PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech government shortened the quarantine period for COVID-19 positive people from seven days to five as it prepares for Omicron, which experts estimate will be the dominant variant in the country around mid-January.
The government also approved blanket testing in companies, effective Jan. 17, in addition to mandatory tests at schools which reopened this week.
The country of 10.7 million saw its daily count of new infections drop sharply in recent weeks from a peak recorded in late November, and hospitalisations stand at roughly a third of the record numbers seen last March.
However, Omicron has already been detected in dozens of people and examples from countries like the United States or Britain show that the spread is lightning-fast.
The centre-right government of Prime Minister Petr Fiala, in office since mid-December, argues that the shorter isolation period is appropriate because of faster incubation of the new variant and also due to its swifter spread.
“It is needed, also based on foreign experience, to shorten the isolation and quarantine to five days,” Fiala said.
The adjustment is effective Jan. 11, Health Minister Vlastimil Valek said.
Valek also reiterated vaccination was the main weapon against the pandemic, as the government seeks to boost inoculation rates and promote booster shots.
The Czech Republic still lags behind EU peers, with 62.2% of the general population fully vaccinated, and 2.55 million booster shots distributed.
(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Nick Macfie)