Coronavirus update, Jan. 29, 2021: New restrictions for Czech Republic as death toll exceeds 16,000

As the infection speeds up, Czech Health Minister calls PES system 'irrelevant' for lockdown; officials shorten wait time between free antigen tests.

ČTK

Written by ČTK Published on 29.01.2021 08:58:00 (updated on 29.01.2021) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Czech government convened Thursday afternoon to debate the strengthening of anti-COVID measures due to the increasing spread of the coronavirus – including a slight spread of the British mutation – and the added pressure on hospitals.

The outcome of the meeting included several new restrictions. Among them, the closure of farmers' markets, new requirements for driving school instructors and students to wear respirators, a crackdown on hotel accommodation for business trips (no families allowed), and a ban on the operation of ski lifts for hikers.

A ban on hospital visits, as well a one-family-per-cottage rule were also among the new restrictions which go into effect from midnight Friday.

While travel restrictions and other measures such as the requirement of respirators on transport and in shops were discussed throughout the week, the government instead issued a strong recommendation that people minimize contact and refrain from long-distance travel.

"We recommend limiting family visits. We can't ban it, but we ask people to consider it. And if they do go to wear respirators during visits," said Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček.

Another outcome of the meeting was the decision to allow free COVID-19 antigen tests every third day as of Friday, currently available just once every five days. The ministry said it wants to enable more frequent testing due to the presence of infectious new coronavirus mutations. Voluntary free antigen testing began in late December and originally had an end date of Jan. 15, but was prolonged indefinitely.

Health Minister Jan Blatný did not present changes to the PES anti-epidemic system but instead said on Thursday that the PES index is "no longer relevant" to the further development of epidemic measures.

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"At present, there is the need to focus on hospitals so that they are not crowded," Blatný said.

The coronavirus risk index within the PES remains at 68 points on the 0-100 scale, which means the country is currently at the fourth, second highest degree for more than two weeks. Morning data from the Health Ministry show the reproduction number steadily rising from 0.96 to nearly 0.99.

The toughest, fifth-level lockdown has been in force in the country for a month, since Dec. 27, and officials have repeatedly stated they have no plan to loosen restrictions.

Since March 2020, when the epidemic broke out in the Czech Republic, a total of 973,000 coronavirus cases have been reported, and 16,072 deaths of people with coronavirus.

Latest COVID-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (Jan. 29, 2021)

  • Active cases 96,969
  • New cases 7,937
  • Deaths 16,072
  • Currently hospitalized 5,856
  • PCR tests performed 4,545,729
  • Antigen tests performed 1,512,922
  • Reported vaccinations 236,697
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