“Do not panic” – health minister tells Czechs as coronavirus spreads across Europe

Photo: ČTK / Tereza Sajdlová

As the number of COVID-19 infections continues to rise in Europe, the Czech government is increasing precautions. At a press briefing on Thursday Health Minister Adam Vojtěch stressed that as of yet there are no confirmed cases of the virus in the Czech Republic and urged citizens not to give way to panic.

Photo: ČTK / Tereza Sajdlová

Since it first broke out in China’s Hubei province sometime around the end of last year, the coronavirus called COVID-19 has spread to all continents except Antarctica.

So far there have been some 83,876 cases worldwide, with 833 specifically registered in Europe, the vast majority of which are in Italy.

Photo: Michaela Danelová,  ČRo
To prevent the infection from spreading to the Czech Republic Prague Airport designated special gates for passengers arriving from Italy earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has said that a special military hospital could be converted for COVID-19 patients within 12 hours if the situation demanded.

On Thursday, the country’s Central Epidemiological Commission met to discuss the situation and in a subsequent address Health Minister Adam Vojtěch called on the public to remain calm.

“I would like to stress again that all responsible institutions are in a state of alert and are ready to take action at any time. I urge citizens not to give way to panic. There really is no reason for it."

Worried about what might happen, many Czechs have started “panic buying” in recent days, emptying supermarket shelves of flour, water and other basic foodstuffs. However, food retailers have said that they are well stocked and able to replenish their supplies to meet the shopping fever that is only expected to lasts for a few days.

Health Minister Vojtěch said that there are currently three areas in the world which the epidemiological commission sees as problematic – Iran, South Korea and Italy. These are states, he says, where community transmissions of the virus take place, unlike in others where infections relate to travellers catching the virus in a foreign country and subsequently being examined.

Votěch Adam,  photo: ČTK/Kamaryt Michal
He went on to state which group of the population should be most careful.

“The crushing majority of patients among whom infection [by COVID-19] has led to death are seniors aged over 70 and 80, as well as some people with associated diseases.

“Data shows that for a healthy individual the illness in not a-priory dangerous. In 80 percent of cases the disease is light. That means a fever, a cough, shortness of breath, but no serious problems where hospitalisation would be necessary or there were a threat to one’s life.”

The Ministry of Health, amplified by Czech media, has launched an information campaign offering details about the illness and what steps residents in the Czech Republic should take if they have a suspicion that they may be infected.

Many employers have also taken steps to limit the chance of infection, by ordering facemasks and disinfectants, as well as curtailing business trips.

Detailed Ministry of Health information about COVID-19 and prevention can be found here: http://www.mzcr.cz/dokumenty/koronavirus-2019-ncov-informace-pro-obcany_18432_4122_1.html