Czech weekend news in brief: top stories for Jan. 31, 2021

Czech COVID-19 PES index rises to 70, rare zebras born at Dvůr Králové Zoo, and more top headlines from this weekend.

ČTK

Written by ČTK Published on 31.01.2021 09:24:00 (updated on 01.02.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

Number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the Czech Republic lowest since Dec. 27

The number of patients with COVID-19 in Czech hospitals dropped by 476 to 5,391 on Saturday, the lowest number since December 27, according to data released by the Health Ministry this morning. Czech hospitals faced the highest inflow of coronavirus patients in early November, when it regularly exceeded 8,000. This year, a high of 7,471 hospitalizations was reported on January 7. On average, there have been 6,600 COVID-19 patients in Czech hospitals per day since the beginning of this year.

The Czech Republic saw 4,025 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Saturday, roughly 200 fewer than a week ago, while 28 percent of the tests conducted were positive, about the same as on Thursday and almost 3 percent more than on Friday. The number of new confirmed cases on Saturday was a half of the Friday tally. However, the number of tests conducted on Saturday was also roughly half of Friday's total

Czech PES index rises from 68 to 70 points

The Czech Republic's PES COVID-19 risk index rose from 68 to 70 points today, data from the Czech Health Ministry released this morning shows. The score still corresponds to the fourth alert level, while current anti-coronavirus measures in the Czech Republic correspond to the strictest fifth level.

Czech lockdown measures were originally supposed to be tightened or softened based on the index. However, Health Minister Jan Blatný said on Thursday that the PES index is no longer a relevant basis for the lockdown rules. The reproduction number, the average number of people infected by one COVID-19 positive patient, slightly increased from 0.98 on Friday to over 0.99 on Saturday, its highest level since January 13.

Czech Green Party calls on government to better handle COVID-19 crisis

The Green Party has called on the Czech government to secure sufficient anti-COVID-19 vaccination capacities, free testing, tracing of infections, and affordable respirators in a resolution approved during their online congress today.

Moreover, the party says that the cabinet of PM Andrej Babiš should provide a sufficient economic motivation for COVID-19 patients to behave responsibly, for instance by raising sick pay to 100 percent of their wages. The Greens, who are not represented in the Chamber of Deputies but only in the Senate, also demand sufficient compensation for sole traders, small and medium-size businesses, and employees affected by the lockdown measures.

Czech Republic may take in more persecuted Belarusians

The Czech Republic may admit more Belarusians, this time healthcare workers and their families persecuted by the authoritarian regime of Alexander Lukashenko, according to an Interior Ministry proposal that the government will debate on Monday. Previously, the Czech Republic accepted 60 persecuted Belarusian citizens who received healthcare and rehabilitation.

"The Interior Ministry may use the budget of the Permanent Health and Humanitarian Programme Medevac for 2021 in order to secure their transport to the Czech Republic and assistance after the arrival," the proposal said. The Interior Ministry should secure residence permits and short-term accommodation, and help the Belarusians enter the labor market. At the same time, it would guarantee adherence to measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, such as testing and possible isolation.

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Prague court upholds Ministry's power to make face masks mandatory during state of emergency

The Health Ministry has the authority to order a blanket requirement to wear face masks under the state of emergency, a Prague court ruled on Friday rejecting lawyer Adam Černý's complaint, Česká justice reports. In his complaint, Černý challenged the ministry's power to impose the requirement during the state of emergency and said it can only be done by the cabinet through a directive.

Citing its own previous verdict, the Prague Municipal Court said the public health protection law empowers the ministry to order the face mask requirement outside the state of emergency. It would be absurd if the ministry were banned from ordering it in even a worse epidemiological situation with the state of emergency in force, the court said, adding that the face mask requirement does not infringe upon people's rights and freedoms.

Two very rare zebras among six born at Dvůr Králové Zoo

Two rare maneless zebras were among the six zebras born in the Dvůr Králové Zoo last year, and its zebra herd now comprises of 45 zebras from three species and six forms/ This makes the zoo one of the world leaders in zebra breeding, its spokesman Michal Šťastný says.

Births of the maneless zebra, a critically endangered species, have been very rare. Last year, Dvůr Králové was the only zoo in the world to manage it, hailing the birth of two females. Apart from the maneless zebras, the local herd also includes Grant's zebras, Chapman's zebras, Hartmann's mountain zebras, Burchell's zebras and the endangered Grevy's zebras.

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