Coronavirus update, Aug. 20, 2021: Covid testing will remain free for children under 18

Plus: Vojtěch says third jab for risk groups likely in autumn, debate on antibodies to continue in September, R number drops to 1.01.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 20.08.2021 09:55:00 (updated on 20.08.2021) Reading time: 5 minutes

Covid testing for minors to be covered by health insurance

The cabinet has approved free testing for children and youth under 18 after the end of August, while most other people will need to pay out of pocket, Health Minister Adam Vojtěch (for ANO) told reporters following a government meeting. The cabinet previously said anyone over 12 (i.e. all those for whom the Covid vaccination is available in the Czech Republic) would pay for Covid testing as of September. Along with minors, those with a health condition that does not allow for vaccination as well as those who started inoculation but have not yet received a second dose will be tested for free. Free testing will be available for the eligible groups once a week. Paid testing does not apply to schools, Vojtěch stressed. Children may use the testing certificates from school on other occasions, such as attending leisure time organized activities and mass events. Tests ordered by doctors and public health officers will also be free of charge. Others will need to pay out of pocket for tests required for traveling, attending cultural and sports events, etc.

Vojtěch: Third jab for risk groups likely in autumn

A third Covid-19 vaccine dose in the Czech Republic will be primarily designated for risk groups of population and the first people are likely to be revaccinated in the autumn, Health Minister Adam Vojtěch told media after a cabinet meeting. He said the cabinet is to definitively decide on the chance of revaccination with the third jab by the end of August, next week probably. The revaccination would be voluntary, as has been the vaccination so far, he said. Only the further development of the Covid epidemic will show whether the third dose is also needed by other groups of population. If it were necessary to revaccinate other groups, it would be a gradual process, Vojtěch said. Since the beginning of August, revaccination has been offered to its already vaccinated citizens over 60 by Israel, which later lowered the age limit of those eligible to 50 and is planning to further reduce it to 40. The third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is 86-percent effective in people aged over 60, the Israeli health insurer Makabi said on Wednesday, citing the first results of a scientific study. Pfizer says a third dose raises the antibodies against the original virus, as well as its variants including Delta.

Czech debate on antibodies to continue in September

Yesterday's debate of experts on whether antibodies should be accepted as a proof of safety from the Covid infection arrived at the conclusion that there is not enough evidence to make the decision, and the debate will resume after more data are available, Health Minister Adam Vojtěch said. Experts will also be deciding with regard of the epidemiological situation, Vojtěch added. He said the debate also discussed the risk of coronavirus mutations and whether those who recovered from Covid-19 will be protected from them.

"Experts have so far agreed on two conclusions. First, we have few data on the Covid antibodies so far, and thus the decision must be postponed. Second: Get vaccinated. Especially before the autumn and a possible new wave of the epidemic," Vojtěch said on Twitter.

Deputy Health Minister Martina Koziar Vašáková told ČTK after the round-table debate of experts that antibodies will not be accepted to prove safety from the Covid-19 infection as there is not enough evidence in support of this. It is not clear how high level of the Covid antibodies people should have and whether they would also protect them from coronavirus mutations, she said, adding that experts agreed on this during the debate. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said that the decision is not definitive and the debate will continue. The ministry will address the antibody issue again in mid-September, Babiš added.

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Students who struggled with distance learning to get tutoring

Teachers will receive up to CZK 250 for an hour to tutor selected students. The autumn tutoring will serve specifically to supplement knowledge and skills after distance learning. Tutoring will be provided outside normal working hours at the school on the basis of a special agreement. Selected students from primary schools, lower grades of multi-year grammar schools or conservatories and the last years of secondary schools will be able to take part in the activities. Students are selected by school principals in cooperation with teachers and school counseling centers. The tutoring plan was prepared by the Ministry of Education. 

 VAT waiver on respirators likely to continue

Deputy Prime Minister Alena Schillerová will propose that the government extend the value added tax (VAT) waiver for respirators for another two months, until the end of October. They are mandatory, for example, in public transport and shops. The VAT has been waived since Feb. 3, 2021.

Czech Republic remains fifth-best in EU for new Covid cases

According to the number of coronavirus infections in the last 14 days, the worst situation in the European Union remains in Cyprus (749 cases per 100,000 population, 931 a week ago). The second most affected country is now France (482 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, a week ago it was third with 462 cases). The third most affected country is Spain (457 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, a week ago it was the second with 604 cases). In the Czech Republic, the number of cases is stagnating, with 23 cases. It is now again in 23rd place (a week ago there were approximately 22 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the Czech Republic). This is according to data from the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC).

R number hits 1.01, lowest in 13 days

There were 167 new Covid cases reported for Thursday, down from 189 a week earlier. The number of people hospitalized fell by one to reach 59, and the number is serious condition also fell by one to reach 11. No deaths were reported for Thursday. The revised toll so far for August is at 16. The incidence number of new cases per 100,000 over seven days remained steady at 12, and the reproduction number R dropped slightly to 1.01, its lowest level in 12 days, but is still over the break-even point of 1.0. The highest incidence number is in Prague, where there are 28 new cases per week per 100,000 inhabitants. The Liberec region follows with more than 21 cases. The least affected region is the Zlín region with about five cases per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days. The R number for Prague was at 0.96, below 1.0 for the second day in a row.

Latest Covid-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (Aug. 20, 2021)

  • New cases 167
  • Deaths 30,384
  • Currently hospitalized 56
  • PCR tests performed 9,690,857
  • Antigen tests performed 25,280,259
  • Total vaccinations 11,136,750
  • Daily increase in vaccinations 43,939
  • People who have completed vaccination 5,458,185
  • New cases per 100,000 in seven days 12
  • PES index 38
  • R number 1.01
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