Czech health officials: Coronavirus under control, focus now on targeted testing, smart quarantine

Photo: ČTK/AP/Rolf Vennenbernd

The coronavirus epidemic in the Czech Republic is abating, the nation’s top health authorities said on Thursday. The number of new infections is projected to slow to 15 per day in May, and the number overall number of cases to total 8,500 by month’s end.

Photo: ČTK/AP/Rolf Vennenbernd
A total of 7,581 coronavirus infections have been recorded since testing began in March. While to date 227 patients have died, more than 40 percent have recovered from the disease. Meanwhile, the daily increase in Covid-19 cases has been below 100 over the past eight days.

All in all, the situation is relatively good and getting better, Minister of Health Adam Vojtěch told reporters.

“So, we can be relatively satisfied in that the development is heading in a good direction and the situation remains quite stable when looking at the daily figures. In comparison to other countries, we are doing well.

“The reproduction number has dropped to 0.7. Especially positive, I think, is the number of patients who have recovered. As of today, over 40 percent of people with Covid-19 have recovered, while the death rate is under 3 percent.”

Ladislav Dušek, director of the Institute of Health Information and Statistics (ÚZIS), said the figures clearly show containment measures have been effective.

Thanks to social-distancing, extended testing, self-quarantine and facemasks wearing, Dušek told reporters, a person with Covid-19 is statistically unlikely to infect even one other person now.

“So far, our predictions have corresponded quite well to the reality. Our models are working, which is good news. We know how the virus is behaving in the Czech population, which is of utmost importance…

“To protect society and save lives, it is important to monitor developments on a daily basis, to predict the effect in the short term and intervene locally in time when there is a change.”

Dušek presented three models for how coronavirus could develop here. The best-case scenario counts on a cumulative number of up to 10,000 people by the end of May, and the worst-case scenario on nearly twice that.

Ladislav Dušek,  Adam Vojtěch,  photo: Michaela Danelová / Czech Radio
To prevent a “second wave” of infections, Dušek said, monitoring must be carried out on a regional, district and municipal level.

Meanwhile, widescale testing continues. According to Deputy Minister of Health Roman Prymula, current capacity allows for more than 13,000 tests per day at some 100 laboratories nationwide. Thus far, more 242,000 people have been tested.

But rather than expand testing capacity, he said, it makes more sense to continue to focus on doing targeted testing and to introduce so-called smart quarantine measures.

Testing is thus focusing ever specific regions, such as Cheb or Domažlice, bordering Germany, in retirement homes, and in medical facilities. So far, 343 nurses and 167 doctors, including dentists, have contracted Covid-19, as have 305 other healthcare professionals.

The government has extended the ongoing state of emergency until May 17, following approval earlier this week by the lower house of Parliament. Most containment measures are likely to remain in place at least until June.