Czechs set to move Covid patients abroad

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Prague

The Czech health minister said Friday the country might begin to transfer Covid-19 patients abroad as soaring infection and death rates threaten to overwhelm hospitals.

The Czech Republic, which now has the highest rate of new cases per capita in the world and the second highest rate of new deaths, according to an AFP tally, is in contact with Germany, Poland and Switzerland, Jan Blatny told reporters.

They have offered dozens of hospital beds, he said. Czech hospitals “can ask for this help, we have set up the systems and procedures,” Blatny added, while noting that no official requests had been made so far.

The government has now also requisitioned medical students after allowing regions to call private doctors in to reinforce hospital Covid wards earlier this week.

The number of public hospitals reaching capacity has grown steadily in the past week.

The EU member of 10.7 million people has registered 1.3 million Covid-19 cases and more than 21,000 deaths, with daily infection growth rates hovering around 15,000.

Blatny said he expected hospitals to receive 600 to 700 patients daily over the next 10 days. The Czech Republic has struggled to contain the epidemic since late last year.

Experts blame its spread on the government’s slow response, a rapid rise of the British strain and the public’s lukewarm response to restrictions.

The Czech Republic launched mass coronavirus testing at companies with more than 50 workers this week, and public institutions are to follow suit next week.

Companies must test employees by March 12, with those that do not at risk of hefty fines or even closure.

A curfew, a limit on gatherings, and restaurant closures have been in place since last year.

But the government decided not to impose the kind of full lockdown that helped it steer through the first Covid wave with relative ease.

On Friday it merely urged companies to have staff work from home whenever possible.—AFP