Czech government slams the brakes on cultural and sports life in bid to stop alarming spread of coronavirus

Roman Prymula, photo: archive of the Office of Czech Government

The Czech government on Thursday slammed the breaks on cultural and sports life in the country in an effort to curb what Health Minister Roman Prymula described as an alarming spread of coronavirus infection. He appealed to the public to show discipline in order for the country to avoid a catastrophic scenario.

Amid an unprecedented upsurge in Covid-19 cases that have put the Czech Republic top of the EU list in the number of cases per capita, the Czech government has clamped down on leisure-time, cultural and sporting activities in an effort to prevent the situation spiralling out of control.

Speaking at a press briefing in Prague Health Minister Roman Prymula said it was time for tough action.

“The situation at the present time is alarming and the figures indicate that the measures affected hereto have failed to bring the epidemic under control. What concerns me most is not the growing number of infected but the growing number of people who require hospitalization and intensive care as well as the growing number of deaths.”

Photo: ČTK/Ondřej Deml

The health minister warned that if the spread of Covid-19 continued at the present rate the country’s health system would not be able to handle the crisis in just two weeks’ time.

“At the present time we have 1,700 people hospitalized with Covid-19. If the infection continues to spread at this rate in a weeks’ time this number will double and in two weeks’ time our hospitals will be filled to maximum capacity.”

Mr. Prymula pointed out that already hospitals were postponing non-essential surgery and there are plans to move some patients who are well on the road to recovery but cannot be released into home care to hotels.

The health minister said that everything now depended on how the public would face up to the problem in the coming fortnight, saying that if the lack of discipline on the part of a large segment of society continued there would be no option but to effect a lockdown of cities. That, he said was something the government was hoping to avoid for economic reasons.

He blamed some Czech doctors, among them renowned specialists in other fields than epidemiology, for downplaying the gravity of the situation and telling the public that Covid-19 was not a serious threat and the epidemic should be allowed to run its course. The results of such an approach, Prymula said, could be disastrous. He said time was running out and urged people to go beyond the restrictions officially imposed and minimise their contacts with others in the coming two weeks.

The gravity of the situation was underlined by the fact that the opposition, which has systematically criticized the government for its way of handling the situation, saying it was no surprise people did not adhere to the restrictions, has now appealed to the public to pull together to overcome the crisis.