Czech morning news in brief: top stories for Jan. 9, 2021

Czech PES score rises to 87 after 13,029 new cases Friday, one test per week enough for commuter travel to Saxony, and more


Written by ČTK Published on 09.01.2021 07:00:00 (updated on 09.01.2021) Reading time: 4 minutes

Czechia Republic reports 13,029 new COVID-19 cases Friday; PES index at 87

The Czech Republic's PES COVID-19 risk index score increased by one point to 87 on Friday, and the Czech Republic remains within the highest risk degree, according to the latest data from the Czech Health Ministry. Measures corresponding to the fifth alert level have been in effect in the country since December 30.

The Czech Republic reported 13,029 coronavirus cases on Friday, which is about 1,800 fewer than on Thursday. The current number of known infections is record high now, at 155,730. There are 7,246 people with COVID-19 in Czech hospitals, and 1,108 of them are in serious condition. On Friday, 88 COVID-19-related deaths were reported.

The reproduction number, which indicates how many people one COVID-19 patient will infect, increased from 1.11 to 1.20. The number of the infected per 100,000 inhabitants slightly increased as well as the two-week average number of the infected among the elderly.

One test per week enough for Czech commuters traveling to Saxony

One COVID-19 test a week will suffice for those commuting to work in Saxony, and those who need it may take it in the Czech Republic for free, Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček said on Friday. Petříček discussed the measure, which will take effect from January 18, with Saxony Social Affairs Minister Petra Kopping after it was approved by the regional government.

The number of Czech commuters working in Saxony is estimated at 5,000. They may make use of the antigen testing that is currently covered by Czech health insurance.

Following a Saxony government meeting, Economy Minister Martin Dulig said the region will require only one test a week instead of originally-planned two from Czechs and Poles commuting to work or study in Saxony. Originally, Saxony wanted to require two tests a week from the commuters as of January 11, which raised criticism from both the commuters and their Saxony employers, and reservations on the part of trade unions and the relevant chambers of commerce.

"Today, we proposed to Saxony that the requirement be once a week only, with the commuters being able to have themselves tested for free in the Czech Republic. The minister's reaction to the proposal was positive," Petříček told media after video talks with Kopping.

Czech Republic supports EU call for release of Hong Kong activists

The Czech Republic supports the European Union call for the release of pro-democracy activists arrested in Hong Kong, Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček wrote on Twitter Friday. "Czechia supports the EU call for the immediate release of all the detained," Petříček says.

The Chinese embassy in Prague tweeted that China asks for respect to its sovereignty and rejects interference in its internal affairs. On Wednesday, 53 pro-democracy activists were detained in Hong Kong over suspected violation of the national security law. This was the biggest action against the opposition in Hong Kong based on the controversial new law. Authorities said that the activists tried to topple the government.

The opposition Democratic Party said that police arrested the activists over an unofficial election primary organised by pro-democracy parties in July 2020. Petříček said the arrest of the activists is another case of suppression of political freedoms and democratic principles that the Hong Kong constitution guarantees.

Czech regions oppose visits to over-burdened hospitals

Association of Czech Regions head Martin Kuba (Civic Democrats, ODS) has asked Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) and Health Minister Jan Blatný (for ANO) to once again ban hospitals visits due to the COVID-19 epidemic, the Association's Jana Pavlíková told CTK.

Kuba, who is the governor of the South Bohemia region , said hospitals must deal with many COVID-19 patients and should not be burdened with visits that require necessary organisational measures and also risk infection.

Blatný said on Thursday that a new government measure would allow for visits in hospitals. Until now, visits have been banned, except for visits to child patients, patients in hospices, and at child deliveries. Visitors will need a negative test for COVID-19 and a respirator, Blatný said.

Czech scientists create new COVID-19 testing device

Experts from the Institute of Physics at the Czech Academy of Sciences (FZU AV) in cooperation with the Cardam firm are preparing a prototype of a device to detect coronavirus in saliva, AV representatives have said in a press release.

The device resembles an automatic drink machine and can help test a high number of people in a short amount of time. It will not require qualified personnel to operate it. Its trials shows that its sensitivity is similar to the nasal swabs commonly used in PCR tests. An internal biosensor measures not only the virus incidence, but also its concentration, within 15 minutes.

"The material of the biochip is directly composed to detect this virus. It is covered with a thin layer of a special polymer that catches the respective substance directly from a biological sample in a unique way," said Hana Lisalova from the FZU. The institute wants to have the polymer patented. Currently, FZU and Cardam researchers are cooperating on the design and the production of a robotic system to analyze the samples en masse.

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