PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech government will allow asymptomatic essential healthcare workers and social service personnel who test positive for coronavirus to keep working, the health ministry said on Friday.
The new rules were less ambitious than previously signalled by the government, which had said it was drawing up a wider list of critical staff including emergency services, police and energy industry workers who could be included in the scheme.
The move by the Czech Republic was the latest easing of restrictions in Europe, where countries are looking for ways to keep services running as the highly-contagious Omicron variant drives COVID-19 cases higher.
Health Minister Vlastimil Valek told reporters the government hoped to manage the wave of Omicron infections, which has already raised new daily cases in the past few days to over 10,000.
Those required to keep working will only be allowed to go from home to the workplace and back. They will wear face masks and eat in separate rooms, he said, adding he only expected a few hundred workers to qualify under the new rules, to be applied only when the situation required it.
“The measures will be set in a way to ensure there is zero risk of infecting the working collective,” he said.
The government has already ordered testing at schools and from Monday, workers will have to test twice a week.
Valek predicted daily case numbers to grow to 20,000 early next week and possibly to 50,000 at the end of the week.
Numbers of people in hospitals with COVID-19 have been dropping, to 1,912 as of Thursday, according to Health Ministry data.
Valek reiterated the government strategy was to slow the pass-through of Omicron through the population and avoid swamping hospitals.
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)