Minister: State of emergency needed with Czech Covid parameters among world’s worst

Photo : ČTK / Vít Šimánek

Without a new state of emergency – due to start next Monday – the Czech Republic would see an even sharper rise in Covid-19 infections and deaths. That is the message from the minister of health, whose plans include capping attendance at indoor events at 10 and barring spectators at sports.

The current parametres surrounding Covid-19 in the Czech Republic are among the worst in the entire world, the minister of health told the lower house on Wednesday.

Roman Prymula was speaking during a debate on the introduction of a state of emergency aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus.

He told MPs that community transmission was now occurring in the country and that the number hospitalised with Covid-19 had increased tenfold in only three weeks.

What’s more, 13 or 14 percent of those tested are now positive, representing a marked rise in the infection rate.

“If we don’t do anything, the curve will reach many tens of thousands of positive cases and, unfortunately, hundreds of deaths… Cases, which are milder today than they were in spring, are up five-fold. But if numbers increase 20 times, the capacity of our system would really be endangered. If we don’t do anything, we will arrive at a situation where our hospital beds are occupied by Covid patients.”

Roman Prymula, photo: ČTK/Michal Kamaryt

Mr. Prymula said the best approach was a short, sharp shock, with restrictions set to remain in place for a fortnight after the start of the new state of emergency, which he had previously announced would come into effect from next Monday.

“We have agreed that off all the strategies that are available, the most effective – and surprisingly cheapest – strategy is one that would see a rapid intervention for a short period, followed by a relaxation.”

As for the concrete measures to be introduced under the government’s special powers, medical students in their final years will be called up to help deal with the situation.

In addition, restrictions will be placed on free-time activities, not areas that would impact the Czech economy.

“We want all professional sports to continue, although without spectators. Otherwise, the general rule will be a maximum 10 people at indoor events and 20 at outdoor ones. Classic theatre will be allowed to continue, but operas and musicals won’t, as singing spreads the virus very intensively.”

Otherwise, the country’s secondary schools are set to switch to online teaching only for a two-week period in medium and high risk areas of the country, though pupils will continue to attend elementary schools.

The state of emergency can remain in place for 30 days, a period in which it should be possible to get the Czech Republic’s second wave of Covid-19 under control, the health minister said.

The country had a state of emergency, which was extended by the lower house, from 12 March until 17 May. Its 66-day duration was the longest in the country’s history.