Thousands rally in Czech Republic to protest against compulsory vaccines and respirators

Protest in Prague

Anti-vaccine protesters rallied in cities around the Czech Republic at the weekend, demonstrating against mandatory vaccinations for selected groups of the population, restrictions limiting the freedoms of unvaccinated persons and the regulation making respirators compulsory in enclosed spaces. The initiatives Iniciativa 21 and Chcípl pes, which organized the protests, said they plan to get more vocal in the days to come.  

Some 3,500 protesters marched through the center of Prague on Sunday chanting   “Freedom“ “Cowards“ and “Hands off our children” as they wound their way from Wenceslas Square to the Office of the Government.

They accused the government of creating an atmosphere of fear so as to manipulate the public. One of the doctors who took the stand described the Covid vaccine as “the biggest medical experiment in the history of humankind“, warning of the risks of long-term, irreparable side effects, which she said had already manifested themselves in some cases.

Others protested against the vaccination of young children over the age of 5 and slammed the bi-weekly testing of schoolchildren and employees as well as the compulsory respirators ordered by the government as “damaging and counterproductive“ in the fight against Covid.

Similar, though smaller, protests took place in six other big cities around the country at the weekend.

Protest in Brno | Photo: Igor Zehl,  ČTK

According to Iniciativa 21, a petition against compulsory vaccinations has now been signed by over 82,000 people, among them doctors, nurses, police officers and soldiers for whom the Covid vaccine may become mandatory, if the Fiala administration upholds a regulation approved by the former government.

The regulation, which is currently being reviewed, ordered compulsory inoculation for everyone over the age of 60 and people in selected high-risk professions, effective as of March 1st. The regulation, which did not require approval by Parliament, has divided politicians, experts and the public alike.

Protest in Brno | Photo: Igor Zehl,  ČTK

A group of 14 senators has filed a complaint against it with the Constitutional Court. Health Minister Vlastimil Válek said the government was still “gathering information” on the issue and had yet to decide the fate of the controversial measure. He said that while the government would definitely scrap compulsory vaccinations on the grounds of age, the inoculation of high-risk groups made sense and could be retained. He said the reason why the government needed more time was to be able to take into account the impact of the Omicron wave, which is expected to hit with full force in mid-January.

Another reason, he said was the need to coordinate the vaccination of high-risk groups with the recommendations of the WHO, according to which they might be inoculated or not depending on their Covid antibody levels.

In the face of growing impatience with regard to the fate of this regulation, Interior Minister Vít Rakušan said on Sunday that while the definitive version of the controversial regulation would be ready by mid-February, the government’s decision regarding compulsory vaccinations would most likely be made public earlier.

Although the new administration took the helm promising to take “sensible and predictable action“ in the fight against Covid it has already come under fire for being too restrictive. And, similarly as in other European states, pressure on it is likely to mount in the coming weeks.