Czech government outlines new crisis plan: “Working quarantine”

With Omicron becoming dominant in the Czech Republic, the government is shortening quarantine periods for those who are Covid-positive. It has also come out with a brand new concept aimed at ensuring critical infrastructure does not collapse: “working quarantine”.

One of the Czech Republic’s top testing companies, DIANA Biotech, said on Monday that the Omicron variant now accounted for over half the country’s Covid cases going by a seven-day average. Some labs are reporting an 80 percent Omicron share, it said.

The country has not yet seen the record positive tests registered elsewhere. However, experts have warned of up to 50,000 cases a day, more or less doubling previous highs.

In preparation for this, the Czech government has intensified testing at schools.

Massive testing at people’s workplaces will begin in a week’s time, while from Tuesday the quarantine period will be slashed from two weeks to five days, to stave off a potential crippling labour shortage if Omicron puts huge parts of the workforce out of action.

On top of this the Czech government has unveiled another new measure, the counterintuitive-sounding “working quarantine”.

Vlastimil Válek | Photo: TOP 09

The minister of health, Vlastimil Válek, explained the concept at a media briefing.

“Instead of going into quarantine at home, a staff member will go into quarantine at work. We are looking for a means to ensure that somebody whose profession is essential to the functioning of the state does not stay home but – under certain conditions – has their quarantine at their job.”

Mr. Válek said the government had sought a model under which drastic measures would not be needed if unprecedented Covid numbers do indeed hit the country.

“Working quarantine” will apply to those with jobs in the social services, education and health care, as well as key suppliers, such as hospital laundries, wholesale food delivery services and people tending livestock.

Staff members in such fields will enter “working quarantine” if they get a positive result on a lateral flow test.

Speaking on CNN Prima News on Sunday, the minister of the interior, Vít Rakušan, said he would discuss the emergency plan with leaders of the country’s regional governments.

“The governors want it to be so defined that it includes water management workers, people ensuring energy supply, bus drivers and so on. We will submit this to the Central Crisis Staff, and then the government will define the people critical for the operation of state services and enable them to use so-called ‘working quarantine’.”

Minister Rakušan also said that the coalition would publish by the middle of next month its planned revision to a decree from the previous government bringing in compulsory Covid jabs for the over-60s and those in some professions from March.

The current cabinet aims to overturn mandatory vaccinations but say the wording of the revised decree may also respond to the new challenges posed by Omicron.