Daily news summary
Czech Republic has first coronavirus-related death
Czech doctors reported the first coronavirus-related death on Sunday. The first victim was a 95-year-old man who had other serious health problems.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Czech Republic reached 1120 on Sunday, after an increase of 158 cases on Saturday. Friday saw 124 new cases, the biggest increase -205 cases – was registered on Thursday.
Seventy-four people are hospitalized, eleven are on ventilators, seven patients are in “very serious to critical condition”. Over 15,580 tests have been conducted to date. Six people have fully recovered from COVID-19.
Czech Foreign Ministry sending out evacuation planes for Czechs abroad
The Czech Foreign Ministry will send four evacuation planes to repatriate Czech nationals from the Baltic states, Egypt, the Philippines and Vietnam.
The planes should bring back around 700 people, of which 600 are Czech nationals, the rest citizens of other EU member states.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has urged Czech nationals who are stranded abroad by the coronavirus crisis to contact the nearest Czech embassy or consulate and ask for help.
They have also been encouraged to try to get on a flight back to Europe, ideally to the EU.
Health minister tells Czechs to prepare for “lonely” Easter
Health Minister Adam Vojtěch told Czechs on Sunday that the restrictive measures to fight the coronavirus epidemic would last throughout Easter, at least.
He told Czechs there could be no carolling and families should keep to themselves over the holidays. Vojtech pointed to the damage the Chinese New Year has caused in helping to spread the infection, saying the Czech Republic could not risk sliding back in its effort to contain the infection because of the holidays.
He said the Czech Republic was striving to get the epidemic to peak at 10,000 people. The estimate is that at the end of March the Czech Republic could have over 8,000 people infected.
Two planeloads of protective gear arrive from China
The authorities are distributing two planeloads of desperately needed protective gear which arrived from China on Saturday.
A heavy cargo plane loaned from Ukraine brought 100 tons of masks, respirators and coronavirus tests from China, while a China Eastern plane brought seven million facemasks.
More planes with protective gear and tests are expected to arrive next week.
The deliveries have cost the Interior Ministry 1.5 billion crowns so far. The projection is that with every new week that the epidemic lasts the country will spend another billion crowns on medical equipment.
Health Minister Adam Vojtěch has come under fire for the lack of face-masks and respirators and their poor distribution to the regions, with some governors calling for his dismissal.
Although Prime Minister Andrej Babiš ruled out a change of guard, he said the government would change the system of distributing protective gear on Monday, with the Health Ministry supplying only state hospitals while the Interior Ministry would take care of the rest.
Central bank expected to cut interest rates further
The Bank Board of the Czech National Bank, which this week moved to mitigate the impacts of the coronavirus epidemic on Czech firms, businesses and households, is expected to cut interest rates further at its meeting next Thursday.
Economists say the bank is likely to make the move despite the fact that a further cut in interest rates is not likely to have a significant impact at this point and will further weaken the crown.
At its monetary policy meeting on Monday, the Bank Board lowered the two-week repo rate by 50 basis points to 1.75%. At the same time, it lowered the Lombard rate to 2.75% and the discount rate to 0.75%.
Czech Foreign Ministry says masks for Chinese community in Italy will be delivered
The Czech Foreign Ministry has promised to deliver a consignment of 100,000 face masks which were confiscated within a police haul last week to Italy.
They were found in a warehouse where the police confiscated 680.000 masks which were likely intended for re-export by a group illegally trading in protective gear.
A subsequent investigation revealed that some of them were a gift from the Red Cross of Qinghai City of China's Jiang Province to Chinese compatriots in Italy.
Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček assured the Italian authorities that the masks would be sent to their rightful destination at the beginning of next week.
Monday should bring clear to partly cloudy skies and day temperatures between 0 and 4 degrees Celsius.