Important information, Questions and Answers
1. What is the coronavirus?
The term coronavirus is used for any virus belonging to the subfamily Coronaviridae. It is a collective term for the four families of viruses that cause illness with varying degrees of severity. The name is derived from the characteristic arrangement of the surface structures of the lipid shell in the form of a solar corona. It can cause common problems such as colds, coughs, breathing difficulties or fever, but also more serious illnesses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
The new type, known as the “new coronavirus” or SARS-CoV-2 (formerly designated 2019-nCoV), or Wuhan coronavirus, first appeared in early December 2019 in China’s Hubei Province, where the city of Wuhan, with 11 million inhabitants, is located. The disease caused by this coronavirus has been designated COVID-19.
2. How is COVID-19 transmitted?
The coronavirus is transmitted from person to person by close contact. It is an airborne droplet infection. It most often affects the mucous membranes of the upper and lower airways and the conjunctiva, and its incubation period can be up to fourteen days. A week after infection, the disease manifests itself with a continuous fever that may be accompanied by discomfort, joint and muscle pain, and coughing.
3. What are the symptoms?
The symptoms are similar to the flu: high temperature, difficulty breathing, coughing, muscle aches and fatigue. It can lead only in some patients to the development of viral pneumonia, which can cause respiratory failure.
4. How can I protect myself from the COVID-19 infection?
It is important to proceed as with any common viral disease, i.e. observe basic rules of hygiene. Currently, the Ministry of Health recommends abstaining from travel to affected areas, and if travelling abroad is necessary, it also recommends registration in the DROZD system.
The Ministry of Health also recommends:
- washing your hands frequently
- avoiding obviously sick people
- using, for example, an alcohol-based hand sanitiser
- not remaining in places with large concentrations of people
- covering your mouth with a tissue, your arm or a sleeve when you cough or sneeze. Do not cover your mouth with your hands!
5. Which population groups are most at risk?
Risk groups include older people, groups of children, people with chronic diseases or people with compromised immune systems.
6. Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?
No vaccine is currently available to protect against this disease, but work is underway to develop and distribute one.
7. How is this disease treated?
No specific treatment is recommended for COVID-19. Infected people should begin therapy to relieve the symptoms of infection. Treatment is individual and depends on the specific needs of the patient. Relief therapy uses commonly available medications that can successfully treat many of the symptoms. The effectiveness of the treatment has also been confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
8. How is the Czech Republic preparing for the spread of COVID-19?
The Czech Republic has adopted a number of measures that are among the strictest in the EU. All authorities in charge of public health protection, the National Reference Laboratory, hospitals, emergency medical services and others are on constant alert, while the State Security Council, the Central Epidemiological Commission and Government are actively addressing the situation.
9. Who can I consult?
If you need advice about the current incidence of COVID-19, whether you are a citizen or a health professional, the State Health Institute and insurance companies are available. See the list of important contacts related to coronavirus.
If you are unable to reach anyone on the hotlines, please remain calm. Due to the heightened interest in this problem, lines may be busy or overloaded. You can also obtain information from regional health stations or your GP, who is suitable for these cases.
10. What do I need to do if I feel the symptoms of the disease?
Anyone who has a temperature or respiratory problem is not necessarily suffering from COVID-19. Each case of the coronavirus infection must meet epidemiological criteria (the individual has been in contact with someone who is infected) and clinical criteria (symptoms which are characteristic of the disease).
11. What do I have to do if I have BEEN QUARANTINED?
You have to stay home and stay calm. Stay in the home environment, do not go out and observe the regime established by health personnel. The main thing to do is avoid close contact with other people. If your health deteriorates, contact the health stations or call 112. Breaching the quarantine may result in a fine of CZK 3 million.
12. What if I am dependent on myself?
If you live alone and do not have family or friends who can shop for you or provide other necessities, you can use delivery or remote services. If this is not possible either, you can go out for a short time, for example, to shop or walk the dog. But in these cases, we ask you to be as responsible as possible to your environment. Wear a mask, wash your hands well before leaving and after returning home, and most importantly, do not remain in places which have large concentrations of people for longer than strictly necessary (shopping, walks).
13. Can I receive visitors during quarantine?
During quarantine, certainly not, and older people and people with chronic diseases, not at all. When really necessary, use a mask and keep a safe distance.
14. If I live with other people, how is quarantine handled?
If possible, stay in a separate room and isolate yourself from other family members. Again, you and other members of your household should observe higher standards of hygiene and use protective equipment, and also maintain a safe distance and limit physical contact.
15. How long can I use state assistance?
During quarantine, paid sick leave can be applied after an agreement with your employer and doctor. However, if your job allows it, you can agree with your employer, for example, on a home office scheme.
16. How systematically will quarantine compliance be monitored?
The most important thing is personal responsibility and compliance with government and Ministry of Health regulations, i.e. not leaving the home during quarantine. It should also be noted that quarantine not only protects you but also your environment and society as a whole. Failure to comply with the quarantine may also be punished retroactively, with a fine of up to CZK 3 million. The Police of the Czech Republic also cooperates with health stations in compliance inspections.
17. Who can I contact if I want to be tested for COVID-19?
If you are concerned about your health because of the new coronavirus, call your GP or an emergency medical service, or the local health station, which will provide you with information on how to proceed based on the findings (see procedure above).
18. How many beds are available in the Czech Republic for the infected?
In total, over 1000 beds are available at infectious wards around the Czech Republic, including the specialist centre at Bulovka Hospital. The special military hospital in Těchonin can also be activated. If this capacity is exceeded, facilities not primarily dedicated to treating patients with infections will be activated and prepared for these purposes.
19. Can the coronavirus test detect the infection during the incubation period?
It is a PCR test for the detection of nucleic acid. It is not a preventive test, but one that clearly shows whether an individual is infected, i.e. whether he or she has the virus in the blood, or for example, in the respiratory tract, with a swab. The National Reference Laboratory has a precise methodology from the World Health Organization on how to perform the test. Similarly, other laboratories authorized by the Ministry of Health have precise instructions on how to perform tests. The Czech Republic has enough test kits.
19. Are there specific procedures if a new type of infection occurs throughout the world?
The Czech Republic has established concrete procedures for these situations. The Ministry of Health continuously informs the people in charge of public health protection, general medicine and infectious diseases about current developments in the epidemiological situation, as well as physicians and all health personnel. In emergencies, the National Reference Laboratory is also The National Institute of Public Health.
20. Can I get infected if I am sent products from a Chinese store?
COVID-19 is transmitted in the same way as other respiratory diseases, i.e., droplet infection from person to person. Outside the human body, the virus does not survive more than a few hours.
The protection measures are mainly applied at airports, etc., where large numbers of people pass through. Parcel delivery companies and the Czech Post Office, for example, have not implemented any such measures in connection with the spread of coronavirus through parcels and goods, as there is no reason to do so.
21. Can I protect myself from infection by drinking alcohol, eating garlic or with other home prevention methods?
A lot of false and unfounded news and advice about what works against the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has appeared on social networks and many websites, but neither these nor their effects have been proved. At present, no reliable treatment against COVID-19 exists. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the effectiveness of these methods or the use of various preparations is unproved and may be harmful.
22. The Czech Republic has declared a state of emergency. What does this mean?
The state of emergency is declared on the basis of Constitutional Act No. 110/1998, on the security of the Czech Republic. The duration of the state of emergency should not exceed 30 days. It can be extended only with the prior consent of the Chamber of Deputies. The state of emergency is declared as law. The declaration, extension and cancellation of the state of emergency is announced in the usual manner, in particular through the media and local radios.
According to the Crisis Act 240/2000, certain rights and freedoms during a state of emergency are limited to the extent necessary.
Citizens of the Czech Republic may be affected by the announced emergency measures, e.g. the obligation to tolerate bans on entering, remaining in or moving through certain buildings or risk areas due to the restrictions for containing the spread of the disease. Emergency measures may be implemented to limit the consumption and supply of medical devices to cope with the events, for transport measures, to ensure priority supply to children’s, health or social facilities, or to security forces and IRS units.
The state of emergency was declared for the entire Czech Republic at 2 p.m. on March 12, 2020, for 30 days.
23. Can I travel during the state of emergency?
Keep up to date with the latest news on the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Transport. On Friday, 13 March, the Government banned travel to high-risk countries and also banned people entering the Czech Republic from high-risk countries, effective from Saturday. These countries included Austria and Germany, and foreigners will not be able to enter the Czech Republic at border crossings via these countries. Czech citizens are prohibited from travelling to these countries, with the exception of supply drivers or rescue workers.
As of Saturday, the borders may only be crossed by private cars. Cross-border transport by bus, rail or boat has been suspended. The new measures also apply to international passenger air transport.
Under the state of emergency, the government has banned all road, rail and river transport operators from transporting passengers across the borders of the Czech Republic. Czech citizens may return to the country, and foreign citizens are permitted to leave the Czech Republic.
The ban on road transport applies to regular passenger services provided by vehicles carrying more than 9 persons. For rail and river transport, it applies to all passenger trains and vessels.
The government also prohibited the use of airports other than Prague’s Václav Havel International Airport (Prague / Ruzyně, LKPR) for commercial air transport with passengers on board crossing the border of the Czech Republic.
24. May I return to the Czech Republic?
Under the emergency measures, the government permits the entry of vehicles with more than 9 passengers returning to the Czech Republic. In the same manner, foreigners are permitted to leave the Czech Republic.
Passenger road transport operators based in the Czech Republic and abroad may transport buses without passengers to or from the territory of the country.
In the same manner, passenger rail transport operators based in the Czech Republic and abroad may transport trains without passengers to or from the territory of the country.
Operators of cross-border inland waterway passenger transport based in the Czech Republic and abroad may transport vessels without passengers to or from the Czech Republic.
25. Where has SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection been confirmed?
The infection has been confirmed in most countries around the world. The current status of the spread of the disease can be followed at www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ or on the website of the World Health Organization (WHO).
26. The WHO has declared a pandemic. What does that mean in concrete terms?
A pandemic is an epidemic that affects several continents. It is the appearance of a disease of high incidence in a large territory (continents) for a given time. However, pandemics of influenza A are repeated, especially after a more severe antigenic change in the influenza virus (Spanish flu, etc.). The spread of SARS, which was controlled at considerable cost, was a serious threat. The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) epidemic that began in December 2019 is also a pandemic. The WHO declared it a pandemic on 11 March, 2020.
In the past, pandemics were mainly related to influenza, plague, cholera and typhoid. Since the 1980s, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has been a major threat. In 2018, it affected more than 37 million people, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.
27. What are the recommendations of WHO and other international agencies regarding coronavirus?
For events of this type, the Ministry of Health has an Early Warning and Response System, which is a closed system that allows continuous communication with other countries daily. The Ministry of Health also takes part in the regular teleconferences of the EU Health Security Committee (HSC), where information is shared on epidemiological developments, as well as declarations by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
The WHO also has also urged the country to adequately intensify emergency measures to reduce the possibility of further spread of the disease and to protect Czech citizens, especially risk groups susceptible to the disease.
28. What measures have been implemented by the Ministry of Health and the Czech Government based on the current situation?
Since late January, the Ministry of Health and the Government of the Czech Republic have gradually taken preventive and emergency measures in relation to the spread of the new coronavirus in Europe. Follow the current development of the measures.
29. Can the Ministry of Health ban public events or close public places?
Under the state of emergency, yes, and it has already done so. Follow the current development of the measures.
30. Shouldn’t the Czech Republic close its borders?
This is not a solution that would prevent the spread of the coronavirus through the country. COVID-19 is just like any common respiratory disease transmitted by droplets. No country can fully influence its transmission, but by intensifying measures, it can significantly reduce it.
31. Why are there no masks and respirators available anywhere?
At present, the demand for protective equipment such as masks and respirators around the world is high, and for this reason, the availability of masks on the Czech market has dropped. These events are affecting all of Europe, and we are actively addressing it.
32. How can the state not guarantee a sufficient supply of masks and respirators?
Current global demand is so high that all stocks have been quickly exhausted. Masks and respirators are crucial mainly for health workers to protect themselves in hospitals and in the field and to improve care for infected people. They are also important for pharmacists, police, rescue workers and firefighters. They are the first line. During the spread of a disease such as coronavirus, it is important to ensure medical care and the functioning of hospitals. For the general public, it is much more important and effective to observe basic rules of hygiene and to limit travel. The Ministry is doing its best to provide protective equipment. We are in contact with manufacturers and suppliers and are checking availability on the market.
33. Do fabric masks protect against COVID-19?
During contact with patients with symptoms of acute respiratory disease, normal precautions against infection should be followed. The most important is that sick people maintain respiratory etiquette when coughing, sneezing and blowing, use tissues and wash their hands.
Consideration and compliance are essential for both symptomatic patients and the medical staff who treat them. Masks serve mainly to protect the environment, i.e. to prevent a sick person from spreading the disease further. A common mask does not protect against infection but may prevent further spread if the person is already infected. Only a respirator with a degree of filtering protection against viruses, or, to an extent, special curtains manufactured using nanotechnology production processes can provide protection against the transmission of infection from another person.
These questions and answers will be continuously updated.
!! For up-to-date information, follow the social networks of the Ministry of Health and other important websites of the State Institute of Health, the World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.