Coronavirus update, March 22, 2021: Lowest number of new COVID cases since mid-December

Hamáček says restrictions have been effective, Prague and suburbs to be seen as single district, EU official says bloc doesn’t need Russian vaccine. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 22.03.2021 09:38:00 (updated on 22.03.2021) Reading time: 5 minutes

Hamáček: Restrictions have been effective

The Czech government's latest anti-COVID restrictions have been effective, Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček said on Prima TV. He called on people to persist for some more time and observe the restrictions. The crucial goal is to unburden hospitals, he said.

"A relaxation of the restrictions will be possible only after hospitals cease to be burdened. It will take some time before this happens. The key thing is that [the pandemic] has been subsiding," Hamáček said.

If the lockdown measures had not worked, the Czech Republic would have seen some 20,000 to 25,000 new infections a day and the health sector would have collapsed, Hamáček said. The cabinet expected a faster decline in the number of infections, but the pace has been milder as a result of the newly introduced compulsory corporate testing. As a result, about 15,000 additional new cases were detected a week, he added.

Babiš: No excess reserve of vaccines

The Czech Republic has received 1,513,370 doses of anti-COVID vaccines since December, of which 182,181 doses have not been applied as yet, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš tweeted Sunday, adding that Czech Republic has no excessive reserves. All vaccines have been delivered to vaccination points, he said. Only 19,651 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, 16,480 doses from Moderna, and 22,850 from AstraZeneca will be available in vaccination centers on Tuesday morning, 58,981 doses in total. Later on Tuesday, a supply of 124,020 doses is to arrive from Pfizer/BioNTech. "If they do not arrive, we would in fact have nothing to vaccinate with on Wednesday," Babiš said. On Wednesday, a shipment of 88,800 Moderna doses is to arrive, and 9,600 doses from AstraZeneca on Thursday, he said.

Mayor, governor want Prague and suburbs to be seen as single district

Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib and Central Bohemia Region Governor Petra Pecková have asked Interior Minister Jan Hamáček for Prague and the adjacent Prague-East and Prague-West districts, part of the Central Bohemia Region. to be viewed as a single district in terms of the free movement restriction, Hřib said on Prima TV. Hamáček said the proposal may be discussed, but the step would mean an increase in contacts between people. Hřib said people from the Prague-West and Prague-East districts commute to work in Prague anyway.  

EU official says bloc doesn’t need Russian vaccine

The European Union has “absolutely no need” for the Russian Sputnik V, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, said in televised interview. "Today, we clearly have the capacity to deliver 300 to 350 million doses by the end of June and therefore by July 14...we have the possibility of reaching continent-wide immunity," he said, according to news agency Reuters. Breton heads the EU executive's vaccine task force, The maker of Sputnik V accused Breton of anti-Russian bias, adding that the vaccine was safe and being used in 54 countries. They also asked on Twitter if they should stop pursuing European Medicines Agency (EMA) approval.

Testing may be mandatory for smallest firms

The Czech cabinet will on Monday probably make the regular on-site COVID-19 testing binding also for firms with fewer than 10 employees and for the self-employed, Finance Minister Alena Schillerová said in a debate on Czech Television. Until now, the testing has been mandatory for big firms with over 250 staff and medium-sized firms, which had to complete the first round of tests by March 12 and March 15, respectively. Most recently, compulsory testing started in firms with 10 to 49 employees, which have to complete its first round by March 26.

Govt. to consider more frequent tests

The cabinet is going to consider whether to bind firms to test the staff more frequently than once a week, which is the case now, Finance Minister Alena Schillerová said. The tests might become mandatory either once in five days or twice a week. Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček said on Prima TV that the compromise variant of one round of tests every five days has been emerging. A more frequent twice-a-week testing might bring some big companies to a collapse, he said.

Ministry may back change in interval between vaccine doses

The Health Ministry may after all extend the interval between the application of the first and second doses for the people who are yet to apply for COVID-19 vaccination, Petr Smejkal, a member of the ministry's team of experts and chief epidemiologist in Prague's Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine (IKEM), said on Czech Television. People having the extended interval will not be harmed, but it will save human lives, with the vaccine reaching more people in the meantime, he said. Last week, the Czech Vaccination Society proposed that the interval be prolonged to last up to six weeks for the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Health Minister Jan Blatný last week said that the ministry did not recommend the change in the interval.

Babiš calls on hospitals to use bamlanivimab

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) called on hospitals to use Eli Lilly’s anti-COVID drug bamlanivimab, tweeting that the medicine has been delivered to 61 hospitals so far, although 103 facilities can use it. News server Deník N reported on Friday that the Czech Republic would not buy more bamlanivimab because its side effects are worse than Regeneron’s REGN-COV2, which is to arrive in the Czech Republic next week. Some 3,000 doses of the medicine have reached the Czech Republic. The Health Ministry originally negotiated the purchase of 12,400 vials of bamlanivimab.

Lowest number of new COVID cases since mid-December

There were 2,373 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, nearly 1,000 fewer than a week ago, and the lowest daily rise in new cases since Dec. 13, according to today’s Health Ministry data. Hospitals treated 8,007 patients with coronavirus, including 1,910 in serious condition on Sunday. A week ago, there were 8,765 hospitalized COVID patients. The PES index was at 68 for the third day in a row today and has stayed on the second-highest degree, 61–75, for two weeks. The reproduction number R slightly increased from 0.85 to 0.86. Any number under 1.0 means the spread of the virus is slowing down.

Latest COVID-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (March 22, 2021)

  • New cases 2,373
  • Deaths 24,810
  • Currently hospitalized 8,007
  • PCR tests performed 6,016,203
  • Antigen tests performed 4,825,289
  • Reported vaccinations 1,340,728
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