Coronavirus update, March 17, 2021: Czech government to discuss possibility of reopening schools

Longer interval between doses considered, one-third of Czechs against COVID vaccination, and EC could propose vaccination passports today.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 17.03.2021 09:47:00 (updated on 17.03.2021) Reading time: 5 minutes

Health and Education Ministries discuss school reopening

With the improvement of the epidemic situation, children in kindergartens and pupils in the first stage of primary schools and the last years of primary and secondary schools could return, Health Ministry spokeswoman Barbora Peterová said. She added that the Ministry of Health is negotiating with the Ministry of Education about measures for schools. The Health Ministry is proposing mandatory testing in schools once a week, with the exception of teachers who are vaccinated or have undergone COVID-19 in the past 90 days.

Education Minister Robert Plaga said last week that he did not yet know how and when pupils would return to school. According to him, it will depend on the decision of epidemiologists. But more priority should be given to more grades of the first grade of primary school, not just the first and second grades, he said.

Education Ministry preparing for testing

The Czech Education Ministry plans to use its February scheme of testing for COVID-19 when the schools reopen unless epidemiologists suggest any changes in it, ministry spokeswoman Aneta Lednová said. According to the February testing scheme, secondary school students and those in their final year of elementary studies will be tested for COVID-19 first. The Health Ministry should decide which tests are suitable for the school use and the State Material Reserves Administration (SSHR) should secure their purchase without any delay, Lednová added. Epidemiologists should also decide whether the teachers who had been inoculated for COVID-19 will be tested too, she added.  

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Chronically ill to register for vaccine with special codes

People suffering from chronic diseases should register for the vaccination against COVID-19 via special codes that their doctors will receive. The system might be launched next week, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said after a meeting of the government council for health risks. Doctors say it is currently not possible to inoculate cardiac patients and other chronically ill patients who are under 70 and have a risk of developing a serious case of the infection. A similar system to the one schools used to register their teachers for vaccination should be used, Babiš said. He declines to say whether further age groups will be allowed to register for the vaccine as of the beginning of April. He admitted talks about a threshold at 60 or 65 years.  

Longer interval between vaccine doses considered

The Health Ministry and the Czech Vaccination Society are discussing the possibility of extending the interval between vaccine doses, Health Ministry spokeswoman Barbora Peterová said. Instead of 21 or 28 days of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the second dose could be in up to six weeks. This would allow more people to get the first dose, which would still provide a high level of protection. Czech Vaccination Society head Roman Chlíbek confirmed the possibility was being considered, but he was skeptical about prolonging the interval between the two doses for more than 42 days as there was no data to support whether this would still be effective.

Over 424,000 vaccines delivered so far in March

Over 424,000 doses of COVID vaccines were distributed among regions in the first half of March, according to the Czech Institute of Health Information and Statistics (ÚZIS). Over 75 percent were from Pfizer/BioNTech. In February, 516,000 doses were delivered and since the start of the vaccination at the end of December, a total of 1.3 million doses have been delivered. Over 1.12 million doses were used as of Tuesday. A second dose, creating full protection against COVID-19, has been received by over 318,671 people.

European Commission to propose vaccination passports

The European Commission today is expected to propose the introduction of COVID-19 vaccination passports. Southern European states relying on the return of tourists in summer want the EU to quickly prepare the criteria for the unified digital certificate, based on which people vaccinated against COVID-19 will be able to travel between EU countries without tests, quarantine or other conditions. The passports must not be a means of discrimination, Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček told Czech expatriates during his two-day working visit to Croatia.

"For us, it is important that this [the certificates] should be the simplest possible to secure extensive personal data protection. In the same way, we want the vaccination passport not to be a means of discrimination against the people who cannot have themselves vaccinated," Petříček said.

SÚKL: No vaccine deaths linked to blood clots

None of the 11 deaths that might be connected with vaccination against COVID-19 in the Czech Republic was caused by a blood clot, the State Institute for Drug Control (SÚKL) said on Twitter. In the recent days, some European countries halted the vaccination with the vaccine from the AstraZeneca because some vaccinated persons had blood clots afterwards. SÚKL declared that there is no evidence that it is necessary to halt the vaccination in the Czech Republic. SÚKL gathers reports about suspected undesirable effects of the vaccines and it releases them once a week. It has recorded 1,506 incidents of side effects by March 9. It releases only the total number and does not say which kind of vaccine was related to what negative effects.

Poll: One-third of Czechs against COVID vaccination

One-third of Czechs still have a negative attitude to the COVID-19 vaccination, while 59 percent of them are ready to get vaccinated, according to a poll conducted by the CVVM polling institute in February and released yesterday. Those reluctant to be vaccinated most often expressed fear the vaccine was developed too fast and not sufficiently tested. Some 72 percent of those over 65 are ready for vaccination. The least readiness was found among those between 35 and 44, with about half opposed to vaccination. Four-fifths of Czechs agree with the idea that vaccination is a guarantee that some dangerous illness do not spread across the country. Only about one-tenth believe the vaccination is useless.

New cases drop compared to last week but R number rises

There were 13,934 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, some 1,400 fewer than a week ago. The reproduction number R, standing for the number of the infected from one positive person, rose slightly rose from 0.94 to 0.97, show the Health Ministry's data released this morning. If the R number exceeds 1.00, the epidemic is accelerating. The PES index remained at 71 for the fourth day on a row. There were 9,006 patients hospitalized with COVID, and 2,016 were in serious condition.

Latest COVID-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (March 17, 2021)

  • New cases 13,934
  • Deaths 23,902
  • Currently hospitalized 9,006
  • PCR tests performed 5,892,944
  • Antigen tests performed 4,234,798
  • Reported vaccinations 1,168,025
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