Schools closing as Czech authorities report first coronavirus case with unknown source

Photo: ČTK / David Taneček

The Czech government has ordered the closure of all primary and secondary schools in the country and is placing a ban on events hosting more than 100 people. The move was announced in connection with the first case of coronavirus in the country where the source of infection is not known.

Photo: ČTK / David Taneček

As the number of coronavirus cases registered in the Czech Republic hit 40, the government announced it was further tightening measures to combat the spread of the disease. Primary and secondary schools will be closed as of Wednesday and as of 6 pm on Tuesday there is a ban on events hosting more than 100 people. The decision was made in view of the worsening situation in Europe and in connection with the first case registered in the Czech Republic where the source of infection is not known. Health Minister Adam Vojtěch said the case of the Prague taxi driver who tested positive for the infection is a breaking point:

Adam Vojtěch, photo: ČTK / AP Photo / Virginia Mayo
“This is the first case where we do not know the source, we do not know where the man got infected and how many people he himself infected before testing positive. He claims to have had health problems for three days before getting tested. We are trying to trace his clients, but in this case it is not so easy. It is the first person-to-person transmission in the country and I think that the situation demands further preventive action.”

More than a thousand people are quarantined in the Czech Republic, with their numbers growing every day. More are now expected to ask for home office or leave as they will need to take care of young children in view of the closure of schools. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said the government is doing its best to take effective measures against the spread of the virus and not limit the workforce more than necessary. Trams and busses – which are being disinfected with ozone every night – will remain in operation, as will rail connections for commuters. However he urged Czechs to act responsibly and stay at home after work as much as possible. Health Minister Vojtěch also appealed for people to exercise caution and not take unnecessary risks.

“People should avoid kissing, shaking hands and any closer contact when they meet. Try not to touch your face, eyes or nose when you are using public transport or are in a public place. Try to avoid places where people congregate and keep a safe distance, because from what we know, that is how the virus spreads uncontrollably in the population. The risk is grave and we are asking everyone to behave responsibly.”

Roman Prymula, photo: ČTK / Kateřina Šulová
The deputy health minister and the country’s leading epidemiology expert, Roman Prymula, said he had no doubt that the numbers of coronavirus positive cases in the Czech Republic would grow further, but stressed it was essential to try and prevent a sudden explosion of the disease.

“We have to phase-out the epidemic so that our health care capacity is sufficient to meet the country’s needs. We need to have enough ventilators and beds in IC units for those who need them at a given time. That is why we have opted for restrictive measures, very restrictive measures. But if we waited another fortnight it could be too late. We must learn from others‘ mistakes. Italy has now taken radical measures, the whole country is in quarantine, but the move came too late.“

The Czech government has also taken crisis measures at the country’s borders where the army is helping police, firefighters and paramedics conduct random checks of passengers, taking their temperature and samples for tests in the event of coronavirus-related symptoms.