Government promising walk-in vaccine centers in all regions as Delta variant gains dominance

Walk-in vaccination center at Nový Smíchov shopping mall, Prague

The Chief Hygiene Office announced this week that the more contagious Delta variant now accounts for around 80 percent of coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic. Although the daily increase in Covid numbers is still low, experts predict it will be a matter of weeks before the country finds itself battling yet another wave of infections.

At present the daily increase in Covid numbers is at around 200, the number of people hospitalized with Covid is at around 30 and the cases ending in death are now few and far between – a picture that suggests the coronavirus epidemic has finally been brought under control. However experts warn against underestimating the speed with which the Delta variant may turn the situation around. Biochemist Jan Trnka:

“Because the numbers are still relatively low it is hard to say how much of these cases are due to community transmissions here and how many have been imported from abroad by holidaymakers. The fact is that the trend is turning, the numbers are slowly rising and if we look at Britain or France where Delta arrived somewhat earlier, we’ll know roughly what to expect. I definitely think we are on the brink of another wave –it is just a question of how long before we see an acceleration in the spread of infection, before hospitals start filling up again. There are many factors in play so it is hard to say if it will be August, September or later in the autumn.”

Walk-in vaccination center at Nový Smíchov shopping mall,  Prague | Photo: Vít Šimánek,  ČTK

The government has been cautious in easing restrictions, indicating that a relaxation of Covid measures such as that which just took place in Britain is not on the table. Instead it is appealing to the public to take the threat seriously. Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček:

“We know that the Delta variant is very aggressive. We will have to respond to this new danger, and the best possible response is vaccination.”

Approximately four million people, of the country’s 10.6 million inhabitants, are now fully vaccinated, and although it seemed that interest in getting inoculated was seriously waning in the past few weeks, it was unexpectedly kick-started by the opening of three walk-in vaccine centers in Prague. Czechs took them by storm standing in line for two hours and more to get the vaccine without needing to register. Walk-in centers also give them the desired freedom to choose the type of vaccine and the date of their second vaccine as long as it is within the recommended term for the given type of vaccine.

Pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming interest, the government is scrambling to open walk-in vaccination centers in all the regional capitals. In Prague the three walk-in centers that were launched as a pilot project remain open. The one at the Smíchov shopping mall administers the Moderna vaccine, that at the Main Railway Station administers Johnson and Johnson, while that at Chodov has the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. As of Wednesday walk-in vaccination centers will open in Brno and Ostrava (Johnson and Johnson) and others will follow suit in Liberec, Ustí nad Labem and Hradec Králove.