‘Drastic measures’ ruled out in government’s autumn Covid strategy

Photo: Torsten Simon, Pixabay, License Pixabay

This Monday saw the opening of registrations for the booster vaccines against the coronavirus in the Czech Republic. While doctors have been allowed to administer the vaccine since mid-July, it has so far only been on an ad hoc basis without prior registration, with around 95,000 people making use of this preliminary option.

Regarding the state of the epidemic in the country, data from the Institute for Health Information and Statistics (IHIS) indicates that the summer wave of coronavirus is on the decline, with a drop in the number of infections, hospitalizations and ICU patients.

Vlastimil Valek |  Photo: Czech Government Office

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Health Minister Vlastimil Válek said if patient numbers continued to fall in August, it would likely push back the onset of the autumn coronavirus wave until in the second half of November.

“This gives us a wider window for vaccination, with enough time in September and October to provide boosters.”

Supporting the push to re-vaccinate people will be a CZK 50 million government campaign that carries the slogan Let’s Vaccinate for a Life Without Fear, which will debut on social media sites this summer with further media advertisements taking place towards the end of September.

Photo: René Volfik, iROZHLAS.cz

On the question of what restrictions the government might put in place to deal with the next wave, Mr Válek assured the public that “draconian measures” would be avoided.

“It has been demonstrated and clearly confirmed by researchers from Germany and other countries that all these drastic measures that have been implemented have had no great effect. They only meant significant losses for the industry and the economy as a whole.

“Yes, maybe it was justified at a time when we didn’t have as much information about the disease, but today we know it’s useless.”

Previously adopted measures, such as restrictions for the unvaccinated or allowing access to certain sites only to those who can provide a negative coronavirus test, were ruled out. However, Válek stressed that the ministry recommends wearing face masks and respirators in high-risk areas, such as health or social care facilities.

Photo: dronepicr, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

The minister also said members of the public will be able to avail of one free antigen test per month from the autumn period, without needing prior authorization from their GP.

“We will probably see two epidemics unfolding simultaneously during the autumn. On the one hand there will be an epidemic of influenza. At least that is what we are preparing for. Then there will also be the autumn wave of the coronavirus, which our analysts predict about three to four weeks after the start of the flu epidemic.

“That’s why I would like us to agree with insurance companies that patients who feel they have a cold, or certain symptoms, can take an antigen test and find out if they have the Covid we would like to have this fixed by September.

Regarding updated vaccines to fight the Covid omicron mutation, the Minister of Health said the European Medicines Agency is expected to approve a Moderna vaccine that boosts immunity against the omicron BA.1 variant in September . The vaccine should therefore theoretically be available in the EU in October or November this year.

Berta D. Wells