Czechia enacts new Covid restrictions, state of emergency and mandatory vaccination debated

Along with other states in Central Europe, the Czech Republic is currently facing another coronavirus epidemic wave. This Monday sees the activation of new measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, which should be in place for at least two weeks. The government is also set to decide on whether to enact a state of emergency. Meanwhile, there is talk of implementing a lockdown and mandatory vaccinations. 

This Monday sees the activation of new measures aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus in the Czech Republic. Inspired by the so-called “Bavarian” model, they essentially make it impossible for people to visit service providers if they do not have a valid vaccination certificate or proof of having recovered from COVID-19 within the past six months.

At the same time, blanket testing has returned to schools and workplaces, with Health Minister Adam Vojtěch calling on businesses to keep their employees working from home if possible.

As the measures came into place on Monday, the ministry also announced that it will ask the government to enact a state of emergency.

Pavla Svrčinová | Photo: Office of Czech Government

The option, which would make it possible for the state to call on students of medicine to help out in hospitals, was discussed by Chief Hygienist Pavla Svrčinová on Czech Radio that same day.

“Of course these possibilities are being considered. We are starting to run out of personnel, especially in hospitals, pensioner homes and in social care facilities.”

The government is due to discuss imposing a state of emergency on Monday afternoon. But Education Minister Robert Plaga sharply dismissed the idea, as its implementation would place further strain on the schools still recovering from last year’s lockdown.

Interior Minister Jan Hamáček, who leads the country’s Central Crisis Staff, was also sceptical. Highlighting that the state of the epidemic varies significantly in different parts of the country, he instead suggested that such extraordinary measures could be enacted on a regional basis.

Meanwhile, the Czech Medical Chamber has called on the government to reinstate a lockdown and enact changes in legislation that would enable mandatory COVID-19 vaccination of all adults in the country.

Adam Vojtěch | Photo: Roman Vondrouš,  ČTK

The lockdown possibility has been ruled out by members of both the outgoing and incoming government. Most recently, by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who on Friday said that the country would not be following Austria’s example.

However, when it comes to the question of mandatory vaccination, there are signs that the outgoing government is at least considering the option. Last week, Health Minister Adam Vojtěch said that making vaccination mandatory should be debated, and the option was also suggested on Monday by the chief epidemiologist.

“Vaccination is the only way forward that we have. Unfortunately, there is no alternative. Personally, I would even see the route of making vaccination compulsory.”