Czechs cut isolation to five days “to prevent state from collapsing”

Vlastimil Válek

Facing a potential acute labour shortage, the Czech government has cut isolation requirements for people who test positive for Covid-19. From next Tuesday people will need to stay home for five days, instead of the current 14.  

Other states have already seen record numbers of known Covid infections due to the relatively contagious Omicron variant.

The Czech Republic is still bracing itself for such a scenario.

However, Omicron is expected to be the dominant type of coronavirus in the country within days, and experts predict up to 50,000 new cases a day, which would far outstrip previous highs.

Fear of the crippling labour shortages this could cause has spurred the Czech government into taking action.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday afternoon, the minister of health, Vlastimil Válek, said the current 14-day mandatory isolation period for people testing positive for the coronavirus would be cut significantly.

“From next Tuesday the period of quarantine and isolation will be reduced to five days. Five complete calendar days. The same quarantine period will be in place for everybody, without exception.”

This requirement will apply to those who have been vaccinated against the virus or previously contracted it.

Those who have come into contact with someone with Covid must also stay home for five days.

Illustrative photo: K2 Space,  Foter.com,  CC BY

The Prague government’s decision follows similar steps by a number of other European Union states and the United States.

Minister Válek told journalists reducing the quarantine period was intended to “prevent the state from collapsing”.

In addition, his cabinet rubber-stamped a previously flagged plan to introduce frequent Covid testing at the country’s workplaces from January 17.

“Everybody will test themselves using antigen kits. The tests will be done twice a week or once every three to five days. If an antigen test is positive, that worker will go into quarantine for a period of five calendar days.”

Again this will apply to all employees, including those who have received booster jabs.

Previously positive antigen tests were followed by PCR tests, but now workers will go straight into quarantine after the former.

Mr. Válek said the provision would be in place for a maximum of three weeks. Public health insurers will pick up the tab.

The Czech Confederation of Industry has called on the government to also draft a crisis plan for a scenario in which a large number of workers are quarantined.

The health minister said he would hold talks with experts on Friday regarding possible further measures if the situation deteriorates.

Meanwhile a two-week period of intensfied testing has been in place at Czech schools since they resumed this week.

Covid infection numbers in the Czech Republic had been declining in recent weeks but started rising again on Monday, following the holiday season.

To date nearly 6.5 million people in the nation of 10.7 million have been vaccinated against Covid. This is below the EU average.