“Draconian measures” ruled out in government’s autumn Covid strategy

The Czech government is not planning any “draconian measures” to combat the next coronavirus wave, Czechia’s Health Minister Vlastimil Válek said on Monday while presenting the strategy for tackling the expected autumn wave of the epidemic. Booster vaccines are nevertheless strongly recommended by the ministry which announced it will be launching a new campaign for this purpose.

Photo: Torsten Simon,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

This Monday saw the opening of registrations for coronavirus booster vaccines in the Czech Republic. While doctors have been allowed to administer the vaccine since mid-July, until now this was only on an ad-hoc basis without prior registration, with around 95,000 people making use of this preliminary option.

When it comes to the state of the epidemic in the country, data from the Institute of Health Information and Statistics (IHIS) indicate that the summer coronavirus wave is on the decline, with falling numbers in infections, hospitalisations and patients in ICUs.

Vlastimil Válek | Photo: Office of Czech Government

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Health Minister Vlastimil Válek said that if patient numbers continue to fall in August this will likely push the onset of the autumn coronavirus wave to possibly as late as the second half of November.

“This gives us a wider window for vaccination, with sufficient time in September and October to provide booster shots.”

Supporting the drive to get people revaccinated will be a CZK 50 million government campaign that carries the slogan Let’s vaccinate for a life without fear, which will kick off on social media sites this summer with further advertising in the media to take place towards the end of September.

Photo: René Volfík,  iROZHLAS.cz

When it came to the question of what restrictions the government may implement to tackle the next wave, Mr Válek assured the public that “draconian measures” will be avoided.

“It has been shown and clearly confirmed by researchers from Germany and other countries that all of these draconian measures that were implemented had no great effect. They only meant major losses for industry and the economy at large.

“Yes, it may have been justified at a time when we didn’t have as much information about the disease, but today we know that it’s useless.”

Previously enacted measures, such as restrictions for the unvaccinated or only allowing access to certain venues to those who can provide a negative coronavirus test, were ruled out. However, Mr Válek did highlight that the ministry recommends the wearing of face masks and respirators in high risk areas, such as in health or social care facilities.

Photo: dronepicr,  Flickr,  CC BY 2.0

The minister also said that members of the public will be able to make use of one free antigen test per month starting from the autumn period, without needing prior permission from their GP.

“We will likely see two epidemics running simultaneously during the autumn. On the one hand there will be an influenza epidemic. At least that is what we are preparing for. Then there will also be the autumn coronavirus wave, which our analysts expect to occur about three to four weeks after the onset of the influenza epidemic.

“This is why I would like us to agree with insurance companies that patients who feel they have a cold, or some symptoms, will be able to get an antigen test and find out whether they have Covid. We would like to have this sorted by September.”

When it came to updated vaccines to combat the Covid omicron mutation, the health minister said that the European Medicines Agency is expected to approve a Moderna vaccine that boosts immunity against the omicron BA.1 variant sometime in September. The vaccine should therefore theoretically become available in the EU in October or November of this year.