Coronavirus update, May 21, 2021: EU reaches deal on Covid passports – travel could resume in July

Vaccination will open for people 35 and over on midnight Sunday, and for those 30 and over on midnight Tuesday. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 21.05.2021 09:23:00 (updated on 21.05.2021) Reading time: 5 minutes

EU agrees on Covid passports to facilitate travel from early summer

People in the European Union will probably be able to start using Covid passports to facilitate travel across borders before the summer holidays begin. Representatives of the Member States and the European Parliament reached a compromise that provides for the introduction of a free certificate in digital or paper form. Affordable Covid tests will be available to people. EU countries should not, with exceptions, impose additional conditions on certificate holders, such as quarantines. This was announced by the chief parliamentary negotiator Juan López Aguilar.

"We understand that paying for a test can be a financial burden for citizens, especially those who often have to cross borders, such as cross-border workers or families with children who have not yet been vaccinated," EU Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová said.

According to López Aguilar, the approved agreement allows states to impose their restrictions, but only in exceptional cases, such as the rapid spread of the virus. EU countries will have to recognize vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in their passports. However, they can also, at their discretion, accept hitherto unapproved preparations such as the Russian Sputnik V. The European Parliament should finally approve the introduction of passports in the first half of June, with the consent of the member states coming soon. According to the commission, Covid passports could be in operation from the beginning of July.

Vaccination to open up for people in their 30s

From midnight on Sunday to Monday, registration for Covid vaccination will be opened in the Czech Republic for people between the ages of 35 and 39. From midnight on Tuesday to Wednesday, people aged 30 to 34 will also be able to apply for vaccination. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš told CNN Prima News. He assumes that from June, all those interested will be able to register for vaccination. Healthcare professionals have administered approximately 4.4 million doses since then. About 1.14 million people have completed vaccinations.

Only people 60+ should get AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson doses

Only people aged 60 and more should be given the Covid vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson in the Czech Republic. Epidemiologist Roman Prymula told Czech Radio that the Czech Vaccinology Society agreed on it. To take effect, the recommendation needs approval from the State Drug Control Institute (SÚKL) and the Health Ministry. Prymula said that members of the Vaccinology Society long discussed the idea of the age limit for the application of AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccine being set at 50.

"In connection with our negotiations with SÚKL, which clearly promoted the age limit of 60, and after assessing all aspects, we decided to agree with the proposal," Prymula said.

If accepted by SUKL and the ministry, the recommendation can start to be applied immediately, with the exception of people under 60 who have already got the first dose of AstraZeneca. Johnson & Johnson is a single-dose vaccine. General practitioners are afraid of the setting of the age limit, which, they say, might complicate the vaccinations in their offices equipped almost exclusively with the vaccines from the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

One-third of Czechs over 65 fully Covid vaccinated

About 700,000 Czechs over 65, or one-third of them, have complete Covid vaccination almost five months since the start of the campaign, according to the data the Health Ministry released. Another 1.1 million seniors are waiting for the vaccination slot or the first or second dose. In all, vaccination has been finished in about 10.6 percent of Czechs. Currently, people over 40 and selected professional or patient groups can register. Interest has been expressed by about 4.1 million (38.4 percent) of them. The elderly are greatly interested in the vaccination. So far over 86 percent of those over 80 have registered for it or have already been inoculated. The same goes for over 85 percent of Czechs over 70 and for over 75 percent of those between 65 and 69. Some 324,000 Czechs aged 40-64 and 115,000 younger have been fully inoculated.  

Not enough Covid vaccine for corporate inoculation

The Czech Republic does not have enough vaccine against Covid-19 to start inoculation people in companies, and the priority is to vaccinate the registered people at surgeries of general practitioners, PM Andrej Babiš said. To date, general practitioners have administered 507,000 vaccine doses out of the 4.4 million doses applied in the whole country since late December when the vaccination campaign started. Until now, GPs received mainly the vaccine from AstraZeneca and newly, they will have a direct supply of the Moderna vaccine, too. Nevertheless, doctors will receive only 37,000 vaccine doses this week as against the promised 50,000 supply as the vaccine is more needed in the vaccination centers.

Czechs are more optimistic about Covid vaccination speed

The Czech public is more optimistic concerning the speed of coronavirus vaccination than it was two months ago, but a half of Czechs still deems it slow as against two-thirds of people who shared this view in March, the National Pandemic Alarm (NPA) polling project said. The number of those who consider the vaccination speed adequate rose from 11 percent in March to 30 percent. The survey asked what people look forward to within the current relaxation of the anti-epidemic measures. Some 45 percent named sitting in restaurants, coffee places, pubs and bars. One-third cannot wait to freely travel in the Czech Republic and the equal share abroad. Furthermore, 28 percent of the public are looking forward to attending cultural events. In contrast, they are the most reluctant to get back to work from their remote working regime and only 2 percent of people are looking forward getting back to their workplaces.

Thursday's new case increase lowest since the end of August

On Thursday, the number of new Covid cases dropped to 672, which was a hundred less than on Wednesday. It is also the lowest Thursday increase since the end of last August. In the last seven days there have been 53 cases of coronavirus infection in the Czech Republic per 100,000 inhabitants. In the regions it ranges from 21 in Karlovy Vary to 76 in Moravia-Silesia, according to the Health Ministry data. Data on vaccinations have not yet been updated on the website. However, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš stated on Twitter this morning that it was a record-breaking player. "Yesterday (Thursday, May 20) a record 95,700 vaccinated," he said. The reproduction number R which indicates the rate of spread of the epidemic, fell to 0.73 compared to Thursday. This is the lowest figure for the last month.  

Latest Covid-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (May 21, 2021)

  • New cases 672
  • Deaths 29,990
  • Currently hospitalized 1,031
  • PCR tests performed 7,111,334
  • Antigen tests performed 15,437,792
  • Total vaccinations 4,388,590 (not updated)
  • Daily increase in vaccinations -
  • People who have completed vaccination 1,139,510 ((not updated)
  • New cases per 100,000 in seven days 53
  • PES index 44
  • R number 0.73
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