by William Nattrass
Tuesday, 18
January 2022
Dispatch
13:15

The Czech Republic charts its own path on Covid

The country is rolling back vaccine mandates
by William Nattrass

Prague, Czech Republic

As the Omicron wave spreads through Europe, many central European countries like Germany and Austria have taken an authoritarian turn. But not all of them. The Czech Republic shares borders with Austria and Germany, but its Covid response under a new government elected in October is rapidly diverging from that of its neighbours. 

The new Czech government has pledged to undo the previous regime’s vaccine mandate for over-60s and selected professions in spite of the fact that the Czech Republic has lower levels of vaccination than Austria and Germany. Health Minister Vlastimil Válek has assured people that they “do not have to worry about sanctions” resulting from their vaccination status. 

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic has made international headlines by letting health workers infected with Covid-19 continue coming to work in cases where services could not otherwise function. Doctors and nurses who qualify for this ‘working quarantine‘ will stay in isolation when not at work but letting them leave their homes is acceptable when the health system otherwise couldn’t cope. 

A similar measure was introduced in France earlier this month, but the Czech ‘working quarantine’ is now being touted as a potential solution to wider pandemic-related labour shortages. Ministers have also discussed allowing firefighters, police officers, transport workers and others to go to work even if they have Covid. The measure has for now only been approved for healthcare professionals; but calls are growing for working quarantine to be opened up to other vital sectors too, and Health Minister Válek has refused to rule such a move out. 

The Czech Republic is therefore one of the first countries to contemplate ditching the blanket “stay home” requirement for those infected with Covid. The coming months could see Covid-positive train drivers in the Prague metro, bus drivers on the streets, and police officers on their beat. Indeed, the logic of only opening up working quarantine to healthcare workers is already being questioned as health professionals are, by definition, more likely to come into contact with vulnerable people. 

“Even if ‘working quarantine’ is expanded, most Czechs will still have to self-isolate if they catch Covid. But the limited measure could be a first step towards normalising the return of Covid-positive people to everyday life. The new Czech government has repeatedly said that the country must ‘learn to live with‘ Covid — a stance underlined by Válek’s recent statement that Covid vaccination should run along similar lines to targeted, optional flu jabs in future

It may seem surprising that such an attitude is being taken in a country with one of the world’s highest Covid death rates — a death rate more than twice as high as Austria’s. But a consensus seems to have been reached that ever more coercive measures must be abandoned as a pre-requisite to the end of the pandemic era. 

Such hopes may prove misguided, but economic and political considerations are newly at the forefront of the Czech virus response. The Czech economy took a battering last year as its heavy manufacturing sector suffered from supply shortages, while Prague’s tourism industry was crippled by a lack of foreign visitors. The new government does not want the start of its reign to be marked by an even greater economic calamity than has already befallen. 

Either way, there is a climate of optimism here in the Czech Republic. Hopefully it will start spreading to the rest of Europe too.

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Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
4 months ago

Good going Czech.
It will pay to be the first to implement sensible, workable policies . This act is NOT misguided. It is the first recognition in a series that will propel countries out of this one track, backward thinking. Hopefully you will reap the benefits as you start to see the bigger picture.
What we all have been subjected to, has been unprecedented, unprogressive, inhumane & certainly not scientific. What the poor have been subjected to is a further extension of that.
It must stop.

Last edited 4 months ago by Alka Hughes-Hallett
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
4 months ago

“It may seem surprising that such an attitude is being taken in a country with one of the world’s highest Covid death rates — a death rate more than twice as high as Austria’s. But a consensus seems to have been reached that ever more coercive measures must be abandoned as a pre-requisite to the end of the pandemic era”.
I’m often in the Czech Republic and have frequently been taken aback over the past few years just how much more laid back everyone there was/is compared to Austria. People were really very lax in summer 2020 and seemed to believe that they had successfully crushed the pandemic with nothing further to fear. The winter 2020/2021 then took a heavy toll and I assumed that this might make the Czechs a little more cautious and strict. No, not especially.
I’m not quite sure whether I think that they are sloppy and negligent or whether they are simply a tough people who take the knocks and keep on going regardless. Currently, I’m tending towards the latter.

Last edited 4 months ago by Katharine Eyre
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
4 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

A lot of the rather paranoid propagandist overreaction to covid is reminiscent of the Soviet imposed political paranoia of the Czech Communist Party era. I think the Czech people, even if they don’t consciously make the connection, are inoculated against such an authoritarian approach. They are a very grounded people with a good sense of humour. They produced the Good Soldier Svejk, Kafka and Chapek.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
4 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

And Jara Cimrman!

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
4 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

A new one for me. I visited Czechoslovakia a number of times during the Husak era but didn’t come across Jara Cimrman. Having googled him I can see he is a very Czech joke, just the sort of thing to appeal to them.

John Shone
John Shone
3 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The Czechs are tough. I served alongside them in Croatia in the spring of 1995, and they were the only ones who refused to back down. They actually took their mandate seriously. Lots of respect for the Czechs.

Damian Grant
Damian Grant
3 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The Ukrainians adopted pretty much the same approach after a period of time. Ultimately, people needed to work to in order to live and look after their families…it wasn’t an option to sit idly at home and do pretty much nothing…get out and get on with it…

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

They certainly provided proof of their resolution during and after both world wars.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
4 months ago

Can we call the Czech approach “Praguematism” ?

James Joyce
James Joyce
4 months ago

Cheeky!

Chris Eaton
Chris Eaton
3 months ago

One of the better posts lately.

Damian Grant
Damian Grant
3 months ago

absolutely love it….LOLEST!!!!

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
4 months ago

Sounds like not everybody in Europe is a zero covid basket case. Well done Czech Republic.

Andrea Re
Andrea Re
4 months ago

“… a consensus seems to have been reached that ever more coercive measures must be abandoned as a pre-requisite to the end of the pandemic era.
*Such hopes may prove misguided* but…”

How can they possibly be misguided? I am not clear what the alternative is. After all we have already had 2 years of “plan A”. Time to try something else.

PS
Out of curiosity in which way has the government changed?

Last edited 4 months ago by Andrea Re
Marek Nowicki
Marek Nowicki
4 months ago

We all going to die!!!….oh…yes it’s true!!!

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
4 months ago

Well done Czechia! Maybe time to visit you again!

Satya Kanwarova
Satya Kanwarova
4 months ago

clap for czech rep. the emoji didnt show below…

Satya Kanwarova
Satya Kanwarova
4 months ago

Czech Republic