Data suggest Czechs increasingly unwilling to get tested and reveal contacts

Photo: ČTK/David Taneček

Although the recent lockdown slowed the pace of the Covid-19 epidemic, the country now seems to have hit a plateau. According to the Center for Modelling of Biological Processes (BISOP), the stagnation in the development of the Covid-19 epidemic is partly due the fact that people do not want to be tested and do not report all their contacts to hygienists.

If the Czech Republic is to avoid a third wave of Covid-19 in the new year people must not only observe the hygiene measures imposed, but report any Covid-related symptoms and provide information regarding their contacts during the period in which they may have infected others, so as to allow fast and effective tracing.

However data from hygiene stations indicate that people are less inclined to cooperate than they were during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring.

Photo: HM Treasury,  Flickr,  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Eva Blechová from the Center for Modelling of Biological and Social Processes (BISOP), which analysed data from the spring and fall says the drop in the number of contacts provided is obvious, although in part it is due to the lockdown and more people being on home office. Still, she notes that the November average of 0.8 contacts per infected is suspiciously low.

A survey by PAQ Research confirms that people-to-people contacts have decreased. However even during the lockdown it still reregistered a median of six "significant" contacts per person.

According to Blechová, the main reason for the low number of contacts given is people’s reluctance to cooperate for fear of loss of income.

We have no hard proof but, but there are unconfirmed reports in the media that people do not report contacts or that an employer asks an employee who tested positive not to report contacts at work for fear of paralysing the company's operation, Blechová says.

Coronavirus call center,  photo: Veronika Žeravová,  ČRo Zlín

The work overload at hygiene stations may also be partly responsible. While in September hygienists spent on average 12 minutes questioning people who tested positive about their contacts, at the height of the second wave it was just 9 minutes on average.

There are also significant differences in the number of contacts reported in individual regions. The difference between 1.27 contacts per positive case in the Ostrava region and 0.26 contacts  in the Plzen region is a case in point.

And, last but not least, the number of people currently involved in tracing contacts has dropped from around 1,900 on weekdays to 1,100. The decline itself is not a problem as long as hygiene stations are coping, Blechová says, but not if it is at the expense of the quality of work provided.