Free coronavirus tests in Czechia likely to stop from September 1

The Czech Health Ministry is planning to end the availability of taking free preventative coronavirus tests from September 1, Health Minister Adam Vojtěch announced. From September, only indicative tests requested by a patient’s GP or hygiene stations are likely to be covered.

Publically insured residents in the Czech Republic currently benefit from the option of taking up to four antigen and two PCR tests for free and whenever they want every month.

However, following a government council meeting on Monday, Health Minister Adam Vojtěch announced that this is likely to change after the summer holidays.

“Indicative tests requested from the local hygiene station, or by one’s GP, have to be covered by health insurance. However, we expect free preventative testing to end from September 1.”

For children under the age of 12 and people who have a health condition that prevents them from getting vaccinated testing will remain free, Health Minister Vojtěch said. The opportunity to take a paid preventative test will also remain.

Mr Vojtěch pointed to the high cost of covering free tests as a reason for ending the current system.

Adam Vojtěch | Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

“We believe that, by [September 1], those who want to get vaccinated will have had the time to do so or will have at least been given the chance. It is also far better for the public health insurance system, because it is one free vaccine compared to the constant expenses for tests.”

Free preventative testing is currently costing the country’s main public health insurer (VZP) hundreds of millions of crowns every month, VZP Deputy Director David Šmehlík told Czech Radio. For example, PCR test expenses cost the insurer CZK 2.3 billion from March to December of last year.

Some have interpreted the plan to end free testing as a motivator for people to get vaccinated. Others however, have pointed to the possible problems that an end to free testing may cause.

For example, the chairman of the deputies club of the opposition TOP 09 party, Vlastimil Válek, told news site that if the state cancels free preventative testing it should also adjust its coronavirus test requirements for daily life activities.

Currently, an antigen test is valid for three days and a PCR test for seven days after it was issued. Theoretically, this means that each individual is covered for 26 days every month to go to venues that require a negative test result to enter. This includes facilities such as gyms and, to a limited degree, restaurants. Testing is also a prerequisite for travel to most foreign countries. People who are vaccinated are exempted from the requirement to have a negative test.