Coronavirus update, April 8, 2021: New health minister says restrictions must be relaxed carefully

EMA says rare blood clots are associated with AstraZeneca, schools to be open daily to crucial workers' and teachers' children. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 08.04.2021 09:25:00 (updated on 08.04.2021) Reading time: 4 minutes

New health minister: restrictions must be relaxed carefully

The measures to curb the coronavirus epidemic in the Czech Republic should be relaxed very carefully so as not to impede the current progress, new Health Minister Petr Arenberger said after his appointment. Further anti-epidemic measures will follow the pandemic law, while the state of emergency will not have to be extended anymore, he said. He also said he would like to push through better availability of the drugs based on monoclonal antidotes and secure as many approved vaccines against Covid-19 as possible. President Miloš Zeman dismissed health minister Jan Blatný, who assumed the post last October, at Prime Minister Andrej Babiš's proposal and appointed dermatologist Arenberger, the director of the Prague-Vinohrady Teaching Hospital, as his successor yesterday.

"My appointment as minister has been discussed basically since last autumn," Arenberger said. He previously said he was ready to help if he received the offer.

He said he would strive for the Health Ministry under his leadership to be the first to inform media and the public about new developments "not only in the pandemic, but also in medicine." He promised to keep working on the new scheme to replace the PES anti-epidemic system aimed to determine the COVID alert and restrictions depending on the epidemiological development. Arenberger also said he was not considering any personnel changes in his office.

Vaccination coordinator leaves over health minister's dismissal

The Czech national coordinator of vaccination against Covid-19, Kateřina Baťhová, has resigned as of the end of April over yesterday's dismissal of health minister Jan Blatný and has announced her decision to Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. Baťhová assumed the post at the end of January, replacing Zdeněk Blahuta who had stepped down. News server Seznam Zpravy reports that Baťhová is leaving in reaction to the dismissal of health minister Jan Blatný whom she wanted to help by accepting the post of the vaccination coordinator. Previously, she worked at the Health Ministry as the director of the international and EU affairs section.

EMA: Rare blood clots are associated with AstraZeneca

Blood clots can be a very rare side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) concluded after examining dozens of cases. However, EMA head Emer Cooke said the vaccine was very effective and that its contribution to combating Covid-19 still outweighed the potential risks.

"Our safety committee has confirmed that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing Covid-19 overall outweigh the risks of side effects. This vaccine has proven to be highly effective – it prevents severe disease and hospitalization, and it is saving lives," Cooke said.

The EMA left the decision on how to deal with the vaccine to the EU Member States, whose health ministers did not agree on a common position during a videoconference.  

Culture organizers may ask for support from Covid program

Firms running business in culture will be eligible for support from the program Covid Culture in which one applicant may receive up to CZK 10 million, the culture and industry and trade ministries said in a press release. Companies and NGOs organizing cultural events can ask for compensation. The applications can be presented through the portal of the Industry and Trade Ministry between April 21 and June 30. Eligible entities include organizers of the musical, theatrical and dance festivals, owners of music clubs, the companies providing technical background for cultural events, artistic groups, organizers of circuses, agencies, theaters and NGOs in culture as well as collective administrators of rights.

"This does not only relate to the economy and profit. One also has to bear in mind the quiet in mind and the positive emotions that culture brings. If we let it fall, it would be difficult if not impossible for them to want to work again in better times," Industry and Trade Minister Karel Havlíček said.  

Schools to be open daily to crucial workers' and teachers' children

Children of healthcare workers, firefighters, police members, teachers and other selected occupations will not be concerned by the restricted school regime starting as of Monday and the related scheme of rotated regular and remote education, the Czech Education Ministry's guidelines show. Pre-schoolers aged between 2 and 5 will be allowed to go to kindergartens, while pupils at the first grade of the primary schools will have the option to stay in the after-school care in groups of up to 30 children during the weeks of distance learning, the guidelines sent to schools read. Among critical workers, the Health Ministry listed the following professions: healthcare workers, teachers, police officers, soldiers, staff of public health offices, social services, employment office, social and finance administrative bodies.

Court to examine mandatory testing in companies

The Supreme Administrative Court (NSS) will publicly discuss a proposal to repeal the measure requiring mandatory antigen testing for employees in companies. This will be the first hearing under the new jurisdiction conferred on the court by the pandemic law. A worker from the automotive industry is protesting against the testing. He argues that testing is a medical procedure that the patient must consent to and should have the right to refuse. The extraordinary measure was issued by the Ministry of Health as a way to stop the spread of Covid in the workplace.

Fewer new cases than last week, but a big jump from yesterday

There were 7,015 new confirmed Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, which is 240 fewer than a week ago but 1,450 more than on Tuesday when there was lowest rise in new cases on a workday since mid-December, according to the data that the Health Ministry released today. This morning, one quarter of the 22,600 standard oxygenated beds were vacant in Czech hospitals, including 2,062 designated for Covid patients. The reproduction number R rose from 0.67 to 0.73. This number has been below 1.0 since March 8, which means that the epidemic has been slowing down for a month.

Latest Covid-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (April 8, 2021)

  • New cases 7,015
  • Deaths 27,466
  • Currently hospitalized 6,504
  • PCR tests performed 6,378,244
  • Antigen tests performed 7,434,600
  • Reported vaccinations 1,909,475
  • PES index 54
  • R number 0.73
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