Coronavirus update, March 25, 2021: Czech health minister says lockdown rules may ease after Easter

Czechs over 65 may be vaccinated after Easter, Blatný says Johnson & Johnson vaccines will arrive in April, EU setting rules for Covid vaccine export. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 25.03.2021 09:42:00 (updated on 25.03.2021) Reading time: 5 minutes

Blatný: Relaxation of lockdown may come after Easter

If everything progresses as it has been doing so far, during Easter the government will propose the first changes to relax the measures against coronavirus, Health Minister Jan Blatný said.

"However much I understand that the measures are constraining and unpleasant in many respects, it would be good to maintain them at least until Easter. If everything runs as now, in its course we will propose the first changes that will relax the existing measures," Blatný said.

He has refused to relax the lockdown while hospitals are still full.

Czechs over 65 may be vaccinated after Easter

People over 65 will be able to have themselves registered for coronavirus vaccination at the end of the week after Easter, Health Minister Jan Blatný told the Czech Chamber of Deputies. The members of supercritical infrastructure such as police and firefighters will be inoculated as of next Monday, Blatný said, adding that there will be roughly 9,000 of them and this will not threaten the vaccination of other population groups.

Blatný: Vaccines ordered for 8 million people by August

The Czech Republic has ordered enough Covid-19 vaccine to inoculate 8 million people by the end of August or beginning of September, while by the end of June, 6 million should be vaccinated, Health Minister Jan Blatný said at a press conference. He deems the ordered supplies of the vaccines sufficient, he said in reaction to the criticism that the state has ordered fewer vaccine doses than it could have requested. Blatný reiterated that the decision on the amount of vaccines to purchase was made before he assumed the office and he requested several millions more vaccine doses afterward.

Blatný: Johnson & Johnson vaccines will arrive in April

Up to 40,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson single shot Covid vaccine will arrive in the Czech Republic in April, Health Minister Jan Blatný told deputies today in reaction to comments by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. There was a misunderstanding on Tuesday and fortunately, it can be said that the vaccine will arrive in April, but in a smaller quantity than expected, Blatný said. Nevertheless, it is still possible that all 150,000 previously expected doses will be delivered in the first quarter.

EU to set strict rules for Covid vaccine exports

The European Commission presented a plan that would restrict the export of Covid-19 vaccines from the European Union. The objective is to ensure timely access to Covid-19 vaccines for EU citizens. Many manufacturers have not been meeting delivery quotas to EU countries, even though the vaccines are made in the EU.

“The EU is proud to be the home of vaccine producers who not only deliver to EU citizens but export across the globe. While our Member States are facing the third wave of the pandemic and not every company is delivering on its contract, the EU is the only major OECD producer that continues to export vaccines at large scale to dozens of countries,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

New rules will be based on whether the importing country restricts exports of vaccines or raw materials, and whether the situation in the importing country is better or worse than in the EU.

MPs pass bills to cover higher healthcare costs

The Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Parliament, passed the bills to enable compensating healthcare facilities' income losses due to the coronavirus crisis and increase health insurers' funding of Covid-19 self-testing in firms, in the summary procedure. The Senate is now to deal with the bills before President Miloš Zeman signs them into law. MPs approved the government amendment, under which the Health Ministry would be able to issue a "compensation directive" like last year to compensate the financial losses of hospitals caused by their extensive care for Covid patients. The legislation assigns health insurance companies to compensate the costs to healthcare providers. Moreover, health insurers can agree on the compensation level beyond the framework of the directive.

Blatný wants stricter criteria for corporate Covid tests

The Health Ministry wants to secure higher quality Covid-19 antigen tests for corporate testing in firms and institutions, Health Minister Jan Blatný told a press conference.

"We will insist on stricter criteria for further orders and purchases (of tests). We will strive for letting enter the Czech Republic only the tests which will be the best among the antigen ones," Blatný said.

Epidemiologist and Health Ministry expert group head Petr Smejkal said testing in companies does not work as it should now because firms and staff do not know how to take the sample and use the test kits. It is important the testing continues and keep improving to reach the level of western countries, he said.

Babiš and opposition don’t agree on state of emergency

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš says the Czech Republic should continue with the coronavirus measures at least until Easter so that hospitals will have some relief and no next wave comes. Most opposition leaders, though, oppose extending the state of emergency beyond March 28. Describing his talks with opposition leaders, Babiš said he felt sorry about their approach.

"The opposition simply does not want to agree. For two hours, we were presenting our arguments, answering their questions, explaining why we cannot afford to relax. All in vain. They only meet us to make a press conference afterwards," Babiš said.

Opposition parties will adopt their final positions on Friday, when the Chamber of Deputies will discuss the government request to extend the state of emergency by another 30 days. The minority government of ANO and the Social Democrats (ČSSD) has not yet majority support for the plan.

Pandemic continues to slow down

There were 8,763 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, over 3,200 fewer than the same day last week. The daily numbers of newly infected in the week-on-week comparison have been declining since about the first weekend in March. There were 8,123 hospitalized patients with Covid-19 on Wednesday, about 1,000 fewer than a week ago, but Czech hospitals continue to be overloaded due to the epidemic. The PES index remained at 59 points out of 100 for the second day. The reproduction number R slightly worsened on Wednesday, rising from 0.82 to 0.83. It has been below 1.0 since March 9, meaning the spread of the virus is slowing down.

Latest Covid-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (March 25, 2021)

  • New cases 8,763
  • Deaths 25,450
  • Currently hospitalized 8,123
  • PCR tests performed 6,107,066
  • Antigen tests performed 5,383,849
  • Reported vaccinations 1,459,631
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