CR climbs to highest bracket of Covid risk as assessment method set to change

Illustrative photo: Engin Akyurt, Unsplash / CC0

The Czech Republic’s national Covid-19 risk index has climbed to the highest level on the government’s tiered system of restrictions. However, the methodology for establishing what measures should be taken is set to change in the coming weeks, officials have said.

New measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus came into force in the Czech Republic on Friday as the country moved to level four on the national colour-coded system of restrictions. The most notable was the closure of restaurants, bars and hotels.

Coincidentally, Friday was also the day when – for the first time – the national Covid-19 risk index climbed to 76, the bottom of the highest level on the government’s recently introduced system, five.

Photo: archive of Czech Ministry of Health

The risk index needs to be in a certain bracket for some time before the country actually moves to a higher level of restrictions.

However, the whole methodology of setting the risk index is set for an overhaul.

This comes in response to a change in testing trends with the launch of free antigen tests for the entire population earlier this week.

Such tests have been offered to all teachers for a fortnight now and in total have recorded around 5 percent positive cases.

Ladislav Dušek, director of the Czech Institute of Health Information and Statistics, spoke to reporters on Friday.

“Across the board testing will invariably change our statistics. New patients, new cases, will come to us who we wouldn’t otherwise have detected. The most valuable will be the asymptomatic cases, where we hope people will be responsible and enter isolation. Also it will of course alter relative positivity. The alternative calculation method is not sustainable when we imagine that we will have hundreds of thousands of antigen tests.”

Ladislav Dušek,  photo: Michaela Danelová / Czech Radio

As of Friday the weekly average positivity rate for Covid tests in the Czech Republic is 23.6 percent.

Mr. Dušek continued with his outline of how the new Ministry of Health system of assessing Covid risk will look.

“It will include a risk redefinition of various forms of activity, business and even types of employment. This means that the table of restrictions, about which there is so much discussion regarding various measures, will be based on more data.”

This new methodology ought to be introduced around the turn of the year, the health data chief said.

Regardless of this planned change, the minister of health, Jan Blatný, said on Friday that his officials would consider whether to recommend to the government a switch to level 5 if the risk index remains in that bracket for more time.

He said not just the risk index but the strain on hospitals would be taken into account.

Meanwhile, Mr. Blatný said that the first Covid-19 vaccines could arrive in the Czech Republic earlier than previously expected, on December 26 or 27. The vaccines ought to be received by all of the country’s regions by the end of the year, he said.