Coronavirus update, March 26, 2021: Schools could reopen by mid-April, decision to be made before Easter

Lower house to discuss extending the state of emergency, PM Babiš promises to raise bonus for medical rescuers, new Covid cases among medical staff drop.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 26.03.2021 09:44 (updated on 26.03.2021) Reading time: 6 minutes

Schools should know by Easter if they are to open April 12

The decision on gradual return of pupils to schools should be made before Easter if the epidemic situation allows for the school reopening as of April 12, but April 19 has been also considered, Education Minister Robert Plaga told the Chamber of Deputies. Regardless the date, schools should be informed a week in advance, he noted. The decision will depend on the stance of chief public health officer Pavla Svrčinová, he added. The ministry's long-term priorities include the opening of schools for small children and practical instruction at secondary schools and universities, Plaga said.  

Elementary school grades should rotate

The first five grades of elementary school should rotate a week of regular instruction at school and a week of online lessons once Czech schools reopen after the closure over Covid-19, according to the Education Ministry's plan, Education Minister Robert Plaga said. He met with opposition MPs for the Pirates, Mayors and Independents (STAN) and the Together coalition of the Civic Democrats (ODS), Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) and TOP 09. The rotating scheme is significantly better from the epidemiological point of view as only a half of pupils meet at once. Moreover, it is a chance not only for all the first five graders to return, but also for practical lessons at secondary schools, he explained, adding that practical instruction should be launched for those in the final year of their university studies, too.

Lower house to discuss extending the state of emergency

The Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Parliament, will discuss another government request for extending the state of emergency today. The ANO and Social Democrat (ČSSD) minority government is likely to gain the support of the Communists (KSČM), but it is uncertain whether they will agree to the full 30 days that the government wants. The current state of emergency ends on Sunday, March 28. Most government anti-coronavirus restrictions are linked to the emergency. Government officials say strict measures need to be maintained at least until Easter, including a ban on travel between districts. Opposition leaders in particular do not like the ban on people going to their own cottages if they are in another district.

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Czech universities to launch their own Covid vaccination

Czech universities are preparing vaccination of their own staff against Covid-19 in their own vaccination network in which the schools will help one another, the president of the Czech Rectors Conference, Petr Sklenička, told journalists. The plan is almost finished, but the transport of the vaccines in regions is yet to be settled, Sklenička said. Lecturers are to be the first to be inoculated. Their return to instruction is planned within the first stage of the reopening of schools. They are to be followed by other personnel according to age or chronic diseases. The vaccination at universities may start as soon as there are enough vaccines, Sklenička said.

New Covid cases among medical staff drop

The past week was the first this year in the Czech Republic with the number of new Covid-19 infections among the medical staff dropping below 1,000, according to the data released by the Health Information and Statistics Institute (ÚZIS). A total of 877 medical workers tested positive for coronavirus in the week beginning on March 16, compared with up to 3,000 a week in early January. Healthcare workers were the first group to be prioritized in Covid vaccination after it started in the Czech Republic in late December. Almost one-quarter of them have been vaccinated so far, and the share being higher among the hospital staff and doctors.

Babiš promises to raise bonus for medical rescuers

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has promised to raise the one-off bonus for medical rescuers compared tp hospital medical staff amid the Covid epidemic, health workers' union head Dagmar Žitníková said, but Health Minister Jan Blatný said he wants the bonus to be equal for hospital and rescue staff. Babiš tweeted that he has agreed with the unions on an increase to CZK 120,000. Later however, Blatný told Czech Television that he insists on an equal bonus going to the staff of the medical rescue service and of hospitals. The bonus hospital medical workers are to receive for tackling the second wave of the epidemic is CZK 75,000. Unlike hospital workers, rescue staff does not get a monthly bonus.

Over 23,000 chronically ill patients register for Covid vaccine

More than 23,000 chronically ill patients under 70 who belong to risk groups have registered for the Covid vaccination during the first day of eligibility on Wednesday, and some 1,450 have received an inoculation slot, according to data released by the Health Information and Statistics Institute (ÚZIS). These patients can register via special codes sent to their attending doctors. Tho codes are valid until the end of April. More than a half of the registered are over 60, while roughly 7,700 are over 65. Those over 65 who do not suffer from a chronic disease will be allowed to register for the vaccination after Easter, Health Minister Jan Blatný said on Wednesday.

Czechs fear care for non-Covid patients may be reduced

People in the Czech Republic are most afraid, in connection with the Covid-19 epidemic, that medical care for other than Covid patients may be reduced, according to the CVVM agency's February poll, in which 85 percent of the respondents voiced fear in this respect, 13 percent more than in December. More than four fifths of those polled said they also feared an economic decline, and the same share feared for the health of people close to them. The poll showed a sharp increase in the number of those who fear that hospitals may run out of their capacities. Over two-thirds of the adult population were afraid of this in February, 20 percent more than in December.

EU summit agrees to speed up vaccine production

The European Union must speed up the production and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, leaders of the 27 EU member countries agreed at a summit. However, they did not find unity over compensating for the now unequal distribution of vaccines demanded by Austria and the Czech Republic. The leaders instructed the ambassadors of the member states to proceed with further negotiations.

"It's absolutely vital of course that we keep on working to improve vaccine production in Europe, and improve our ability to distribute those to member states,” President of the European Council Charles Michel said.

EU leaders also agreed that the bloc will use an export control system allowing it to ban the export of vaccines from companies that do not deliver the promised amount of vaccines to the EU. "Companies have to honor their contract to the European Union before they export to other regions in the world. And this is, of course, the case with AstraZeneca," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. "We need to make sure that Europe gets its fair share." Despite the delays in vaccine deliveries, she said the EU is still confident of having 70 percent of its adult population vaccinated by the end of summer.  

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New COVID antibody is effective against main virus mutations

A double COVID-19 antibody recently tested by Czech researchers has proven effective against British, South African and Brazilian coronavirus mutations, and the related paper was published in the journal Nature. The double antibody is based on various antibodies contained in the blood of those who had recovered from coronavirus. Natural antibodies are frequently used to treat the disease in question, however, the SARS-CoV-2 virus gets rapidly immune against them, the scientists said. Therefore, they merged two natural antibodies into one molecule that targets two different places of the virus. In the future, the double antibody could replace and expensive mix of antibodies and help in poor countries, for example, experts add.

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Fall in COVID epidemic continues

There were another 7,853 new Covid cases on Thursday, almost 2,300 fewer than a week ago and the smallest number on weekdays since Feb. 8, according to the data from the Czech Health Ministry. The number of patients hospitalized with Covid fell to 7,965, the lowest since the end of February. Some 1,860 of them are in serious condition, the least in about three weeks. The PES index remained at 59 for the second day in a row. The reproduction number R fell to 0.81 from 0.84, meaning the spread of the virus is slowing. Estonia overtook the Czech Republic in the number of new cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days, putting the Czech Republic in second place the EU for the first time since the beginning of February.

Latest Covid-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (March 26, 2021)

  • New cases 7,853
  • Deaths 25,639
  • Currently hospitalized 7,965
  • PCR tests performed 6,133,994
  • Antigen tests performed 5,556,308
  • Reported vaccinations 1,504,419
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