Czech morning news in brief: Top stories for Dec. 11, 2020

Free antigen testing to start Dec. 18, possible early holiday for schools, organizations demand change in care for elderly, disabled. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 11.12.2020 08:15:00 (updated on 11.12.2020) Reading time: 6 minutes

Top news stories for Dec. 11, 2020, compiled by CTK

Free antigen testing to start Dec. 18 in Czech Republic

Voluntary, free antigen testing of the population will take place from Dec. 18 - Jan. 15. Everyone can be tested repeatedly, but no more than once every five days, according to information published by the Ministry of Health on their website. A negative test, the result of which is known within 15 to 20 minutes, will also allow family and friends to visit senior citizen homes.

"Any interested citizen can be tested. We are counting on about 2,000 locations, and a large number of general practitioners who will also take part," said Minister of Health Jan Blatný (ANO). According to a STEM survey, 40 percent of people are interested in comprehensive testing. Hospitals and other locations could have the capacity to test about three million adults.

"General practitioners have promised cooperation, but the responsibility should definitely not fall on them. We agreed that the testing should take place in the current sampling centers, which should absorb the majority of citizens, "Petr Šonka, chairman of the Association of General Practitioners, told Práva.

Tests are purchased through health care providers and will be paid for by health insurance companies. According to the ministry website, testing will take place in the "Network of Antigen Collection Centers - AOC" in the currently established network of sampling points in individual regions, as well as general practitioners and outpatient specialists.

Increase in PES level could also apply to schools

A possible tightening of measures against COVID-19, which the government will decide on Monday, will most likely also apply to schools. The ministry will inform the schools about the timing, spokeswoman of the Ministry of Education Aneta Lednová told ČTK.

According to her, the Minister of Education Robert Plaga (AVO) will also decide on a possible extension of the Christmas holidays for students on Monday. He agreed with the Minister of Health Jan Blatný (ANO) on the extension, said Lednová.

Blatný said that Plaga will consider extending the Christmas holidays due to the pandemic. Instead of the originally planned Dec. 22 date, students' last day before the Christmas break would be Friday, Dec. 18. The government should decide on Monday.

"In the event that the situation worsens, and thus the transition to PES level four, the given measures should also apply to schools," Lednová told ČTK yesterday. According to her, in the event of stricter measures, schools will primarily follow the instructions for the given level, which they already have available." As always, we will inform them in promptly about possible partial adjustments or timing, via data boxes," she said.

EMA cannot guarantee that it will approve Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna vaccines

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) cannot guarantee at this stage that it will recommend the COVID-19 vaccine from the American company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for approval. The head of the agency Emer Cooke said, according to Reuters.

Pfizer, BioNTech and the American company Moderna applied for conditional registration of their vaccines on the European Union market in early December. The EMA is currently researching vaccines, and will evaluate the Pfizer and BioNTech versions by Dec. 29 and Moderna by Jan. 12. The decision must then be approved by the European Commission.

"We have a dataset of more than 30,000 subjects monitored during clinical trials. This gives us a very strong set of safety and efficacy data on which to base our decisions," Cooke told MEPs. "We cannot guarantee that the (evaluation) will have a positive result," she added.

Minister Blatný will to decide on further pandemic action

The Czech Minister of Health Jan Blatný (ANO) and other representatives of the ministry will review the further development of the COVID-19 pandemic today. The number of new cases has started to increase again in recent days, with more than 6,400 newly tested positive on Wednesday, which was the most in the last two weeks.

"It is possible that a decision will be made on Monday, it would be PES level 4. If such a change took place, there would be enough time for everyone to prepare for it," said Blatný. He added that the rules would be adjusted so that even small shops could remain open and not be at a disadvantage compared to supermarkets.

The PES risk score rose to 64 points out of a hundred over the weekend, which would correspond to PES level four. However, the government has not yet decided to tighten anti-pandemic measures, which correspond to the third PES level since last Thursday, although according to the original methodology, it was to be tightened after three days.

According to experts, the opening of shops, restaurants and services last Thursday and the related increase in social contacts could not yet affect the number of infected. If more stringent action is needed when that happens, the government will decide on Monday. However, the minister declared yesterday that this time the shops will remain open in during the fourth PES level, so as not to favor large supermarkets that sell other products in addition to food.

U.S. Embassy gives Human Rights Award to Veronika Jezkova

The U.S. Embassy in Prague has given its annual Alice Garrigue Masarykova Award for contribution to human rights to Veronika Jezkova, head of the Pro Bono Aliance organization and legal section of the proFem organization, the embassy wrote in a press release yesterday.

Ambassador Stephen King presented the prize to her for her tireless efforts to eliminate violence against women and her work promoting equal access to justice. The U.S. Embassy established the award tradition in 2004. Traditionally, ambassadors bestow the prize on December 10, which marks the Human Rights Day.

The prize is named after Alice Garrique Masarykova (1879-1966), a teacher, sociologist, politician and a daughter of the first Czechoslovak president Tomas Garrique Masaryk (1918-1935). It is awarded to personalities or organizations for their extraordinary contribution to human rights development in the Czech Republic, and for their support of social justice and democratic freedom leading to an open civic society.

Last year, the co-founder and director of the People in Need NGO Simon Panek received the award.

Organizations demanding change in care for elderly, disabled

Four major organizations and associations in support of the disabled, elderly and caregivers have demanded the Czech government, lawmakers and authorities to change the system of care for the elderly and disabled, they said on the Human Rights Day yesterday.

They said large institutes should be phased out, while community services should be developed.

The organizations said the authorities have ignored the disabled, elderly and caregivers, and that the pandemic had even worsened this discrimination, having shown that these institutions have stopped being effective.

The statement was signed by the Alliance for Individualized Support (AIP), made up of over 50 organizations supporting the disabled and chronically ill and Inclusion Europe that defends the interest of people with impaired intellect, having branches in 40 countries.

It was also signed by the Unity for Deinstitutionalization (JDI), an umbrella organization for experts and the disadvantaged, insisting on community care, as well as the Society for Mentally Impaired People in the Czech Republic.

Prague-operated theaters to stay closed until end of February

All theatres operated by the City of Prague will remain closed until the end of February due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic and the unpredictability of the cabinet's restrictions, the theatres' heads and city councilors agreed yesterday.

"We have agreed with the directors of the theatres, including the FOK Orchestra, that we will not be waiting for how the situation will develop on the scale of the [government-introduced five-level] PES system. Our new decision is comprehensible to both the theatre staff and spectators, they know what to do and they do not depend on the government's ad hoc decisions," councilor Hana Trestikova said.

She said financial losses are yet to be calculated. "The theatres will lose their ticket revenues, but their operational costs will decline at the same time," she said.

Exhibition marks the anniversary of architect Loos's birth

An exhibition presenting the work of Adolf Loos, the Austrian architect born in Brno 150 years ago, opened in the Prague's Technical Museum yesterday, focusing on his legacy in Bohemia and Moravia, and its opening being transmitted online.

In the exhibition, visitors can see a list of Loos's various accomplishments and important projects in the Czech Republic and abroad. There are models of his works such as the Muller Villa in Prague, the Brummel House in Plzen and the town houses for clerks in Nachod on display.

Photos of Loos's preserved buildings and their interiors in the Czech Republic show typical principles of his work such as the relation between inner and outer elements, symmetry, the enfilade or interconnection of rooms, and also raumplan, a system of deriving a room's height from its area and function.

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