Coronavirus update, July 20, 2021: Delta variant accounts for 80 percent of new Czech Covid cases

Plus: New Delta plus strain detected, walk-in vaccination centers to open in all regional capitals, tests won't be free as of September.

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Written by Expats.cz
Published on 20.07.2021 09:41 (updated on 20.07.2021)

Delta variant prevails at 80 percent in the Czech Republic

The Delta variant of coronavirus has spread in the Czech Republic, according to the analyses' results from the past two weeks, the State Health Institute (SZÚ) said.

"Based on the results of the discriminatory PCR tests, as reported from all over the country in the past two weeks, it can be said that the Delta variant is dominating nationwide, at 70 to 80 percent," State Health Institute (SZÚ) spokeswoman Štěpánka Čechová said.

At the beginning of the year, the British variant started spreading in the Czech Republic. It now makes up about 10 percent of the newly registered cases, while the South African and Brazilian variants occur only rarely, she said.

New Delta plus strain found in South Moravia

The latest Covid variant, Delta plus, has been discovered in a case in South Moravia. It first appeared in Britain in April for the first time, and analyses have confirmed it in 196 samples in Europe, including one in the Czech Republic. The infected person is a 30-year-old woman from South Moravia.

"The incidence of the Delta plus variant has been newly detected in South Moravia. This is the only case of its detection in the Czech Republic," State Health Institute (SZÚ) spokeswoman Štěpánka Čechová said.

Delta plus has been most frequently detected in Poland and Portugal, Čechová said, adding that scientific data about his variant's behavior have not been published so far, and it is therefore not clear whether it is more contagious or causes a worse course of Covid-19 than Delta.

Preventive Covid tests not to be free as of September

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Preventive tests for Covid-19 will no longer be covered from public health insurance in the Czech Republic as of Sept. 1, the cabinet decided yesterday, Health Minister Adam Vojtěch told reporters. An exception will only apply to children under 12, for whom the vaccination against Covid-19 is not available yet, people who cannot get vaccinated for health reasons or those with starting Covid vaccination who have not yet completed it. Covid tests ordered by doctors or public health stations will still be covered from health insurance. People need the tests for traveling abroad, going to restaurants, and visiting cultural events, for instance. Only the fully vaccinated at least two weeks after the second dose or after the single-dose vaccine can prove their freedom from infection without a test, along with those who have undergone the Covid-19 infection in the past 180 days.

"Unless we reach collective immunity, not even testing will help us in the long run," Vojtěch said, adding that testing is no prevention, but it just helps reveal the Covid-infected.

Representatives of the culture and tourism sectors and swimming pool operators stood up against the decision to cancel free preventive tests. This will harm cultural activities, they said.

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Walk-in vaccination centers to open in all regional capitals

Covid vaccination centers where people are inoculated without a prior registration will open in all regional capitals, Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtěch told journalists. On Wednesday, they will open at the shopping malls in Ostrava and Brno. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said this was also being envisaged for Liberec and Ústí nad Labem. Interest has also been expressed by Hradec Králové, Vojtěch said at the ceremony opening the vaccination center in the Nový Smíchov shopping mall in Prague. The vaccination center opened Monday and is the third point where vaccination can be made without a prior registration.

"We discussed this at the health risk council. We would like to open them gradually in all regional capitals," Babiš said.

The Novy Smichov center will be open between 9 am to 8 pm every day. The two-dose Moderna vaccine is administered there. Vojtěch said a poll among those inoculated in the centers without booking had shown that around one-fifth of the vaccinated there were just passers-by and used the opportunity to do so. Some people were also reluctant to be registered for some reason or considered it too complicated, Babiš said.

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Firefighters, police, soldiers helping fight Covid to get bonuses

Firefighters, police officers and soldiers who helped fight the Covid epidemic in the Czech Republic will get a special bonus of CZK 20,000 each, the government decided yesterday, Interior and Defense Ministers, Jan Hamáček and Lubomír Metnar have tweeted. The government has earmarked more than CZK 1.4 billion for the special Covid bonuses and additional costs connected with them. According to Defense Ministry data, 11,853 professional soldiers helped tackle the coronavirus epidemic.

"Without the soldiers' hard work in hospitals, senior homes and call centres of the public health stations, we would certainly have overcome the pandemic consequences in a much more difficult manner. They definitely deserve the special bonus of CZK 20,000 each," Metnar said.

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The bonuses will also go to the Czech Prison Service members. The Government Office later said in a press release that 6,511 members of the Justice Ministry security force should get the bonus. In early March, the cabinet approved special bonuses for healthcare personnel working during the coronavirus epidemic.

Vojtěch: Some labs report Covid mutations late

Some laboratories in the Czech Republic report the samples analysed for coronavirus mutations by sequencing late and may face administrative proceedings and sanctions for this, Health Minister Adam Vojtěch said in an interview in Hospodářské noviny (HN). However, he said he believed the labs would improve in their reports. The ministry has addressed them to remind of the duty to observe the extraordinary measure valid since July 1.

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"They do not fully observe it in many cases. If they continue like this, we are prepared to lead administrative proceedings with such problematic labs and possibly impose some sanctions on them. This is the only thing we can can do," Vojtěch said.

Laboratories must report such samples within 48 hours, but some do so with delay. A careful monitoring of the new variants may prevent another epidemic wave, according to experts. "We have recently received some samples from January and February, which is hardly acceptable," he said.

Poll: Most Czechs still interested in Covid spread

More than three-quarters of Czechs are still interested in the situation of the novel coronavirus spread and a similar share of people fear for the health of their beloved over Covid and worsening of the Czech Republic's economic situation, a CVVM poll conducted in June shows. However, Czechs are rather optimistic about the future development of the Covid epidemic as three-fifths expect its improvement, according to the poll. Last May, Czechs showed the so-far highest interest in the coronavirus epidemic as 85 percent were seeking information about it. This February and April, the interest was only slightly lower (82 percent). The current interest in Covid returned to the level from June to December 2020, the pollsters said. The poll also shows that 74 percent of Czechs fear for the health of their family members and friends due to the Covid-19 epidemic and 73 percent fear that the economic situation in the country may worsen.

R number under 1.0 for second day

The number of new Covid cases reported for Monday was 216, down from 241 a week ago. The reproduction number R fell very slightly to 0.95, remaining under the break-even point of 1.0 for two days in a row. The incidence number of people infected per 100,000 over seven days remained at 15. Hospitalizations rose from 31 to 37, but the number of people in serious condition dropped from seven to five. The number of deceased rose to 30,341 due to revisions in the data. No death was reported for Monday, but one was added for July 18. A total of eight deaths have been reported for July. In Prague, where the situation is worst in the country, the seven-day incidence number was 41, down from 42 a day earlier. Prague’s R number was at the break-even point of 1.0, up from 0.98 a day earlier.

Latest Covid-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (July 20, 2021)

  • New cases 216
  • Deaths 30,341
  • Currently hospitalized 37
  • PCR tests performed 8,589,772
  • Antigen tests performed 23,125,249
  • Total vaccinations 9,607,987
  • Daily increase in vaccinations 85,633
  • People who have completed vaccination 4,303,409
  • New cases per 100,000 in seven days 15
  • PES index 37
  • R number 0.95
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