Firms say more frequent workplace Covid testing could hit budgets

Photo: Jaroslav Hroch / Czech Radio

The introduction of more frequent Covid testing in the workplace could prove difficult both in terms of cost and logistics, representatives of Czech firms told the news website

The cabinet was due to decide on Monday on a proposal from the minister of industry and trade, Karel Havlíček, that mandatory workplace coronavirus tests be carried out twice weekly, doubling the current number of tests.

However, ministers put the matter on the back burner and are set to return to it later in the week, said.

Explaining the delay, Mr. Havlíček said that given the matter was so complex that the government wished to first discuss it with trade union leaders.

Weekly tests were first made compulsory for enterprises with 50 or more staff. Now this applies to all firms with 10 or more employees.

Representatives of the Confederation of Industry said they were willing to speak to the Ministry of Industry and Trade and were keen to go over the conditions, said.

The body’s vice president, Jan Rafaj, said it would make sense to first evaluate the efficacy of the testing that is already taking place.

Over a two-week period the Confederation of Industry carried out a survey of its members involving 150 companies, at which 114,000 workers had been tested (over half were at firms with 250-plus employees).

Karel Havlíček,  photo: archive of the Office of Czech Government

The study found that 45 percent of enterprises used company doctors or otherwise worked with health professionals; 47 percent opted to use self-testing kits and the remainder made use of public testing points.

However, the document asserted, Minister Havlíček’s proposal to double tests would spell a major increase in costs for many of the firms surveyed, said.

The state currently contributes CZK 60 per self-testing kit. But companies frequently opt for relatively expensive kits and opposition party the Civic Democrats points out that they range in price from CZK 120 to as much as CZK 270.

The Confederation of Industry has urged its members not to focus on price when purchasing self-test kits and two-thirds of firms pay over CZK 100 a go for them. This is considerably more than they receive in compensation from the state, says Mr. Rafaj.

What’s more, over a third of respondents in the survey said they had had trouble meeting the government’s deadline for conducting Covid tests.

One-quarter reported problems sourcing tests from Ministry of Health approved suppliers. Some 11 percent bought from unauthorised distributors, so received no government aid.

Despite companies’ concerns, the government has no plans to raise the current CZK 60 contribution, with Mr. Havlíček arguing that prices would gradually come down.

For his part, the minister of health, Jan Blatný, said that if the state aid was increased then tests would become more expensive, reported.