Coronavirus update, March 15, 2021: lowest Sunday number of new COVID cases since mid-February

Vaccinations to reach 100,000 per day after Easter, COVID testing in firms may be twice weekly, small firms could start testing March 22. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 15.03.2021 09:39:00 (updated on 15.03.2021) Reading time: 4 minutes

Havlíček: shops unlikely to reopen after Easter

Deputy Prime Minister Karel Havlíček said the government cannot be expected to relax the measures against the COVID epidemic before Easter. Even after Easter, the restricted movement within districts could be loosened, but shops and services are unlikely to open. Strict rules limiting movement went into effect March 1, and rules for shops were tightened. Only food stores, drugstores, pharmacies, opticians, and florists are now allowed to remain open. Health Minister Jan Blatný previously said he does not foresee a significant loosening of rules before Easter.

Vaccinations to reach 100,000 per day after Easter

The capacity of vaccination against COVID-19 should increase to 100,000 doses per day after the Easter holidays, or as from April 6, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) said in his regular Sunday video message to people. He said this was the main goal in March. The vaccination speed relies on the number of delivered vaccine doses and the deliveries are to markedly increase in April. A high-capacity COVID-19 vaccination center in O2 Universum in Prague will start working on April 11 after its trial operation two days earlier, Babiš said previously. In full swing, the center will vaccinate up to 10,000 people a day. Health workers have applied over 1 million doses of one of the three vaccines used in the Czech Republic since Dec. 27 when vaccination was launched. About 300,000 people received both necessary doses.

COVID testing in firms may be twice weekly

Coronavirus testing of employees in firms may be compulsory two times a week and the Czech government will discuss it on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Karel Havlíček said in a discussion program on Prima TV.

"The mandatory testing might be done even twice a week because antigen testing is of importance especially when it is done more regularly," Havlíček said.

He said epidemiologists recommend this, but the question is whether firms can manage it. The mandatory testing two times a week might be launched in about two weeks, he added.

Small firms could start testing March 22

The government is considering introducing mandatory testing also for small firms, with 10 to 49 employees, Deputy Prime Minister Karel Havlíček said. This duty could be introduced in the Czech Republic as of Monday, March 22. Currently, firms and government offices with more than 49 employees must test their employees for COVID-19 once a week. Firms have been asked not to rely on public testing centers but instead to do it in-house with self-tests or the help of company doctors or other physicians.

State of emergency likely to be extended

It seems unlikely that the coronavirus situation would improve enough to make it be possible to end the state of emergency on March 28, Chamber of Deputies chairman Radek Vondráček said on Czech Television. If the government wants to extend it, the Chamber of Deputies will have to give approval and will probably deal with the request on March 25 or March 26, Vondráček said. A national state of emergency has been imposed on the Czech Republic over the COVID epidemic since October 5, 2020. The government declared the current state of emergency on Feb. 27.

Second aircraft with Chinese antigen tests arrives

A second aircraft with antigen tests for COVID-19 from China arrived in Prague Saturday and firefighters will transport the tests from the airport to a storeroom. The Interior Ministry has bought 3.6 million antigen tests from the Chinese firm Lepu. The Tardigrad International Consulting company brought the first delivery to Prague on Feb. 27 and the last part of the nasal swab tests will be delivered on March 15. The ministry paid CZK 65 per test, including air transport costs, according to previous information. The tests will be distributed to schools when the date of children’s return to school will be set. A part of the first delivery of the antigen tests will be used for the mandatory testing of civil service employees.

AstraZeneca finds no link between vaccine and clots

AstraZeneca announced that it evaluated data on 17 million people in the European Union and Britain vaccinated with its COVID-19 vaccine and found no evidence of a link between the vaccine and an increased risk of blood clots, news agency Reuters reported. Denmark and Norway suspended vaccination with AstraZeneca on Thursday, followed Bulgaria, Romania, Iceland, Thailand, and Ireland. Austria and Italy stopped using some batches of the vaccine due to suspected adverse reactions. The Czech Republic did not suspend the use of the vaccine, as it did not have any doses from the batches that had been called into question.

Lowest Sunday number of new COVID cases since mid-February

There were 3,291 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, 690 fewer than a week ago, and the lowest Sunday figure since mid-February, the Health Ministry's data released this morning show. On Sunday, 8,362 people were hospitalized due to coronavirus, with 1,930 patients in serious condition, some 120 more than a week ago. The reproduction number R standing for the number of the infected from one positive person equals 0.94. Any number below 1 means the virus is no longer spreading exponentially. The PES index is at 71 for the second day in a row.  

Latest COVID-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (March 15, 2021)

  • New cases 3,291
  • Deaths 23,379
  • Currently hospitalized 8,362
  • PCR tests performed 5,821,165
  • Antigen tests performed 3,915,085
  • Reported vaccinations 1,081,907
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