System of alert levels gives public predictable plan of anti-epidemic measures in relation to COVID-19

In cooperation with the Institute of Health Information and Statistics, the Ministry of Health has prepared a system of four alert levels (so-called traffic lights) to which certain framework procedures, activities and anti-epidemic measures of the public health protection authorities are related.

Alert levels in the field of public health protection determine the scope of key anti-epidemic measures, which are essential to limit the outbreak and further spread of COVID-19, based on defined levels of disease transmission caused by the novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2.

“The aim is to give the public an anticipatable plan as to which steps may be taken in relation to the specific epidemiological situation in their region. People will know which measures to expect. For the public health authorities and local government, this concerns methodology which gives them instructions on how to proceed. We are thus consolidating the procedure across the entire Czech Republic,” said Adam Vojtěch, Minister of Health, explaining the system.

Alert-levels-in-the-field-of-public-health-protection

Alert levels range from 0 to 3 and mean:

  • 0, white: ZERO OR NEGLIGIBLE RISK
  • 1, green OCCURRENCE OF INFECTION IN CZ WITHOUT COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION
  • 2, yellow: INCIPIENT COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION IN CZ
  • 3, red: GROWING OR PERSISTING COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION IN CZ

This is a simple set of traffic lights. A framework of procedures and activities which the public health protection authorities should perform within the system of preparedness and reaction to the threat of the epidemic spread of COVID-19 is defined for each level. These, for example, include the activation of crisis task forces and crisis hotlines, management of the capacities of testing points and laboratories or activation of the Intensive care dispatching centre and involvement of the Czech Army. A key part of the system is constituted by procedures relating to in-patient care, these including triage on entry, reprofiling of beds or earmarking of staff for the provision of care to COVID patients.

“Measures adopted in relation to individual alert levels will be discussed continuously on the level of the regional public health authorities and local government. A decisive factor in the choice of the traffic light colour will particularly be an evaluation of the situation by epidemiologists at the public health authorities in the given region. They know the local epidemiological situation best,” said Jarmila Rážová, Chief Public Health Officer.

The traffic lights also define a framework of possible measures for the general public. A package of anti-epidemic measures will be linked to each level, for example, face masks, restriction in the number of people allowed at events, restrictions to opening hours in public catering facilities, washing hands and disinfection, respiratory hygiene and social distancing. Measures also include recommendations for providers of healthcare and social services.

A scoring system for the evaluation of local (regional) high-risk developments will be created on the basis of an evaluation of daily and weekly trends. “We are monitoring several factors, for example, local outbreaks, growth in the number of patients, impact on vulnerable groups, growth in the number of hospitalisations, in-patient capacity and the nature of the spread of infection. We will be updating the traffic lights of alert levels on the basis of the evaluation of these factors in the individual regions on a weekly basis, this being on the level of individual districts,” added Ladislav Dušek, Director of the Institute of Health Information and Statistics.

We have tried to make the system of alert levels as easy to understand as possible for the public and for it to provide the best possible instructions for the public health authorities. It cannot, however, be regarded as an exhaustive list of measures. The behaviour of the infection is so diverse that measures in individual regions will always have their own specifics,” added Rastislav Maďar, epidemiologist and head of an expert group attached to the Ministry.