Coronavirus update, Feb. 22, 2021: Respirators required in shops and public transit as of midnight tonight

Health minister warns of draconian measures if situation gets worse, general practitioners could offer vaccine

Expats.cz

Written by Expats.cz
Published on 22.02.2021 09:15 (updated on 22.02.2021)

Respirator rule to take effect at midnight

The government today will determine exactly where it will be mandatory to wear respirators, nano masks, or two surgical masks placed on top of each other. The obligation to wear them will take effect at midnight tonight. Health Minister Jan Blatný said that the obligation will apply to places with a larger concentration of people, especially shops, public transport, and hospitals. The Health Ministry is also considering the obligation to wear them at the workplace. (Update on Feb. 23: respirators will be requires as of midnight Wednesday.)

Until now a scarf, shawl, or cloth veil was allowed in all indoor areas outside the home, on public transport, and outdoors when it is not possible to keep spacing of more than two meters.

Blatný: Draconian measures may be needed

The Czech Republic would have to adopt draconian measures against the spread of COVID-19 if the epidemiological situation forced hospitals to halt all but their intensive care services, but the country currently does not face such a situation, Health Minister Jan Blatný said on CNN Prima News.

Hospitals still have minimal free capacities, and people have a short time now to start observing the government-imposed anti-epidemiological measures, he added. "We still have a short time to jointly pull together and start observing the current [restrictions]," Blatný said.

If the hospitals were in a situation forcing them to provide nothing but intensive care then there would have to be a "very draconian" fundamental change, Blatný said, adding that he is trying to avert such scenario.

General practitioners to start offering vaccinations

General practitioners in the Czech Republic can start offering COVID-19 vaccination slots within the central reservation system as of March 1, the Health Ministry wrote on Twitter. Instructions will be issued this week. Regional governors have been informed. Some regions have allowed GPs to perform vaccination in their offices based on their agreement with some of the local vaccination centers, which provided the vaccines.

The AstraZeneca vaccine will be distributed to GPs' offices. General Practitioners' Association chairman Petr Šonka recently told Czech Radio that two-thirds of the country's 5,000 GPs' offices want to join the vaccination.

Babiš appeals for people to follow rules

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš in a social media video called on people to observe the government epidemiological restrictions. He warned against the aggressive new mutations that cause severe condition and even death with even much younger people than until now. He said the vaccination is a solution. As of April, the country needs to vaccinate 100,000 to 140,000 people a day.

"True, the vaccines have been arriving belatedly, but the situation is improving," he said.

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He dismissed people’s fears over the AstraZeneca vaccine, He was also critical of using the antiparasitic drug ivermektin to treat COVID-19, citing both State Drugs Control Institute (SÚKL) director Irena Storová and Health Minister Jan Blatný.

Babiš: State should buy COVID tests from producer

The state should buy antigen tests for students directly from the producer, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš told CNN Prima News TV, after suggesting on Saturday that the tender for the supplier, carried out by the Interior Ministry, be scrapped.

On Friday, the Interior Ministry announced that the Tardigrad International Consulting company has won tender for the supply of antigen test kits for schoolchildren. News server Seznam Zpravy on Saturday said that the winning company failed to meet the conditions set within the tender. Another company made a better offer, but was excluded over security concerns.

The tests are planned for schools, currently closed over the epidemic, to gradually reopen to students. Babiš did not say Sunday whether secondary schools will really reopen to the last graders as of March 1, as planned. "Let's see whether we will be able to meet this [plan]," Babiš said, adding that he expects Health Minister Jan Blatný to submit a proposal in this respect to the cabinet on Monday.

PES index and R number both drop

The country saw 4,002 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, about 1,100 more than a week ago, the test positivity rate increased to 40.6 percent, the highest since Jan. 9,  The COVID reproduction number R dropped to 1.16 from 1.19 today after being on the rise for six days, and the PES index dropped to 75, according to Health Ministry data released this morning. (Update on Feb, 23: After initially being reported at 75, the PES index was later revised to 80.)

The number of the people whose COVID infection has been detected in hospital improved, which helped the number drop from 80, which it hit on Sunday. In contrast, the average number of the new cases and the average number of the infected among the elderly per 100,000 people in the past 14 days has been progressively growing.

Latest COVID-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (Feb. 22, 2021)

  • Active cases 120,444
  • New cases 4,002
  • Deaths 19,330
  • Currently hospitalized 6,049
  • PCR tests performed 5,139,869
  • Antigen tests performed 2,335,512
  • Reported vaccinations 545,381