Police officers and hygienists to check compliance with quarantine rules

Photo: Michaela Danelová / Czech Radio

Up until now people in quarantine with Covid -19 or those ordered to self-isolate as a preventive measure have been very much “on their honour” in complying with the regulation. Now hygiene officials and police officers have been tasked with making random checks of people in quarantine to make sure they are observing the restrictions imposed.

Every day hygiene offices order thousands of people to quarantine or self-isolate for a period of 14 days. Contact tracing is considered one of the main priorities in the fight against Covid-19. However, whether people comply with the order or not has been pretty much up to them, and if polls are anything to go by, many have simply ignored the restrictions imposed. Speaking after Monday’s cabinet meeting, Interior Minister Jan Hamáček said this was about to change.

“The police will receive lists from regional hygiene stations and carry out intensive inspections. We wanted to introduce such checks in the spring of last year, but were delayed by privacy concerns, which have now been resolved.”

Jan Hamáček,  photo: ČTK/Vít Šimánek

Mr. Hamáček said that cracking down on potential breach of quarantine rules would help curb the spread of the epidemic and act as a deterrent in the case of individuals who refuse to cooperate with the authorities. Anyone caught violating the rules will face criminal prosecution for spreading a communicable disease, for which they could face up to 8 years in jail.

The country’s chief hygiene officer Pavla Svrčinová on Wednesday confirmed that the police would be working together with hygiene officers in making the checks. She said regional hygiene offices had received instructions and in some regions the inspections had already started.

What form the inspections will take is not yet clear. Until now, officers only acted on the most blatant cases reported to them by citizens. Presumably, people breaching quarantine can now be detected by traffic police on road checks. Whether officers will be sent to people’s homes to check up on them is not yet clear – and some lawyers say it would violate people’s right to privacy.

Pavla Svrčinová,  photo: ČTK/Vít Šimánek

Also, regional police chiefs themselves have pointed to several problems –the lack of officers for the job given that hundreds have been deployed on the country’s roads to monitor adherence to the ban on travel between districts, the lack of adequate protection, since not all officers have received the jab, and in some cases a lack of information regarding what exactly is expected of them.

Critics of the plan point out that while in many other countries people in quarantine are under greater scrutiny that in the Czech Republic, elsewhere the controls are conducted online –via mobile apps.

According to the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, 72,000 people have been quarantined since the start of the year, 66,000 have been ordered to self-isolate an 56 people have been charged with spreading a communicable disease.