Coronavirus update, Feb. 24, 2021: South African mutation suspected in seven cases

Merkel offers hospital beds in Germany, school reopening delayed, Israel sends vaccine for Czech soldiers

Expats.cz

Written by Expats.cz
Published on 24.02.2021 09:00 (updated on 24.02.2021)

Seven people may have South African COVID mutation

Seven people in the Czech Republic are suspected of having contracted the more contagious South African coronavirus mutation. Four are in a kindergarten in Brno and three returned from Zanzibar, Health Minister Jan Blatný said. Lab tests still have to confirm the mutation.

None of the cases from the Brno kindergarten had been abroad, and the kindergarten is now closed. The samples of the three people who returned from a tourist trip to Zanzibar in the first half of February are now being sequenced in the National Health Institute (SZÚ), Blatný tweeted. Experts are warning that the vaccines used against COVID-19 in the Czech Republic now may not be as efficient against the South African mutation.

Merkel offers hospital beds in Germany for Czechs

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš discussed offers of hospital beds in Germany for Czech patients with COVID-19 with German Chancellor Angela Merkel by phone. She will ask about vacant hospital beds in Bavaria and other German federal states that might be possibly made available. Saxony Minister-President Michael Kretschmer offered nine beds for Czech COVID patients, Babiš confirmed. Merkel called Babiš without prior notice to offer the beds. “We will have it as a back-up if it is necessary to use it. So that we are ready, the logistics is ready,” Babiš explained.

Students’ return to schools postponed

The return of some pupils and students to Czech schools will be postponed from March 1 until March 3 or later, as the COVID testing must be prepared first, Education Minister Robert Plaga said. The government will discuss the issue today. The antigen tests are to arrive in the Czech Republic on Feb. 28 They must be distributed to schools, which will need time to prepare to use them. Like at Austrian schools, the Czech ones are to use the LEPU antigen tests. The last grade of secondary was supposed to return at the beginning of March. A week later, all secondary school students were to return to practical instruction, and primary school last graders would follow in another week.  

Israel sends vaccine for Czech soldiers in frontline care

Israel has provided 5,000 doses of Moderna vaccine to the Czech Republic. They had been requested by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, based on the close ties between the two countries. The vaccine will be given to 2,500 soldiers who would help care for the COVID-19 patients. This is a single aid for the time being. Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček said the Czech Republic was trying to maximally speed up the vaccine supplies within the EU contract.  

Elective care to stop due to capacity crisis

Czech hospitals will have to stop all elective treatment and provide just acute intensive care if they are hit by a capacity crisis, Health Minister Jan Blatný wrote in a letter to regional governors and hospital heads. ICU capacity is nearly depleted due to COVID-19, with 15 percent of beds vacant. Deputy Health Minister Vladimír Černý told reporters ICU capacity could be under 5 percent in two or three weeks. Beds originally meant for other care are being allocated to COVID wards, Blatný said. On Monday, more than 6,500 infected with the novel coronavirus were hospitalized, out of whom over 1,300 needed intensive care, and 660 required artificial lung ventilation.

Officials agree COVID vaccines must be EC approved

COVID vaccines that will be used in the Czech Republic must pass the European Commission approval process, top elected officials agreed at their meeting at Prague Castle. This would exclude the use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. A sufficient quantity of vaccines from various sources is a priority, they said. Blanket anti-epidemic measures and a responsible attitude of both citizens and politicians are necessary to manage the coronavirus pandemic, they stated, too. They also condemned the spread of misinformation. The regular meeting with President Miloš Zeman was attended by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš plus three other ministers and Chamber of Deputies' head Radek Vondráček.

PES epidemic index falls, R number steady

The Czech Republic saw 15,672 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the highest daily rise since Jan. 6, while the number of the COVID hospitalized slightly dropped, but not of those in a serious condition that remains almost 1,400, according to the Health Ministry's data released this morning. Tuesday’s increase is the sixth-highest since the epidemic outbreak began last March.

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The PES risk index today dropped to 75 points, which is closely on the fourth alert level out of five, after being 80 for six days, shows data released on the Health Ministry website this morning. The Health Ministry revised the Tuesday data again, stating that the PES index was actually 80 points in the past six days. On the other hand, the reproduction (R) number, expressing the average number of people infected from one positively tested person, has almost not changed and stays at 1.18.

Latest COVID-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (Feb. 24, 2021)

  • Active cases 127,240
  • New cases 15,672
  • Deaths 19,682
  • Currently hospitalized 6 817
  • PCR tests performed 5,214,322
  • Antigen tests performed 2,461.866
  • Reported vaccinations 581,542