Coronavirus update, March 9, 2021: Epidemic slowing but a tough week lies ahead, deputy PM says

Reproduction number falls below 1.0, govt. approves bonuses for health workers, firms burdening free public testing. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 09.03.2021 09:14:00 (updated on 09.03.2021) Reading time: 4 minutes

Hamáček: Tighter rules are working, but a hard week lies ahead

The tightened anti-epidemic measures valid since March 1 for three weeks at least have worked well in the Czech Republic in general,  Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček said. "The expectations are being fulfilled, the epidemic is slowing down, but we have naturally not won yet," Hamáček said, adding that he is slightly optimistic looking at the statistical data. The changes will not be reflected in hospitals earlier than in a week up to 10 days.

"At least one hard week in hospitals is ahead of us," Hamáček said.

After he made his comments, new Health Ministry figures showed that the number of serious cases of COVID-19 had hit an all time high since the start of the pandemic (see figures at the bottom).

R number below 1 for first time since start of February

The reproductive number of COVID-19 in the Czech Republic has dropped to 0.97, which means a slowdown in the spread of the disease. It was at 1.01 the previous day. It had been steadily above value one since the beginning of February, according to Health Ministry data. From the end of February, when the number rose to about 1.23, the reproduction number gradually decreased. The number indicates the average number of other people who get infected with one who has tested positive, The risk index of the anti-epidemic system PES has now decreased to 73, corresponding to the fourth degree. It had been above 75, corresponding to the fifth level, since Feb. 13.

COVID-19 testing, vaccination accelerate

Czech laboratories performed record high 420,000 antigen COVID tests last week, about 20 percent more than the previous week, and the vaccination also sped up, with 3.3 times more doses applied this weekend compared with the previous one, the Health Ministry's data show today. Last week the number of tested samples was almost twice as high as in the first week of February. Monday saw the record high daily number of performed tests, 82,281. The higher interest in antigen tests is probably linked to last week's introduction of compulsory testing of corporations' staff. Health Minister Jan Blatný recently called on hospitals to speed up the vaccination during weekends.

Govt. approves bonuses for health, social workers

The Czech government approved CZK 12 billion to be spent on bonuses for healthcare personnel in hospitals for their struggle with the coronavirus pandemic, Finance Minister Alena Schillerová tweeted. Health Minister Jan Blatný said on Friday that hospital medical personnel should receive a similar sum as last year in their May salaries. After the first wave of the coronavirus epidemic last spring, they got a bonus of CZK 75,000 before taxation. Non-medical hospital workers and medical professionals working outside hospitals would receive smaller bonuses. The cabinet also decided that workers in social services would get bonuses from CZK 15,000 to 50,000, while their level will vary based on their profession and type of work, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Jana Maláčová tweeted.

Czech patients with COVID may go to Germany, Poland

Six patients with COVID-19 in the Liberec region are preparing for their possible transfer to German hospitals, and one patient in the Pardubice region is preparing for transfer to Poland, Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček told journalists. He thanked the neighbors for the aid. "A friend in need is a friend indeed, and the Czech Republic has good friends, the EU states above all," he said. Late last week, the Czech cabinet activated foreign aid and asked for cooperation with placing at least dozens of COVID patients in hospitals in Germany, Switzerland and Poland.

Firms relying on free public COVID testing

The Czech government should take steps to urge firms to provide antigen self-testing, Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček told reporters. There has been a lack of vacancies for free public COVID antigen tests due to firms' employees using the service.

"Since the government ordered compulsory testing in firms, some of them have chosen the easiest path sending their employees to the public testing centers, which was naturally not the goal," Hamáček said.

The cabinet should make a decision only if there was a sufficient amount of self-testing kits in the Czech Republic, Hamáček added. He said last week that the Industry and Trade Ministry should call on firms not to send their employees to public testing points.

Isolation after South African COVID mutation to end with PCR test

People with either confirmed or suspected South African mutation of COVID-19 will be newly allowed to leave isolation only after a negative PCR test conducted at the earliest two weeks after the proven infection, Health Minister Jan Blatný said after the government meeting. All cases of the South African mutation in the Czech Republic have been tracked down and are subject to further analysis and sequencing, Blatný said. On Friday, a laboratory in Brno found two positive samples of the South African COVID mutation. There are nearly 10 suspected cases of the variant in the South Bohemia region.

Number of serious COVID patients hits record high

There were 1,789 COVID patients in serious condition in Czech hospitals on Monday, which is the highest number since the epidemic outbreak in the country one year ago, and 8,478 patients with coronavirus were hospitalized, the Health Ministry’s data released today show. The number of free beds in hospitals remains small in the Czech Republic. This morning, there were only 14 percent free beds at intensive care units and anaesthesiology and resuscitation units and only 24 percent of standard oxygenated beds. But the number of new COVID-19 cases again decreased on Monday. It was 10,466, or nearly 2,000 lower than a week ago.

Latest COVID-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (March 9, 2021)

  • Active cases 163 034
  • New cases 10,466
  • Deaths 22,147
  • Currently hospitalized 8,478
  • PCR tests performed 5,630,977
  • Antigen tests performed 3,246,899
  • Reported vaccinations 862,670
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