Coronavirus update, Jan. 26, 2021: New risk system from Feb. 1; respirators 'strongly recommended'

Sports for two may be allowed again, but ski resorts are unlikely to reopen; Czech healthcare workers can now register for vaccination

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 26.01.2021 09:45 (updated on 26.01.2021)

The PES coronavirus risk index of the Czech Republic’s epidemic system dropped to 68 on a scale of 100, after staying at 69 for three days, according to the Health Ministry's morning data. This corresponds to the fourth level out of five, but the government previously said the official alert level will not drop before mid-February. The country remains at the fifth and highest level.

The index improved due to the fact that the average number of infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the past two weeks is 953. Over the weekend, this number fell below 1,000 for the first time since December.

However, the index improved only slightly as the reproduction number, which represents the average number of the people infected by one positively tested person, increased from 0.90 to 0.93. In early January, the reproduction number surged to 1.45 and then started falling. On Jan. 17 it was 0.68 and its value has been increasing slightly since.

Changes in the updated PES anti-epidemic risk assessment system should come into force as of Feb. 1, Health Minister Jan Blatný told a press conference after the Monday government meeting.

The updated five-level PES scheme will be discussed by the Government Council on Tuesday, he added.

Under the new rules, regular education of students in their final years of their elementary and secondary studies might be allowed, as well as sports activities for two people not only outdoors, but indoors, too.

“Should the British mutation (of coronavirus) prevail in the future, changes will be more rapid. The key is to insist on having enough hospital capacity at all times,” Blatný said.

He refused the opinion of former health minister Roman Prymula, who suggested the sixth, stricter anti-epidemic level to be created. Blatný argues there is not that many further restrictions that might be added.

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“We can reduce social contact to one's family only, free movement of people around their residence and stop operation of production companies,” he said.

The new PES scheme should take into account also the number of hospitalized over COVID-19 and their number at the intensive care units.

Deputy Prime Minister and Industry and Trade Minister Karel Havlíček did not succeed with his proposition to open ski resorts as of Friday at the government meeting. Among conditions, he suggested mandatory FFP2 respirators and distance in the lines for the ski lifts.

While wearing FFP2 respirators instead of face masks in public transport and shops was not made mandatory, Blatný says it is crucial and he strongly recommends people do so.

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The state has in its reserves 16 million respirators of the FFP2 class and 80 surgical masks.

The registration system of the vaccination against COVID-19 for healthcare workers will be launched on Tuesday, but most of them will not get time slots directly due to the lack of vaccine doses, Czech Health Ministry spokeswoman Barbora Peterová said.

The registration of other groups, which was to start on Feb. 1, will be postponed as well, Prime Minister Andrej Babiś said.

He added that it would open as soon as the Czech Republic had sufficient amount of the vaccine and that it would also depend on the interest in the vaccination by those aged over 80, whose voluntary online registration started on Jan. 15.

The reservation system was originally to open to all other groups of inhabitants at once on Feb. 1. However, in reaction to the overload of the system on Jan. 15, the ministry said other groups would be allowed to enter it gradually.

The Czech Republic is not considering purchasing vaccine against COVID-19 beyond the joint agreement of the European Union and so far only the Pfizer/BioNTech and Modarna vaccines have been approved for the EU use, Blatný said.

If there is another vaccine with the EU approval, its distribution to the Czech Republic might be considered, he said.

The Teaching Hospital in Brno recorded roughly 100 cases with suspicion of the British coronavirus mutation in a week, having registered the total of 183 cases since Dec. 25, hospital spokeswoman Veronika Plachá told journalists.

The hospital is still verifying the samples. No one had to be hospitalised over the variant, Placha said.

Between last Monday and Sunday alone, the hospital discovered 98 suspected cases of the British mutation in the positively tested people.

Latest COVID data from the Czech Ministry of Health (Jan. 26, 2021)

  • Active cases 99,934
  • New cases 6,910
  • Deaths 15,618
  • Currently hospitalized 5.852
  • PCR tests performed 4,459,211
  • Antigen tests performed 1,419,220
  • Reported vaccinations 207,043
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