Policy responses for Czech Republic - HSRM

Czech Republic

Policy responses for Czech Republic

1. Preventing transmission

The section on PREVENTING TRANSMISSION includes information on key public health measures that aim to prevent the further spread of the disease. It details how countries are advising the general public and people who (might) have the disease to prevent further spread, as well as measures in place to test and identify cases, trace contacts, and monitor the scale of the outbreak.

1.1 Health communication

Official advice on hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette has been frequently communicated since February 27, 2020, when the Minister of Health called for a meeting of the Central Epidemiology Committee (see section 5). A government resolution issued on March 15, 2020 recommended physical distancing (2 metres distance) [1], which was made obligatory on March 24 and became recommendable on June 15 (for more details, see Section 1.2 – Physical Distancing and transition measures) [2].

In early April, people reported Czech TV to be the most common source of information (36%), followed by online news sources (33%) and webpages of the government, regions and other state authorities (13%) [3]. During the spring height of the COVID-19 crisis, there were regular government press meetings broadcast live. The Prime Minister, Minister of Health, Chairman of the Central Crises Staff, and Chairman of the COVID-19 Central Management Team announced most measures and updates. A special COVID-19 MoH webpage (www.koronavirus.mzcr.cz) was built to display all relevant information on the pandemic, including the information on outbreak severity (number of performed lab tests, infected people, currently hospitalized, recovered, deceased, etc) [4]. There is also a special government webpage that shows all government resolutions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and the fight against it [5].  A special information hotline (1212) was set up shortly after the declaration of the state of emergency to accommodate all communication related to the disease. Under the supervision of the Ministry of Industry it provided information on business matters including business premises closures, on health and health care, hygienic and preventive measures, social care services and socioeconomic issues, cross-border movement, and transport. On July 1, a new information hotline (224 972 222) was created by the Ministry of Health. The new line is a permanent MoH line providing information on all health and healthcare related issues, not only COVID-19 related, operating on regular weekdays’ working hours [6]. In spring, the State Public Health Institute operated 3 other 24-hour information hotlines on COVID-19 issues. Since September 1, the MoH has introduced a new COVID-19 health-related information line (1221), which is served by trained medical students. 

Since the epidemiological situation has improved in the Czech Republic during May and June, the press conferences of the Ministry of Health and IHIS, which were initially held weekly at the height of crisis, now take place only once every few weeks. Government press conferences are currently more concerned with economic consequences, mitigating the financial losses of the pandemic and restriction measures rather than strictly health communication.

With the start of the new school year in September the epidemic began to rise again. General and expert public (including the Chamber of Commerce, for instance) complained the government and state authorities’ communication was confusing at that time: for instance, the reinstating of protective measures was not clear and frequently changed. The introduction of the so-called traffic lights for district infection transmission risks in August (see section 5.1 Governance for details) seemed not to help the situation. An illustrative example to poor communication was the reintroduction of face masks obligation in August and early September, see section 1.2 Physical distancing. There is continued criticism of experts on the lack of publicly available data by state authorities and ÚZIS (Institute for Health Statistics and Information) for not sharing the relevant data to experts and researchers.

By mid-October, the epidemiological situation is the worst in Central Europe. The dissemination of  news and crisis management measures was delegated to the Minister of Health. The public trust in state authorities declined dramatically, reaching 40.7% in mid-September compared to 61.9% in June (Index of confidence in state apparatus, National Pandemic Alarm project [7]). Being aware of the dismal situation, the MoH announced (Oct 16) that the Minister’s press briefings would be re- held three times a week and more data would be publicly available. 

[1] Government Resolution No. 215, issued on March 15, 2020. https://www.vlada.cz/assets/media-centrum/aktualne/Omezeni-pohybu-osob.pdf
[2] Ministry of Health Extraordinary Measure issued on March 23, 2020. https://koronavirus.mzcr.cz/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Mimo%C5%99%C3%A1dn%C3%A9-opat%C5%99en%C3%AD-voln%C3%BD-pohyb-osob-na-%C3%BAzem%C3%AD-%C4%8CR.pdf
[3] Survey conducted by Kantar agency for the Czech TV between March 31 and April 1st, 2020. https://ct24.ceskatelevize.cz/domaci/3072272-pruzkum-pro-ct-ztraty-prace-se-obava-vice-nez-tretina-lidi 
[4] Ministry of Health, Covid-19: Overview of current situation in the CR. https://onemocneni-aktualne.mzcr.cz/covid-19
[5] Government resolutions associated with fight against the coronavirus epidemic. https://www.vlada.cz/cz/epidemie-koronaviru/dulezite-informace/prehled-vladnich-usneseni-od-vyhlaseni-nouzoveho-stavu-180608/
[6] https://koronavirus.mzcr.cz/ministerstvo-zdravotnictvi-spousti-novou-linku-pro-verejnost-zdravotnicka-cast-linky-1212-konci/
[7] https://www.stemmark.cz/national-pandemic-alarm-za-nejdulezitejsi-informace-o-pandemii-cesi-povazuji-celkovy-pocet-nakazenych-a-aktualni-prirustky/