Government advisor: Smart quarantine is pivotal – but don’t start lifting restrictions too fast

Photo: ČTK/Michaela Říhová

The Czech Republic is currently preparing to launch a smart quarantine system, while simultaneously also easing strict coronavirus prevention measures. However, some experts and officials have been urging caution when it comes to the latter move. Among them is Štěpán Jurajda, a member of the government’s National Economic Council.

Štěpán Jurajda,  photo: archive of Charles University
Deputy Health Minister Roman Prymula, the man seen by many as primarily in charge of the Czech Republic’s coronavirus response, said on Wednesday that a planned nationwide smart quarantine system should be fully in place by the start of May.

It is believed that using big data to track the previous contacts of coronavirus patients should enable greater safety, as people are forewarned of potentially dangerous locations.

Some experts also hope that smart quarantine will allow the government to begin dismantling many of the country’s strict quarantine measures in favour of a less intrusive, prevention system that targets especially vulnerable groups. 

Earlier this week, the government did announce its timeline for gradually lifting coronavirus related restrictions on business, entertainment and education activity within the Czech Republic.

Economist Štěpán Jurajda is a member of the government’s National Economic Council. He told Czech Radio Plus that the danger of COVID-19 spreading would increase if some of the current countermeasures were removed without a sufficient increase in testing rates.

“If the speed of the spread were to rise, the effectivity of smart quarantine would decrease. We have to hope that our country’s leadership, by that I mean the government and the Central Crisis Staff, ensure its swift implementation, not just in terms of tracing, but also in terms of its availability through smartphone apps, which we should all install.”

The discourse around the degree to which smart quarantine can replace standard safety measures is also connected to the concept of creating so-called “herd immunity”. 

In an interview last week, Deputy Health Minister Prymula said that parts of the population should be infected in a targeted way, so as to establish such natural immunity. 

Photo: ČTK/Michaela Říhová
While he stressed that this should be conducted in a way that prevents the exponential growth of new cases, many in the public sphere, including Mr Jurajda, have voiced sceptical opinions of such an approach, pointing out that statistics from neighbouring countries show the level of overall COVID-19 infections is still very low.

“The strategy of risking a wide level of infections would be very harmful for us. We would end up in a situation such as exists in New York right now, where tens of percent of the population are likely to have immunity, but they have had to go through hell in order to get it.”

It is not only within the Czech Republic that calls for caution in restricting quarantine measures have been made. The head of the World Health Organisation in Europe, Hans Kluge, warned last week that any sort of easing of restrictions would first have to be considered carefully.