Covid-19: Czech Medical Chamber head calls for lockdown as hundreds of medical staff test positive daily

Photo: Jihlava Hospital

So many doctors, nurses and other medical professionals have contracted Covid-19 in recent days that without a government lockdown and strict adherence to measures there is no chance of bringing the situation under control, warns Dr Milan Kubek, head of the Czech Medical Chamber.

Over the past few weeks, the Czech Republic has seen the largest average increases in new Covid-19 cases in Europe and an alarming spike in hospitalisations and deaths. A third of the 2,201 fatalities since March were recorded just in the past week.

While the government has closed schools and non-essential businesses, and reimposed the mandatory wearing of facemasks even outdoors, it has stopped short of imposing a lockdown like in the first wave this spring. It is high time to take that step, Dr Milan Kubek told Czech Radio, ahead of a government meeting on Monday to assess the crisis.

Milan Kubek, photo: ČT24

“I feel like I am living in a parallel universe. While hospitals in places like Uherské Hradiště and Zlín are strained to the breaking point, at the same time people are strolling along the riverbanks and swarming the markets to buy organic carrots.

“It is clear we cannot control the pandemic in such a way. The government has a duty to protect people’s health by introducing a lockdown. It seems we do not have the mentality as in Sweden, where most measures worked voluntarily. For us, it must come through restrictions and orders.”

Photo: Václav Plecháček, ČRo

Meanwhile, Dr Kubek says that nowhere near enough doctors working abroad can be expected to answer calls to return home to bolster the healthcare system. So far, only 25 have announced they are ready to do so – that’s about a quarter of the number of healthcare staff testing positive for Covid-19 each day.

“A ‘quarantined’ medical professional must now still work for a long time. About 1,000 of them test positive every day. The latest numbers show 2,600 doctors, 6,000 nurses and 4,500 other professionals are infected. That’s more than 13,000 in total. And unfortunately, they are not yet recovering, because they are among the wave now rolling into hospitals.”

Václav Hořejší, photo: Alžběta Švarcová, ČRo

Václav Hořejší, a leading immunologist and geneticist, is among those who predict thousands more deaths in the coming weeks without a lockdown. Even more damaging than missteps the government took in addressing the crisis, he told Czech Television, are doctors who downplay or discount the severity of Covid-19.

“Many people think that the government, the health minister or the prime minister himself are to blame for the horrible situation now. … But I have long said that the greater blame lies with irresponsible doctors, popular in the media, who write these open letters and petitions criticizing the government for harsh measures leading to restrictions on freedoms, and to economic losses.”

Possibly foreshadowing the announcement of a lockdown, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said on Sunday that if people do not comply with current restrictions, and barring a miracle, the need for even tougher ones are inevitable.