Czech health minister: No lockdowns or anti-Covid measures expected this winter

In a speech given this morning, Vlastimil Válek warned of a rise in influenza cases, but ruled out a return to last winter's anti-Covid measures.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 25.10.2022 16:30:00 (updated on 25.10.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

In a press conference this morning, Minister of Health Vlastimil Válek said there were no plans for the introduction of a lockdown or other anti-Covid-19 measures this winter.

He did, however, remind people that the numbers of seasonal influenza and Covid-19 will rise, contributing to a higher number of hospitalizations.

"I don't need a state of emergency, and I'm not planning any general measures or lockdowns," he said during a press conference earlier today, as reported in ČTK.

He added that if "the number of people positive and hospitalized increases in some regions or cities", then local measures (such as mask-wearing requirements) may be introduced.

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A better place than last year

The last state of emergency related to Covid-19 was announced in late November 2021 and lasted 30 days. The government didn't introduce any additional lockdowns since its expiry.

Further restrictions have been eased throughout the course of the year. Since mid-April, for example, masks have no longer been mandatory to wear on public transport.

Numbers of new Covid-19 cases have been decreasing recently; Czechia registered 1,804 new cases on Monday (Oct. 24) compared with 3,829 two weeks earlier (Monday Oct. 10), according to the Ministry of Health’s Covid-19 tracker.

In late October 2021, numbers of new cases were averaging 5,000 daily and were on an upward trend.

The numbers of hospitalizations caused by Covid-19 are currently similar to the year-earlier period, at just over 1,000. However, with higher rates of vaccination today, the current situation is different to last year, Válek mentioned. Earlier today, he stressed the importance of vaccination to help keep numbers of hospitalization caused by Covid-19 as low as possible.

In his speech today, Válek said he anticipated a further rise in the number of positive tests from the second half of November, possibly continuing into December, January, and February.

A push for vaccination

Referencing the Health Ministry’s “Let's Get Vaccinated for Life Without Fear” campaign, he encouraged all people to get vaccinated when possible. “As it has been repeatedly confirmed, vaccination saves hundreds of millions of human lives," Válek said during a visit to the Brno University Hospital on Monday.

"We have the most modern vaccines, we have a perfectly functioning network of general practitioners, vaccination centers, testing centers. And we have absolutely all the necessary medicines available for free and in sufficient quantities," he added today.

Czechia has currently administered over 18 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, while an estimated 64 percent of the population received a “full” vaccine (meaning two doses) against the virus.

Almost 1.75 million people in the 45-49 year age group have received a vaccine dose, compared with 750,000 in the 25-29 year age group, Ministry of Health data shows.

Figures from Our World in Data, a statistics aggregator, show that on an EU level Czechia has a below-average uptake of administered vaccine doses. In August 2022, 169 doses were given per 100 population, in contrast with Portugal, which administered 240 doses.

Chairman of the Czech Vaccinology Society in Czechia Jan Purkyně Štěpán Svačina has warned people that natural immunity for people who have recovered from the virus is not long-lasting and definitely disappears after 12 months.

Despite urging people to get vaccinated, Válek has also ruled out mandatory vaccinations, or any punishments for those who refuse to receive one. He branded Austria’s move to make vaccinations mandatory as “wrong,” as reported in Aktualne.cz.

Czechia had previously required people to present vaccine certificates to enter venues such as restaurants and nightclubs, though this was abolished in February this year.

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