Coronavirus update, March 8, 2021: Testing to extend to firms with under 50 employees

Government plans a comprehensive compensation package and Health Minister Blatný sees the coming week as critical. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 08.03.2021 09:08:00 (updated on 08.03.2021) Reading time: 4 minutes

Testing soon to include small companies

Compulsory testing of staff at companies with under 50 employees and small offices should start with in two weeks, Industry and Trade Minister Karel Havlíček told Czech Television.

"It is our goal that all employees in the Czech Republic are tested on a weekly basis. Next week will be crucial. If everything runs smoothly, we are ready to do this also for companies with fewer than 50 employees and small authorities," Havlíček said.

The corporate testing of up to 4.3 million workers will be compulsory at least till the end of late May, but more probably till the summer holiday, he added. Firms with over 250 employees had to launch the testing on March 3 and have to complete it by March 12. On March 5, the mid-sized companies with 50–250 staff started testing. On March 10, testing will be also compulsory for the civil service offices with 50 and more staff. Compulsory testing does not apply to people on home office, those who were ill with COVID-19 in the past three months, who have been vaccinated or tested negative for COVID-19 in the past five days and have the relevant certificate.

Government preparing new compensation program

The government is preparing a comprehensive compensation program called COVID 21 for entrepreneurs, Czech Finance Minister Alena Schillerová said on CNN Prima. It would be a response to the fall in their incomes. The program is to cover all the current COVID programs, Schillerová said. Currently, there are a number of COVID compensation programs, divided according to individual fields. "We have recognized that it is impossible to have such a multitude of programs that may be accessible for some, but inaccessible for others," Schillerová said. This is why the Finance Ministry has agreed with the Industry and Trade Ministry to create the new compensation program COVID 21. It is to replace the current programs that will gradually end, she added.

Work duty for students starts

Some students in hospitals are required to work as of today, as the government approved the plan March 5. The work duty for students would be ordered via the regional governors. It will be imposed on the third and fourth grades of nursing schools as well as university students of the fourth and fifth years of general medicine and all years of higher and vocational schools of non-medical healthcare professions, along with students from all years of following MA programs and psychology students except for those from last years. It will not apply to the students who prove they are already working for a healthcare provider.  

Blatný: This week to be critical in intensive care

This week will be the most critical when it comes to the available capacity of intensive care beds, Health Minister Jan Blatný told Czech Television. There are tens to hundreds of reserve beds, but there is insufficient qualified personnel, Blatný said. There may be the need of up to 300 doctors and 1,000 nurses more. The British coronavirus mutation accounts for about 50 percent of infections, while in some districts, this may be up to 80 percent, Blatný said, adding he wants to solve the lack of personnel by calling up specialist doctors and medical students. About 100 reserve equipped beds can be used for intensive care units.

Health minister warns of ivermectin risks

The experimental drug ivermectin, now being considered to be administered against COVID-19, may be associated with harm to some organs and it should be treated as a drug that has not been approved, Health Minister Jan Blatný told Czech Television.

"This is certainly not a drug that should be administered to all," Blatný said. "I would not take ivermectin and if I did, I would use it as an 'off label' drug. It may cause harm to liver, kidneys. As other experimental drugs it should be used cautiously, it cannot be given to everyone," Blatný said.

He pointed out the need of clinical studies when new drugs are introduced, adding that Prime Minister Andrej Babiš evidently had not realized this necessity when he spoke about possible use of ivermectin. The Saint Ann Teaching Hospital in Brno said it had used ivermectin for 30 people suffering from COVID since last November.

Blatný: no reason for vaccine choice

People should not have the option of choosing which vaccine they get against coronavirus, Health Minister Jan Blatný told Czech Television. Since all the approved vaccines are comparable, offering a choice would only delay the vaccination process, he added. Blatný reacted to the reservations about the approved vaccines as well as the Russian and Chinese vaccine that do not yet have the European certification.

New cases lower compared to last week

There were 3,923 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, 660 fewer than a week ago. There are 7,979 patients in the hospitals with 1,728 are in serious condition. The PES index is at 76 points for the sixth day. The R number, showing how many people each infected person spreads the disease to, was at 1.01.

Latest COVID-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (March 8, 2021)

  • Active cases 168,158
  • New cases 3,923
  • Deaths 21 882
  • Currently hospitalized 7,979
  • PCR tests performed 5,608,726
  • Antigen tests performed 3,143,777
  • Reported vaccinations 829,555
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