Czech chief hygiene officer confirmed Covid-19 positive, amid sudden spike in cases

Jarmila Rážová (Foto: Michaela Danelová, Archiv des Tschechischen Rundfunks)

The new school year has barely started and the Czech Republic is seeing a spike in coronavirus cases that could spell trouble in the weeks to come. The 650 confirmed cases of Covid- 19 registered on Wednesday is the highest daily increase registered since the infection first appeared. Moreover data suggests that the rate at which the infection is now spreading is significantly higher than in neighbour states.  

Less than 24-hours after the reintroduction of measures aimed at offsetting a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the autumn, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases hit a new peak.

Among those who tested positive is the country’s Chief Hygiene Officer Jarmila Rážová and the head of the Institute for Information and Statistics Ladislav Dušek, both of whom are in daily contact with government officials and the media.

Health Minister Adam Vojtěch went into quarantine, the second cabinet minister to have to self-isolate this week, and strict preventive measures went into effect at the health ministry. Ms. Rážová’s contacts alone during the incriminating time when she was infectious reached 130 people.

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš who attended a meeting with the chief hygiene officer on the day she fell ill, said he would not need to self-isolate.

Photo : Michaela Danelová / Czech Radio

“I now wear an FFP2 respirator all the time. I had it during the meeting with Ms. Rážová and I was sitting across the table, about four metres away from her. The room was well- aired and has high ceilings. As far as the government is concerned no one else needs to self-isolate.”

Meanwhile, infections accelerated across the country.  In the first two days of September, South Moravia saw more new Covid-19 cases than in the entire month of May when there was a state of emergency in force. The region reported 80 cases a day, with the overall figure reaching 1,900.

EU data show that the spread of Covid-19 has accelerated significantly more in the Czech Republic  than in other Central European states, where the daily increase to a million inhabitants is roughly a third of what it is here.

Last Friday Prague was the first region to be placed in the orange“ medium-risk“  category with the first signs of community transmissions.

Although the prime minister has said the government will not bring back lockdown measures such as those effected in the spring, the health minister has already indicated that the fast spread of the virus will necessitate stricter preventive measures.

“It is very likely that we will have to tighten measures, especially in Prague, where the situation is currently the worst. For instance, it may mean making face masks mandatory in more places.”

At present face masks are mandatory on public transport, at Václav Havel Airport, railway stations, in public institutions and doctors’ offices. The measures will be reviewed again on Friday.