Coronavirus update, Feb. 16, 2021: Older students could soon return to school with antigen testing

Number of ICU beds at critical level due to British variant, people over 70 years can apply for vaccination on March 1.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 16.02.2021 09:21 (updated on 16.02.2021)

Some students might return to school March 1

Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček said the government is ready to start returning pupils to schools with COVID-19 antigen testing from March 1. The return of at least part of the pupils to schools is one of the conditions that the governors gave to the government when requesting a state of emergency for another 14 days. Health Minister Robert Plaga said that ninth graders and students in the last year of secondary school would return first.

"The Interior Ministry was given the task of ensuring the tests and ensuring their distribution. If we manage to ensure a sufficient number, there is nothing to prevent the children from returning to school," Hamáček said.

According to the Health Minister Jan Blatný, these will be antigen tests from the front of the nose, similar to Austria. Some 3 million FFP2 respirators from the stocks of the State Material Reserves Administration will be distributed to schools.

Number of ICU beds at critical level due British variant

Czech hospitals have over 3,900 intensive care beds, and 180 of them are vacant for COVID patients, Health Minister Jan Blatný said, adding that the situation is worse in the western part of the country. He said one of the reasons why so many ICU beds are occupied is the incidence of the British variant of coronavirus, which was found in about 40 percent of the samples on average.

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Laboratories in the Liberec region said up to 70 percent of the infections were the British variant and the labs in Hradec Králové region said about two-thirds of the samples were this variant. In the Karlovy Vary region, only six of 78 ICU beds are empty. In the Hradec Králové region, 29 out of 230 ICU beds are vacant. In the Moravian regions, which is the eastern part of the country, mostly one fourth of the ICU beds are vacant.

People over 70 years can apply for vaccination on March 1

People over the age of 70 will be able to apply for vaccination against COVID-19 via the online reservation system as of March 1. The information was confirmed by Health Ministry spokeswoman Barbora Peterová. According to her, the state of health in the order for vaccination will not play a role. Originally, people with selected serious diseases were preferred to healthy peers.

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“Regarding the vaccination of teachers and other school staff, the Ministry of Health is working on this in cooperation with the regions. The aim is to find a solution that will suit everyone and at the same time will not endanger the vaccination of the most vulnerable groups,” Peterová said.

Initially, the Health Ministry announced that vaccination of the second priority group would begin after vaccination of 70 percent of the previous one. There are more than 3.4 million people in the second group.  

Ad campaign will promote COVID vaccination

The Cesta Ven (Way Out) group of communication agencies has won a government competition for a campaign promoting the vaccination against COVID-19 with its proposal using a full stop as the main symbol of the campaign.

“The full stop stands for an end and simultaneously, hope for a new beginning. Should there be something the whole of society agrees on today, it is the desire to put an end to the suffering and inconvenience related to the pandemic,” Association of Communication Agencies (AKA) head Marek Hlavica said.

Once the contract with the Government Office is signed, the group will prepare final visuals, shoot a TV advertisement and launch a website. The group estimates this will be done within few weeks.

PES epidemic score returns to fourth level

The PES epidemic score dropped from 77 to 72 points in the Czech Republic and returned to the fourth risk level. The share of people whose COVID infection has been proven in hospital fell, but the R number slightly grew to 1.05, the Health Ministry's data revealed this morning show. Another two parameters, the number of the infected per 100,000 population in the past two weeks and the number of the infected among the elderly in the past 14 days mildly worsened, but did not affect the overall PES score. The number of new cases recorded on Monday is nearly 1,000 more than a week ago.

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Latest COVID-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (Feb. 16, 2021)

  • Active cases 102,475
  • New cases 8,745
  • Deaths 18,430
  • Currently hospitalized 5,990
  • PCR tests performed 4,970,943
  • Antigen tests performed 2,099,565
  • Reported vaccinations 466,578