to begin no later than April 26. Petr Sklenička, chairman of the rectors' conference, told reporters after a meeting in Pardubice.

A quarter million over 70 still waiting for vaccine appointments

More than 250,000 people over the age of 70 are waiting for a Covid-19 vaccination time, with 60,000 of them over the age of 80, the Ministry of Health said on the website on Thursday. From Wednesday, people aged 65 to 69 can also apply for vaccination. According to the data on registrations, so far 150,000 of them applied, and over 35,000 were also given the opportunity to book an appointment for vaccination, Health Minister Petr Arenberger tweeted.

SÚKL director says she is not under pressure

State Institute for Drug Control (SÚKL) director Irena Storová does not feel the pressure that she will be dismissedd, she told Radiožurnál on Thursday. She said she has a professional relationship with the new Health Minister Petr Arenberger, and communicates with him on an ongoing basis. In connection with the debate on the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, she said that no one had yet asked for the use of unregistered vaccines against Covid-19 in clinical trials, and that it would take some time to prepare such a study.

Most vaccinations in one day against Covid

Some 68,286 people were vaccinated against Covid-19 on Thursday, the most in one day since the start of vaccination last December. There were 3,238 newly confirmed cases of Covid-19 which is about a third less than a week ago and the least on weekdays since Oct. 4, according to the data of the Ministry of Health. Since the start of vaccination at the end of December, health professionals have already given 2.35 million doses of vaccine, and about 822,000 people have already received both required doses of vaccination. The reproduction number R fell to 0.84, meaning the epidemic is subsiding, and the PES index fell to 56.

Latest Covid-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (April 16, 2021)

  • New cases 3,238
  • Deaths 28,317
  • Currently hospitalized 4,651
  • PCR tests performed 6,524,970
  • Antigen tests performed 8,807,452
  • Reported vaccinations 2,353,589
  • PES index 56
  • R number 0.84
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