Former health minister: 'Count on tough restrictions in the Czech Republic until March'

The former health minister and epidemiologist Roman Prymula says COVID-19 passports could allow some events to start taking place.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 15.01.2021 09:55 (updated on 15.01.2021)

Epidemiologist and former health minister Roman Prymula said relatively strict restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus can be expected until about March, and they should be gradually loosened between April and June. After that only mild measures corresponding to last summer, or milder ones, should apply. He made his comments at a discussion organized as part of the Horeka 112 project.

Prymula said data collected worldwide shows that the risk of spreading COVID-19 in catering establishments where people eat from a buffet, the risk is eight out of nine, with nine being the most risky.

In restaurants where people are served at the table the risk is at seven on a nine-point scale. For hotels, the risk is at the fourth degree. He said this risk should be reflected in government measures.

Currently, restaurants can only offer takeaway or delivery of food, and people and not supposed to congregate in front of culinary establishments or eat or drink. Restaurateurs have complained that the amount of income they get from takeaway and delivery is minimal. Much of their potential profit is also taken away by high delivery fees.

In connection with the relaxation of restrictions, there is an extensive discussion about the introduction of a COVID-19 passport, Prymula added. It should include information on whether the person has been vaccinated and tested against the disease. The passport could be used to allow people to attend some facilities and events.

He added that it is not fair to base the possibility of using air transport, going to a mass event, or to a company just on whether a person is vaccinated. If someone is not vaccinated because, for example, their medical condition does not allow it, they should be able to prove themselves with a negative test, he said.

Finance Minister Alena Schillerová (for ANO), however, has said that the Czech government is not discussing the introduction of a COVID-19 passport.

The reopening of some business activities is being considered in connection with antigen tests. For example, hotels and pensions could be opened in the fourth stage of the five-level PES system, according to Industry and Trade Minister Karel Havlíček (for ANO). Thanks to antigen tests, it would be possible to allow conferences or trade fairs, he said.

The Road from Darkness (Cesta ze tmy) initiative in early December proposed a system of measures to allow people to gather for cultural, social or sporting events. The main tool should be a throat swab test to test all participants, including staff and performers, shortly before the event.

Most concerts and cultural events have been canceled since March 2020, though there were a few big events in the summer and fall including a banquet on Prague’s Charles Bridge, the Praha Září festival in Stromovka, and the Febiofest film festival.