Key workers in Czech Republic will get quarantine exemption

Critical workers in the Czech Republic who have a positive rapid Covid test can carry on working until they receive a PCR result under new plans to keep services running

  • Key workers will be allowed to work even if they have a positive lateral flow
  • They will be separated from colleagues in what is being called ‘work isolation’
  • But if they test positive on a PCR test they will still have to quarantine at home
  • It is believed teachers will not be among the Government’s list of key workers

The Czech Republic has become the latest European country to ease Covid isolation rules, by allowing key workers to go into work even if they have tested positive for Covid.

In a major policy change, the central European nation has announced plans to scrap an automatic home isolation period for key worker such as doctors, firefighters and police officers.

Instead, key workers will be allowed to enter a ‘working quarantine’ meaning they can continue their job but safely away from their colleagues.

However they will still have to fully isolate if they test positive on a confirmatory PCR, according to Czech news outlets. 

Health and socials workers are likely to figure in the ‘working quarantine’ scheme, along with drivers and those in other essential services such as power plants or water management plants. 

However it is believed teachers will not be included on the list of key workers.

The move, which comes after Czech ministers announced plans to cut the country’s isolation period from 14 days to five, is aimed at keeping critical services running in the event that cases spiral.

Though case rates in the Czech Republic are relatively low, with the country’s seven day average currently at around 6,660 cases, experts have warned of up to 50,000 cases a day due to the rapid spread of Omicron. 

According to Czech news outlet, Blesk, Minister of the Interior Vít Rakušan said: ‘Work quarantine is that the employee comes to work, in the morning or during the morning he is tested with an antigen test and the antigen test is positive.

‘If the antigen test is positive, the person is asymptomatic, so he feels subjectively good, so in that moment – for those specific professions – the employer has the right to say that he needs the person to perform the work.’

In a major policy change, the central European nation has announced plans to scrap an automatic home isolation period for key worker such as doctors, firefighters and police officers. The move has been announced by Czech Minister of the Interior and Deputy Prime Minister Vit Rakusan (pictured left)

Though case rates in the Czech Republic are relatively low, with the country’s seven day average currently at around 6,660 cases, experts have warned of up to 50,000 cases a day due to the rapid spread of Omicron

But he said teachers were not likely to be included in the work isolation scheme. 

He added: ‘Once a teacher is tested positively, the risk level is so great that such a person will not logically go to class.’

The new rules are set to come in from January 17. The Czech government is to have say its final say on the plans on Wednesday. 

It comes after the UK, France, Switzerland, Spain and Belgium all cut quarantine periods in the last three weeks and eased some of the conditions for infected staff to return to work. 

With cases rising in many European countries, pressure is growing on health workers, police, firefighters and teachers due to the rise in key workers having to isolate.

But at the same time, data showing that Omicron is less likely to fill hospital beds, especially as many or most people are now vaccinated.

This has encouraged governments to scale back isolation measures and focus on sparing their battered economies.

The hours of work lost to the pandemic around the world in 2020 were equivalent to 258 million full-time jobs disappearing, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and last year the figure still amounted to around 125 million jobs. 

‘Governments are showing much less willingness to impose major lockdowns, or even to impose minor measures, in response to the Omicron wave,’ said ILO economist Stefan Kuhn.

France and Switzerland have both cut quarantine periods to seven days from 10 since Christmas for those with a positive test. 

In Spain – where the 14-day average infection rate hit a new record of 2,723 cases per 100,000 people on Friday, more than 10 times higher than at the beginning of December – the staffing squeeze is being felt across almost all sectors.

The national police union said many officers were working double shifts to cover for colleagues in isolation.

The national train operator Renfe said twice as many drivers were off with COVID-19 as in early December, and had to cancel some 40 services on Friday.

But rules passed on December 22 are now allowing staff back to work without taking a coronavirus test.

The Health Ministry has also set a viral load threshold below which an infected person who takes a PCR test can be considered non-infectious, and so fit to work – enabling medics, social workers and some police to report for duty even if they test positive.

In Spain – where the 14-day average infection rate hit a new record of 2,723 cases per 100,000 people on Friday, more than 10 times higher than at the beginning of December – the staffing squeeze is being felt across almost all sectors. Pictured: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez

Rafael Bengoa, co-founder of Bilbao’s Institute for Health and Strategy, said authorities should focus more on managing infection than preventing it.

‘Pandemics don’t end with a huge boom but with small waves because so many have been infected or vaccinated,’ said the former senior World Health Organization (WHO) official.

‘After Omicron, we shouldn’t have to be concerned with anything more than small waves.’

And there are signs that governments are listening.

‘We have the conditions to … start evaluating the evolution of this disease with different parameters than we have until now,’ Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told the radio station Cadena SER. 

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