Coronavirus update, May 27, 2021: Covid passports are top priority for new health minister

Plus: Vojtěch tells Zeman Sputnik is a non-issue, foreign minister says Czech Covid passport will be ready by July 1. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 27.05.2021 09:39:00 (updated on 27.05.2021) Reading time: 6 minutes

Babiš: Vojtěch must solve Covid passport, revaccination

The new Health Minister Adam Vojtěch has to solve the legislative introduction of European Covid-19 vaccine passports and the revaccination strategy soon, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said when he inaugurated Vojtěch in his office yesterday. On Tuesday, the lower house of Parliament refused to confirm the continuation of the state of legislative emergency that would have enabled it to deal with the government bill on the issuance of the planned EU Covid passports in a sped-up regime.

"The Covid passport should include only data on the vaccination. The initial proposal that was in the lower house was not very good. There are some things that should not have been there," Babiš said.

He said Vojtěch should present the revised proposal to the government next Monday. Babiš said the coronavirus revaccination might concern only people aged over 65 and the chronically ill. Currently, the vaccination of the Czech population needs to be completed and a long-term strategy needs to be prepared, Babiš said. It has to be decided where should be people vaccinated and in what interval, he added.

Foreign Minister: National Covid passports will be ready by July

Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhánek said a Czech travel document confirming that the holder has been vaccinated, tested negative, or recovered from Covid should be in use by the start of July.

"I believe that even before the first of July we will be able to use the national Covidpas for travel with countries where we have concluded bilateral agreements," Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhánek said, according to Czech Television.

The priority for Czech diplomacy is now to make bilateral agreements with the countries where Czechs like to go such as Croatia or Greece. The use of a similar Covid passport issued on the EU level would require a change in Czech legislation, but the lower house of Parliament has refused to pass it in an expedited regime.  

Vojtěch: No need for Sputnik V

After being named health minister, Adam Vojtěch talked with President Miloš Zeman about the epidemic and the vaccination. He said the young generation needs to be persuaded to get vaccinated and the Russian Sputnik vaccine, which Zeman strongly promoted, was no longer an issue.

"Our problem will rather be to use the vaccines that we will have," he said.

Asked about personnel changes at the Health Ministry, Vojtěch said he did not plan any significant ones, but that he would like to bring some close aides to the office. Zeman appointed Vojtěch to head the health ministry yesterday, but there was no official ceremony. Zeman’s spokesman Jiří Ovčáček tweeted pictures of the meeting, which was also attended by Presidential Office head Vratislav Mynář and protocol head Vladimír Kruliš.

Babiš: Vojtěch lives in a flat

When asked why he asked Adam Vojtěch to become health minister again, Babiš said the media already knew his property situation. "Perhaps because he has no real estate and lives in a flat he rents," Babiš said. His predecessor Petr Arenberger left the post in connection with his property situation. Vojtěch admitted that it was a surprise for him to return to the ministry. He said his priorities in office would be health care funding and legislation, mentioning an amendment to the law on health insurance, debated in the lower house now, and the bill on addictive substances to introduce new rules for hemp growing that he helped draft in the past. Vojtěch also said it would be crucial to set the financial coverage of health care from public health insurance.

"A time of slow return to standard non-Covid care is coming for the health care sector, but stability and development for all segments needs to be secured," he said.

Vojtěch: students should be tested after summer holidays

Health Minister Adam Vojtěch said after his inauguration he expects that students should be obligatorily tested for coronavirus when they return to school after the summer holidays. He said there would be an increased risk of the infection spreading as families would be returning from holidays abroad. Vojtěch said a broader assessment of the positive samples concerning the virus variations should be done. Babiš said the present capacity for sequencing the positive samples, which confirms Covid variations, is sufficient in the current epidemic situation. Currently, organizations paid by the state can sequence about 4,000 samples a month.

Over 100,000 people aged 30–34 register for Covid vaccine

More than 100,000 people aged 30–34 have registered for the Covid vaccination since the reservation system opened to them in the Czech Republic on Tuesday night until 2:30 p.m. yesterday, Smart Quarantine project representatives have tweeted. This age group shows a higher interest than people between 35 and 39, but is less interested in the inoculation than people aged 40-44. There are over 722,000 people aged 30-34 in the 10.6-million Czech Republic. At least one vaccine doses has been administered to some 66,000 of them from priority groups, such as healthcare workers, teachers and other selected professionals and those suffering from chronic diseases.

Military to deploy 220 reservists to help with vaccination

The Czech military will deploy 220 soldiers from active reserves to help with the Covid inoculation in the National Vaccination Center in Prague for one month from mid-July, Chief of Staff Aleš Opata has decided, General Staff spokeswoman Magdalena Dvořáková said. The reservists will help the personnel of the Central Military Hospital in the center situated in the O2 universum arena from July 14 to August 15. They will complement the 70 professional soldiers who have been serving in the center as assistants since its opening. The deployment of active reserves is a pilot project. Male and female active reservists will rotate in groups of 55 soldiers.

"Reservists have been helping during the entire pandemic as volunteers in various ways. Now it is time to draft them. We thereby want to test the process of mass drafting of active reserves under a new piece of legislation valid since 2016," Opata said.

Non-state museums may ask for compensation

Non-state museums and galleries in the Czech Republic may ask the Culture Ministry to compensate them up to 80 percent of eligible operating costs for 2020. within an extra CZK 100 million Covid program and the applications may be submitted from May 31 to June 30, ministry spokeswoman Michaela Lagronová said. One condition is that the collections of the applying cultural institution have to be registered within the central register of collections and that they provide public cultural service. Eligible entities include businesspeople as well as NGOs, municipalities and regions. The ministry will examine the slump in ticket sales in 2020 as against 2019. The facilities have to prove that they welcomed at least 500 people either in 2019 or in any of the three preceding years.

Number of daily vaccine doses almost reaches 100,000

There were another 541 coronavirus cases on Wednesday in the Czech Republic, the smallest number on a workday since Sept. 1, according to Health Ministry data released this morning. Compared to last Wednesday, the number fell by almost one-third. There were 35 cases of the infection per 100,000 population on Wednesday, while there were 38 one day before. The national reproduction number, showing the speed of the epidemic spread, has been 0.7 for a week. If under one, which has been the case since mid-April, the epidemic slows down. The number of vaccinations was a record high, at 97,233, close the the goal of 1000,000 a day that was supposed to have been reached by Easter. Almost 5 million doses of vaccine have been administered since the end of 2020.

Latest Covid-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (May 27, 2021)

  • New cases 541
  • Deaths 30,059
  • Currently hospitalized 728
  • PCR tests performed 7,224,242
  • Antigen tests performed 16,528,509
  • Total vaccinations 4,924,951
  • Daily increase in vaccinations 97,233
  • People who have completed vaccination 1,318,768
  • New cases per 100,000 in seven days 35
  • PES index 39
  • R number 0.71
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