Blanket school Covid tests over but officials ready to respond to regional outbreaks

Covid tests at the Czech Republic’s schools at the start of the new term did not produce particularly concerning results and such blanket testing will no longer be employed. However, they could be brought back at local level if isolated outbreaks occur, the health minister says.

Tests for Covid-19 welcomed Czech school pupils and students to the new academic year at the start of September, with an enormous number being carried out in three rounds across different days.

Officials have now had a chance to analyse the results and the minister of health, Adam Vojtěch, was upbeat when he spoke to journalists on Wednesday.

The number of positive cases uncovered has not given cause for alarm, Mr. Vojtěch said.

The number of infections detected is not increasing and in some places is even on the decline, he said.

Adam Vojtěch | Photo: Czech Television

There has been a higher incidence of the coronavirus among secondary students than at elementary schools, but this merely reflects that situation at national level; the virus is now chiefly spreading among those aged 16 to 29, Mr. Vojtěch told reporters.

The minister repeated that the kind of across the board Covid testing conducted on September 1, 6 and 9 will not be continued.

But this does not mean that testing is a thing of the past for the country’s school children.

Flanked by Education Minister Robert Plaga, Mr. Vojtěch said that the pair had not ruled out more procedures of that nature.

“We agree that we could make use of blanket screening tests in the course of the autumn. That would again allow us to map how the situation looks with regard to infections at schools. That would probably involve two rounds of testing, but we still need assess that with public health officials.”

As Minister Vojtěch was speaking, one elementary school in Prague 3 had already been closed down for a 10-day period.

The principal said that 44 children had tested positive for Covid; a third of the school’s pupils are in quarantine, along with 13 teachers.

Mr. Vojtěch said that if the situation got out of control in individual regions, blanket testing could take place in a targeted manner.

Robert Plaga | Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

Minister Plaga said his officials were ready for action if this necessity arose.

“If a decision is made to make use of antigen tests at local level, this will be announced sufficiently in advance, to enable us to assess the situation at those schools. This would allow us to supply sufficient antigen tests to the schools that require them.”

In early September a total of nearly 3.2 million tests, both antigen and PCR, were conducted at the Czech Republic’s schools. Those tests turned up 290 infections at elementary schools and 148 at secondary schools.

There were 11.8 positive tests per every 100,000 conducted at elementary schools, while the figure for secondary schools was 20.6 per 100,000.