Coronavirus update, March 19, 2021: Restrictions likely to be in place until Easter, with minor changes

The govt. extended restrictions to March 28 and will seek to extend them further when there is a new state of emergency. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 19.03.2021 09:32:00 (updated on 19.03.2021) Reading time: 5 minutes

Govt. extends restrictions to March 28, with minor changes

The anti-epidemic measures in force in the Czech Republic will apply with minor adjustments for at least a week longer, until March 28. The Czech government will keep the restriction of people's movement between districts in force after this weekend, but people will newly be able people to do sports and stay outdoors in their respective home districts, no longer in their home towns only, Health Minister Jan Blatný said after a cabinet meeting. He added that the epidemiological situation has improved during the past three weeks, but it remains critical in hospitals.

"The current situation does not allow for us to afford bigger changes," Blatný said.

Since March 1, people have been banned from leaving their home district, except for their trips to work, to secure urgent needs of their relatives, children and animals, visit a doctor, settle urgent official affairs and leave the Czech Republic. Night curfew from 9 p.m. to 4:59 a.m. remains valid with a few exemptions. People are also asked to stay at home throughout days with the exception of going shopping, attending a wedding, a rally etc.

Restrictions may ease after Easter

Health Minister Jan Blatný said movement restrictions may ease after Easter. Until then, the goal is to secure the minimum possible movement of people, he said. "I don't want to promise anything, but this is an intention," Blatný said when asked whether he wants to loosen the inter-district movement after Easter in case the epidemiological situation developed favorably. To keep its restrictions in force, the cabinet needs the state of emergency to continue after March 28, when it is to expire. On Monday, the cabinet is going to ask the Chamber of Deputies to approve the emergency's extension. If it is extended, Blatný will propose to the cabinet that it keep the tough lockdown until after April 5, the end of the Easter holidays, he said.

 "Our goal is to keep the restrictions in force until Easter. The state of emergency is necessary, as without it, these crucial restrictions are impossible to maintain. I believe we will succeed in explaining this to the opposition deputies," Blatný said.

Runners, cyclists can be maskless if they social distance

Sporting people such as runners and cyclists do not have to wear a face mask as coronavirus protection even in town built-up areas if they keep at a two-meter distance from other people, Health Minister Jan Blatný said, referring to the cabinet's decision. Since Feb. 25, a respirator or a surgical face mask has been compulsory outdoors at places with a high concentration of people where the social distancing requirement cannot be met. This also applies to workplaces.

Govt. agrees to increase in nursing allowance

The Czech cabinet agreed with deputies' proposal to raise the child nursing benefit from 70 to 80 percent of the parent's wage as of March 1, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Jana Maláčová tweeted after the cabinet meeting Thursday. The increase was proposed by a group of deputies across all groups in parliament except for the senior government ANO. The state has been paying out the crisis nursing benefits during the closure of schools amid the coronavirus epidemic. Most of the parents who have stayed at home with their children under ten are eligible for a benefit corresponding to 70 percent of their wage. "I am sure that the Chamber of Deputies will also approve it," Maláčová said. All schools except for kindergartens and special schools for handicapped children closed as of Oct. 14, 2020 over the coronavirus epidemic. Elementary schools' first and second graders returned to school as of Nov.18, but even these grades and also kindergartens have been closed since March 1.

Vaccinated people can visit social facilities without test

Those vaccinated with two doses of COVID-19 vaccine will newly be able to visit people in social care facilities without producing a negative test for COVID-19, Health Minister Jan Blatný said after a cabinet meeting. Over 1.2 million vaccines have been applied in the Czech Republic and around 320,000 people have received both necessary doses.

Ministry against extending interval between vaccine doses

The Czech Health Ministry does not recommend that the interval between the application of the first and second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID vaccine be changed, Minister Jan Blatný said after the cabinet meeting, citing an analysis completed by the vaccination team. Last week, the Czech Vaccination Society proposed changing the interval to up to six weeks. If the Czech Republic extended the interval it could vaccinate 180,000 people more with the first dose in the next three weeks, Blatný said. However, this would lead to shortages later. "This means we would only postpone the problem," he said.

Coronavirus testing to be mandatory at small public offices

Coronavirus testing will also be mandatory at public offices and other public institutions with under 50 employees, under a decision approved by the Czech government today, Industry and Trade and Transport Minister Karel Havlíček told journalists. The testing will start on March 23 and must be finished by March 30, he said after the government meeting. The testing will also cover the employees of the schools in charge of the care for the children of the employees of the integrated rescue system and other selected professions, with the same deadlines. All the testing must be conducted at the workplaces if there is no necessary reason to do it differently, he added.

Blatný to bar circumvention of vaccine approval process

Health Minister Jan Blatný would actively intervene against the Czech Republic's use of anti-epidemic medicines and vaccines that were not approved in a standard procedure, he told the Senate in a debate. Blatný reacted to the information that President Miloš Zeman, after consulting former health minister Roman Prymula, wants university experts to examine the still EU-uncertified Russian vaccine Sputnik V and advise the cabinet to give the go-ahead to its use domestically. "If some wanted to circumvent the State Institute for Drug Control (SÚKL) and the Health Ministry, I will actively bar them from doing so," Blatný said.  

EMA says AstraZeneca vaccine is safe

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has declared the AstraZeneca vaccine to be safe. After examining its possible side effects, due to which some countries temporarily stopped using it, the EMA said that the vaccine did not increase the risk of blood clots. They also did not find any problems with specific batches of the vaccine. Following the publication of this opinion, several countries have announced that they will resume using the vaccine. The Czech Republic was not among the countries that had stopped using the vaccine.

Lowest number of new cases this week

There were 10,576 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, which is the least this week and fewer than last Thursday when there were 11,238. Currently, there are 8,773 people in hospitals, with 1,992 in serious condition. The number of deaths rose to 24,331. The reproduction number R, standing for the number of the infected from one positive person, slightly rose from 0.92 to 0.93. If it is above 1.00, the epidemic is accelerating. The PES index remained at 71 for the sixth day.  

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

  • New cases 10,576
  • Deaths 24,331
  • Currently hospitalized 8,773
  • PCR tests performed 5,958,731
  • Antigen tests performed 4,551,955
  • Reported vaccinations 1,263,379
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