Coronavirus update, Feb. 8, 2021: Czech govt. to discuss reopening schools with regular COVID testing

The cabinet will also address an extension of the state of emergency and stricter anti-COVID measures at its Monday meeting.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 08.02.2021 09:06:00 (updated on 08.02.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

A broader reopening of schools is a priority task, Babiš, Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček and opposition party leaders Ivan Bartoš and Vít Rakušan agreed on Sunday. Hamáček said the reopening of schools must not worsen the epidemic situation in the country and a system of COVID testing therefore needs to be set.

The COVID risk index within the Czech Republic’s PES epidemic system stands at 71 on the 0-100 scale for the fifth day in a row today, which is the second highest degree out of five, the reproduction number R being 1.05, the Health Ministry's data show.

The country has faced the fourth risk degree (0-75) since mid-January, but the lockdown measures correspond to the highest fifth alert level. The R number has kept above 1 since the beginning of February except for one day.

R influences the risk index along with another three indicators. Out of them, the average number of the newly infected per 100,000 inhabitants in the past two weeks has slightly worsened, as has the average number of new COVID cases among seniors. On the other hand, the number of those diagnosed with COVID-19 only after being admitted to hospital has slightly dropped. None of the changes has been as big as to influence the risk index.

This afternoon, the minority cabinet of ANO and the Social Democrats will discuss its plan to seek an extension of state of national emergency beyond Feb.14, when it would otherwise expire, but it still needs to negotiate other parties' support for it in parliament. The cabinet is also to consider whether to further toughen or modify the current coronavirus restrictions.

Education Minister Robert Plaga is to submit a plan reopening secondary schools to last-grade students as of March 1 and the simultaneous introduction of their regular testing for coronavirus at its meeting on Monday.

“We first of all have in mind pupils of the lower level of elementary schools, and students of the final years of elementary and secondary schools,” Rakušan said.

The minority government of the ANO movement and the ČSSD still does not have sufficient support for prolonging the state of emergency. The Communists, who have been tolerating the government in the Chamber of Deputies and thanks to whom the government repeatedly extended the state of emergency, announced that they would not vote for the extension.

Hamáček said leaders of the parties talk about possible legislative changes in Parliament on Tuesday that would make it unnecessary to keep extending the state of emergency.

Health Minister Jan Blatný recently did not rule out a restriction of the travelling between individual regions, but most politicians including Prime Minister Andrej Babiš are opposed to this.

The possible ban on trips from one Czech region to another, which Blatný mentioned in connection with the COVID-19 epidemic, is pointless and would be difficult to enforce, three regional governors and Prague Mayor agreed on CNN Prima News TV on Sunday.

“I really cannot imagine that we will be building borders between the regions,” South Moravia Governor Jan Grolich said.

The possible limiting of travels among Czech regions were also rejected by Labor Minister Jana Maláčová,who said she cannot imagine how it would be monitored.

Hamáček said that the aim of this limitation of free movement was to ban people to go to the mountains.

Elective care will not be restarted in Czech hospitals soon because the number of hospitalized COVID patients is unlikely to drop from the current 5,800 to 2,000 by early March, Institute of Health Information and Statistics (ÚZIS) director Ladislav Dušek told Czech Television.

The decrease in the daily rise of new infections stopped, which seems to be caused by the spread of the more contagious British variant of coronavirus in the Czech Republic Dušek said.

If the previous trend of the decrease had continued, the number of the hospitalized coronavirus patients would have already been getting to the level when the planned operations and treatment could have been launched, he said.

The Czech Republic has enough reserve beds for patients with COVID-19 from the overburdened hospital in Cheb, West Bohemia, Deputy Health Minister Vladimír Černý said on Czech Television. At noon Sunday, there were 218 vacant intensive care beds in the Czech Republic, he said.

The Karlovy Vary Region asked the government to transport COVID patients from the crowded Cheb hospital to the nearby Germany. Cheb is only five kilometers from the German border. Health Minister Jan Blatný was criticized for rejecting the transport to Germany.

Latest COVID-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (Feb. 8, 2021)

  • Active cases 97,849
  • New cases 2,415
  • Deaths 17,333
  • Currently hospitalized 5,473
  • PCR tests performed 4,769,128
  • Antigen tests performed 1,800,209
  • Reported vaccinations 349,696
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