Coronavirus update, June 29, 2021: No respirators outdoors from July with exceptions

Plus: R number climbs to 0.97; more operators added to help line, respirators will stay required at mass events, some health workers to get spa vouchers. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 29.06.2021 10:05:00 (updated on 29.06.2021) Reading time: 7 minutes

Pfizer dose minimum interval to be 21 days

People may move the date set for the application of their second dose of the Covid vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech by up to eight days, Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtěch said, adding that the shortest possible interval between the doses is newly 34 days and may return to 21 days as of July. Until now, vaccination centers automatically set the date of the Pfizer/BioNTech second dose 42 days after the first one was applied. Vojtěch said people can call the coronavirus line 1221 and change their vaccination date if the set date is not good for them.

"We are seeking ways to make the vaccination accessible as much as possible," he said.

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said the original interval of 21 days between the two doses will be reintroduced if there are markedly more vaccine doses. Vojtěch said this may happen as of July. According to the government coronavirus portal, the interval between the first and second dose of the Moderna vaccine has already been shortened to 25 from 35 days.  

Respirators will stay required at mass events

The cabinet decided that people will no longer have to wear respirators outdoors, except for mass events, Health Minister Adam Vojtěch Vojtěch said. Until now, respirators have been obligatory outdoors if people did not keep social distancing of two meters at least, with the exception of those sharing a household. As of July, respirators will no longer be required outdoors, but will continue to be mandatory in public transport and indoors. Earlier this month, Vojtěch said that respirators might be replaced with surgical masks indoors, but he dropped the idea amid the epidemic stagnation in the meantime.

Vaccination law must be amended over loaned, donated vaccines

The Czech cabinet approved the Health Ministry's plan to have the Covid-19 vaccination law amended to also enable the use of donated vaccines, and proposed that the parliament deal with the draft amendment in a sped-up regime, Minister Adam Vojtěch said. The law only enables financing vaccines that were bought within the EU purchase mechanism. The draft amendment newly reckons also with other EU-registered vaccines that are owned by the state or contain a substance "that corresponds to the vaccination substance against the Covid-19 disease as contained in a medical preparation to which the registration has been granted." Without the amendment, donated and loaned vaccines' distribution and application could not be covered by public health insurance.

More operators to be added for help line

Representatives of the Smart Quarantine project wrote on Twitter that, due to great interest, people could wait longer than normal on line 1221. They therefore have been increasing the number of operators. "Today, a total of 496 operators took turns on the 1221 line, with up to 300 people on the phone at peak times. We handled a total of 16,512 calls today. The average call time was five minutes. Today's longest call was 21 minutes," they said on Twitter yesterday.

Travel rules changing for return from red countries

The Health Ministry informed the government about the change in the rules for return from countries from the red or high-risk category,. The same measures will apply as for return from the dark red or very high-risk category. For the red category of countries, it will be necessary to pass the PCR test upon return, no earlier than the fifth and no later than the 14th day after entering the territory of the Czech Republic. Self-isolation is required until the test result.

"Holidays are approaching and travel activity is growing significantly. At the same time, the risk of introducing mutations into the Czech Republic is significantly increasing. After consulting with the Central Management Team and the Chief Hygienist, we therefore decided to tighten border measures when returning from the red countries," Health Minister Adam Vojtěch said.

This change takes place from July 1. From the same date, the category of countries with an extreme risk of infection (black category) will be expanded to include Namibia, Paraguay, and Russia. From Monday, July 5, the category will be expanded to include Tunisia.

Second stage of vaccination campaign to target young people

Another CZK 50 million will be spent on the campaign promoting Covid vaccination, which has already cost 55 million, according to the report for a government meeting. The next stage will be the most difficult because there is the need to convince the reluctant and to communicate primarily with the young, the authors of the campaign said. They said they expected disinformation regarding the vaccination of children. According to the Health Ministry, 51.9 percent of the population has been at least partly vaccinated. Some 69 percent are interested in being inoculated, the polls say.

"We are in the situation in which we are before the most difficult part of the vaccination. We will be convincing the people who have not joined the first wave of the vaccination. Neighboring countries have the experience that the most difficult stage starts at around 50-60 percent of the finished vaccination of the whole population," it added.

The campaign will also try to motivate the people to be inoculated with the second dose. "There is the risk of a falling interest in the second dose as a part of the population may think this is redundant due to the recognition of being immune to the infection after the first dose," the report said. Under the current conditions, people can prove their being immune to the infection 22 days after the first dose is applied, but experts warn that one is only fully protected 14 days after the second dose. The authors of the campaign said its previous course was successful. In April, a televised campaign addressed almost 6 million people, with almost 700 spots on television and 750 spots on the radio.

People vaccinated abroad to get certificates

From July 7, people vaccinated in third countries will also be able to obtain an EU Covid certificate. The condition for issuing the certificate is that the applicant submits a vaccination certificate issued in a third country in English by an authorized body Vaccination must also be carried out with a vaccine that has been approved for use in Europe by the EMA. The applicant must be a citizen of the Czech Republic or a family member who has a temporary or permanent residence permit in the Czech Republic. They can also be an EU citizen with certificate of temporary residence in the Czech Republic or with a permanent residence permit in the Czech Republic issued by the Czech Republic. Alternatively, they may also be an accredited member of a diplomatic mission in the Czech Republic, including a private official, or an official of an international organization registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.

Govt. prolongs subsidies to wages of the quarantined

The Czech cabinet approved the prolongation of the Antivirus A program of subsidies to firms compensating the wages of their quarantined employees until the end of October, the Labor Ministry said. The Antivirus A program was originally to end as of July. Until recently, the temporary Antivirus program offered three types of subsidies with the goal to prevent dismissals of staff amid the economic restrictions over the coronavirus epidemic. A total of CZK 10.6 billion have been spent on the "quarantine subsidies" alone. In this respect, the monthly payments were the highest in March, over CZK 902 million.

Medical workers to get spa certificates

The medical workers who cared for bedded patients with Covid-19 during the epidemic will receive a voucher worth CZK 8,000 for a spa stay, usable anytime until the end of the year, the cabinet decided today, Health Minister Adam Vojtěch and Finance Minister Alena Schillerová said. The Health Ministry will distribute a total of CZK 856 million for this purpose. Vojtěch said the period of pandemic was extremely demanding for medical staff, mainly bed care providers. The care for Covid-19 patients carried an increased psychological burden that could negatively affect medical workers in the future.

"The goal of the subsidy program is to minimize the risks," Vojtěch said.

The program has started and those eligible may apply for the voucher until July 30. If all the money were paid out, the ministry would also launch the program next year, he said.

Students to be tested for Covid in September

At the beginning of September, primary and secondary school pupils will be tested preventively for Covid-19 three times. Testing will begin on Sept. 1, but children entering the first grades of primary schools will not be able to test until Sept. 2. The tests will be purchased by the State Material Reserves Administration according to the specifications of the Ministry of Health.

R number hits 0.97

A total of 157 new infections were added on Monday, an increase of 39 cases over last week. The incidence number remains at 7 per 100,000 for the week. Currently, 59 patients are hospitalized with the Covid, and seven of them are in a serious condition. No deaths were reported for the second day in a row. Some 108,217 vaccine doses were administered Monday. Of these, 82,330 were for a second dose. Over 8 million doses have been given since the beginning of the year, and 3,101,617 are fully vaccinated. The reproduction number R rose to 0.97, the highest it has been mid-April. If it is over 1.0 that means the pandemic is expanding.

Latest Covid-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (June 29, 2021)

  • New cases 157
  • Deaths 30,298
  • Currently hospitalized 59
  • PCR tests performed 7,965,292
  • Antigen tests performed 21,118,239
  • Total vaccinations 8,008,278
  • Daily increase in vaccinations 108,217
  • People who have completed vaccination 3,101,617
  • New cases per 100,000 in seven days 7
  • PES index 35
  • R number 0.97
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