Coronavirus update, April 21, 2021: Health minister says shops will open by May 3 at the latest

Czech doctors will start receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine today, poll finds Czechs less cautious about Covid, and anti-testing principal fired. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 21.04.2021 09:37:00 (updated on 21.04.2021) Reading time: 5 minutes

Health minister: stores will open on May 3 at the latest

The government is aiming to open stores at May 3 at the latest, Health Minister Petr Arenberger said on CNN Prima. The government on Thursday discuss its plan for dismantling restrictions in the first half of May.

"We are working toward making it possible to consider opening stores by the end of April, from May 3 at the latest. It is still being worked out," Arenberger said.

According to the minister, the government on Thursday will try to gain the consensus of all players who will be affected by the dismantling plan. He also said that kindergartens could be fully opened without testing or face coverings in four more regions on Monday, April 26, with Plzeň as the most promising. It was previously announced that kindergartens would fully open in the Hradec Králové and Karlovy Vary regions on that date.

Czech doctors to get Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The Health Ministry on Wednesday will start distributing Johnson & Johnson vaccines against Covid-19 to general practitioners' offices, the ministry stated on its website on Tuesday. Doctors will receive 14,400 doses. Originally, the first Johnson & Johnson vaccines were scheduled to arrive at GP offices on Monday.

"The European Medicines Agency confirmed a possible link between Johnson & Johnson and very rare cases of blood clots. However, the benefits of vaccination continue to outweigh the potential risks. Therefore, the Ministry of Health will start distributing the company's vaccines to general practitioners' offices on Wednesday," the Health Ministry stated.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the fourth approved for use in the EU. To date, vaccines from Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca have been administered in the Czech Republic. GPs could start ordering Johnson & Johnson in their offices a week ago. Johnson & Johnson is a single dose, with other vaccines used so far, two doses should be given. The distribution company Avenier previously stated that the first 14,400 doses will be intended for 288 surgeries. The vaccine is distributed in packs of 50 doses. The distributor keeps it at a temperature of 25 to 15 degrees below zero; it is delivered to the surgeries in a thawed state at a temperature of two to eight degrees Celsius. According to the government's vaccination strategy, the Czech Republic has ordered 2.2 million doses of this vaccine until the end of the year.

EMA says benefits of Johnson & Johnson vaccine outweigh risks

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has identified a possible link between Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine and very rare cases of blood clots. However, side effects have only occurred in rare cases and the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the potential risks. The EMA said in a press release that the vaccine was safe and effective. The evaluation is intended to provide the countries of the European Union with a basis for deciding whether and how to use a vaccine. Last week, the American company Johnson & Johnson temporarily stopped delivering its vaccine to Europe due to several cases of health problems after vaccination in the United States. The EMA examined, among other things, eight cases of thromboembolic complications, including one death, reported by US authorities among seven million vaccinated. The EMA concluded a warning should be added to the product information. The EMA refers to at as the Janssen vaccine, as that is the name of the subsidiary that makes it.

Principal who opposed Covid testing fired

Ivan Semecký, the director of the Waldorf School in Semily, was dismissed yesterday. He maintained that children has a right to go to school even if they weren’t tested for Covid, and that they did not have to wear face coverings. The Town Council discussed his dismissal long into the night, and the decision was unanimous, Semily Mayor Lena Mlejnková said on the town's website. The dismissed principal is convinced that he acted correctly. He would like to stay at school and is ready to defend himself in court. Several lawyers have offered to help him. Testing is one of the conditions for children in the first stage of primary schools, special schools and the highest grades of kindergartens to be able to return to the classes.

Doctors: health insurance shouldn’t cover company tests

A coalition of private doctors is against health insurance companies paying for comprehensive testing for Covid-19 and testing in companies from health insurance. According to them, money will be lacking for regular health care for the sick. They sent an open letter to Health Minister Petr Arenberger. The president of the Czech Dental Chamber, Roman Šmucler, posted the letter on Twitter. "It is clear that the fight against Covid-19 is draining huge amounts of public health insurance," the coalition said. The coalition includes dentists, outpatient specialists, gynecologists, and general practitioners. Last year testing cost the largest health insurance company VZP about CZK 4 billion, this year it counts on CZK 4.3 billion. The costs of all seven insurance companies for contributions to tests in companies will be at a current frequency of once a week a total of CZK 480 million per month. According to the coalition, the cost-effectiveness of, in particular, screening with antigen tests should be evaluated.  

Poll: Czechs less cautious over Covid

Czechs were increasingly visiting friends and family members in the first two weeks of April, defying the lockdown over the coronavirus infection, according to a poll conducted by the institute PAQ Research. By contrast, the immunity of the population as well as interest in vaccination are growing, the poll found out. In early April, 63 percent of the respondents were ready to be inoculated, which was 12 percent more than at the beginning of the year and also more than in September 2020, when the figure stood at 56 percent. Since late March, long personal contacts without a respirator also intensified. In the whole of March, Czechs had on average 4.5 contacts over 15 minutes without a face mask a week. In the week after April 5, there were 5.5 such contacts. The total number of personal contacts including short ones and those with a face mask still ranges between 11 and 12, being lower than last autumn.

Number of newly vaccinated people decreased

The fewest people in the Czech Republic were vaccinated on Tuesday against Covid-19 on a weekday in almost two weeks. Some 51,199 doses of vaccines were given, which is almost a fifth fewer than the previous Tuesday, according to data from the Health Ministry. On Tuesday, however, the slowdown in the spread of the epidemic also continued, with 3,787 new Covid cases, a quarter less than a week ago. The number of deaths is also declining; since April 11, the number of deaths of people with Covid-19 has remained below 100 per day.

Latest Covid-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (April 21, 2021)

  • New cases 3,787
  • Deaths 28,711
  • Currently hospitalized 4,063
  • PCR tests performed 6,603,560
  • Antigen tests performed 9,635,969
  • Reported vaccinations 2,581,753
  • PES index 56
  • R number 0.82
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