Czech holidaymakers face COVID-19 tests after trips abroad

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Czechs will be required to undergo a COVID-19 test when they return from summer holidays abroad if they are not fully vaccinated, Health Minister Adam Vojtech said.

The step is the government’s first to try to contain the more infectious Delta coronavirus variant which has now hit the Czech Republic.

The central European country of 10.7 million has been harder hit than most others on a per capita basis since the pandemic hit in 2020, and reported 151 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday.

That is much lower than at the peak of the pandemic but it is the third consecutive week-on-week rise in cases. Also, the reproduction “R” number has risen above 1 for the first time since mid-April, signalling COVID-19 is on the rise again.

Under the new measures, people will need to have a test when they return from holidays abroad – with the exception of those who are fully vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID-19 within 180 days – and employers must refuse to allow workers back without a negative test.

The country has administered 8.24 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, mostly the Pfizer/BioNTech shot, and 3.28 million people have been fully vaccinated.

In March, the government ordered firms to test their employees, turning to mass testing as it sought to keep factories running to avoid a harsh economic hit.

Vojtech also said on Thursday the government had downgraded travel bans to about 18 countries with the highest risks of infection, including Russia and Brazil, to strong recommendations against travel after legal consultations.

Photo: A man wearing a protective face mask walks past a souvenir shop in Prague, Czech Republic. EPA-EFE/MARTIN DIVISEK