Czech morning news in brief: top stories for Dec. 31, 2020

Another shipment of vaccine has arrived, all teachers to become priority group for COVID vaccination, aid shipment sent to Croatia Staff

Written by Staff Published on 31.12.2020 08:28:00 (updated on 31.12.2020) Reading time: 5 minutes

Another shipment of vaccine has arrived

Further vaccines against coronavirus from the Pfizer and BioNTech firms have been delivered to the Czech Republic and Prague hospitals have already received it, Health Ministry spokeswoman Barbora Peterová told ČTK. “The vaccines should also get to the vast majority of the regions,” she said.

After the Health Ministry decided on Tuesday that up to six doses instead of five may be taken from one ampule, up to 23,400 may be vaccinated from this delivery.

Pfizer spokesman Tomáš Sazima said the vaccine would be delivered to 20 regional vaccination centers. These centers ordered the vaccines via the Health Ministry and the producer distributes the vaccines to them, he said.

The first 9,750 vaccines arrived on Saturday, and four hospitals in Prague and two in Brno applied nearly all of them, mostly to healthcare workers but also to patients and seniors from care homes. The vaccination began Dec. 27, like in most other EU countries.

According to available data, about 3,100 were vaccinated in the first two days, which is about 0.03 percent of the population. Most of the vaccinated from the first delivery have already been used, according to information from the hospitals.

According to earlier information, further vaccines are to be delivered once a week, with the first delivery expected on Jan. 7.

Second day in a row for record COVID-19 cases

A record 16,939 new COVID-19 cases were reported, making it two days in a row that the record has been broken. Nearly 52 percent of the tests for COVID-19 were positive, which has also been the highest figure, the Health Ministry data show.

The PES index has also remained at 80 for the second day, corresponding to the fifth and highest level on the PES anti-epidemic scale. All its parameters have worsened since Wednesday, according to Health Ministry data.

The reproduction number is 1.19, while on Wednesday it was 1.0 and earlier this week under 1. When it is under 1, it means that the epidemic is slowing down.

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the last 14 days per 100,000 inhabitants increased from 1,006 to 1,087 today. The number of newly infected people aged over 65 in the last 14 days increased as well, to 872 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Since March, the Czech Republic has reported a total of 718,661 COVID-19 cases. There have been 592,581 recoveries. There are currently 114,500 active COVID-19 cases in the Czech Republic. There are 5,893 hospitalized. The country has reported 11,580 deaths since the start of the pandemic

All teachers to become priority group for COVID vaccination

All teachers, including those from kindergartens and special schools, will be among the priority groups to be vaccinated against coronavirus preferentially, Education Ministry spokeswoman Aneta Lednová wrote ČTK.

On Tuesday, Education Minister Robert Plaga (ANO) called for a modification of the national vaccination strategy, as it omitted personnel of kindergartens and special schools for disabled children.

Lednová said that representatives of both ministries discussed modifications of the strategy so that all education staff have priority and a special emphasis is on those from kindergartens and special schools.

Currently, the vaccination strategy stipulates that the priority groups to receive vaccination sooner than the broad public are as follows: medical professionals in hospitals and inpatient facilities; hospitalized elderly people and clients of retirement homes; doctors and soldiers helping to curb the coronavirus pandemic; firefighters, police members and rescue workers.

Even though the vaccination guidelines list also teaching staff, only elementary school teachers were mentioned explicitly.

Hospitals cannot accept patients for elective care as of Thursday

 Czech hospitals must not accept patients for non-urgent elective care as of Thursday and instead, they have to devote more capacity to the COVID-19 infected, a special measure issued by the Health Ministry states.

Providers of long-term and further medical care should gradually free beds in their facilities so that patients with coronavirus from emergency units can be transported there, the ministry ordered.

The Czech Republic saw similar steps in the spring, and as of Dec. 22, the ministry urged hospitals to reduce elective care.

Health Minister Jan Blatný (for ANO) deems the rise in the hospitalized more serious than the new coronavirus cases rising figure, he told ČTK. According to Blatny, the first week in January will be crucial.

The ministry urges the hospitals to “stop immediately” elective care. However, the provision also stipulates that urgent treatment units will not be affected.

Czechs sending humanitarian aid to Croatia

 Four trucks with humanitarian aid for Croatia, hit by a disastrous earthquake, left from the firefighting base in Zbiroh at 3 pm yesterday.

The Czech Republic has sent the material equipment worth about five million crowns, mostly tents, sleeping bags and lighting equipment.

The convoy of trucks and one command vehicle with 10 members of the Fire Authority (HZS) will have a stop at the base in Brno from where it will continue to Croatia at night, Rudolf Kramář, from the HZDS headquarters, said.

“The material humanitarian aid, the Czech Republic provided after a decision of the interior minister, is comprised of 600 pieces of camp beds with mattresses, 1,200 sleeping bags, 1,200 blankets, ten electric heaters, two lighting systems and one 1-KW balloon light,” Kramar said.

Croatia was hit by an earthquake of the 6.2 magnitude on Tuesday afternoon. Its tremor was felt in Czechia and Slovakia, too. Croatian media have reported at least seven casualties, many injured and significant material damage.

ČSSD to debate procedure concerning tax package unsigned by Zeman

The Czech junior government Social Democrats (ČSSD) plan to debate the tax package approval procedure with other parties and are ready to sign a request for President Miloš Zeman's letter about the bill to be checked by the Constitutional Court, ČSSD head Jan Hamáček told ČTK.

He referred to a letter Zeman sent to Chamber of Deputies chairman Radek Vondráček (ANO) on Monday together with the tax package that had been submitted to him for signing and that he returned unsigned. In the letter, Zeman wrote that “he is returning the bill for a further measure.”

The tax package, passed by the two houses of Parliament earlier this month, mainly reduces the individual income tax by abolishing super-gross wage and raising the basic tax credit per taxpayer. Zeman previously said he would neither sign nor veto it and thus enable it to take effect. On Monday he sent it back to Vondráček along with an explanatory letter.

Some lawyers and politicians say that Zeman, with the way he formulated his letter, might have vetoed the bill by mistake, and that the Chamber of Deputies should take a new vote on it.

Czech state to spend CZK 700 million on elections in 2021

The Czech state plans to spend CZK 697.4 million on the organization of the general election that will be held on Oct. 8–9, according to the 2021 state budget bill, while this year the state had CZK 807 million for the autumn regional and Senate elections.

There are further CZK 670 million in the 2021 state budget for the election costs of the political parties. Apart from this, the parties will get CZK 590 million from the state for their operation.

The state pays parties CZK 900,000 per one MP and CZK 250,000 per one regional assembly member. Moreover, parties that won more than 3 percent of the vote in the general election get CZK 6 million–10 million a year.

In 2019, when the elections to the European Parliament were held, the state spent CZK 635 million on elections. Next year, local elections may be held in municipalities in which the local authorities broke up.

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