Mr. Prime Minister, the State Security Council meets on Monday, how realistic is the complete numbing of the country, the so-called lockdown?
I would ask you not to use the word lockdown, because everyone imagines something different under it. What we are talking about is the tightening of current measures, because the numbers infected are growing dramatically, and it could be said that even uncontrollably, they are growing. On Monday, we will announce new measures, which would apply from Wednesday.
Deputy Prime Minister Hamáček told Saturday’s Práva that measures for 14 days would not be enough and that it would be necessary to ask the Chamber of Deputies to extend the 30-day state of emergency, which is valid until 3 November. Do you agree?
The measures that we will announce on Wednesday will overlap the existing ones, and so far the debate has been that it should be within three weeks. And we will certainly ask the Chamber of Deputies to extend the state of emergency, but before that we want to discuss it with the opposition.
What measures are you specifically preparing?
It is still a matter of debate, we must agree on it in the coalition, discuss the measures with the opposition, the economists and the tripartite, so that everyone knows about them and supports them. The main thing is to minimize contact between people.
If we can do it just a little bit, then we do not want to shut down entire economic sectors.
But it mainly depends on whether people follow the rules. Unfortunately, the pleas and appeals have not worked much yet.
On Saturday, for example, TV Nova showed footage from Prague or Pardubice, where people drank in the squares until late in the morning, because the pub was pouring alcohol from the dispensing window. No spacing or drapes.
You’re right. Unfortunately, we have a lot of reports that some people and businesses are not following the measures at all. We have information that some bars seem to close at 8 pm, but the basement continues. We also know that some restaurants continue to operate and sell people alcohol on the street. Night broadcasts are a big problem.
Restaurant operators should understand that it is also in their interest that their clients do not drink alcohol on the street, because then the measures can affect everyone. As for the bars, we will probably have to close them completely.
Is the closure of shopping centers on the table? The footage from the TV showed that a number of people gather there, some of them do not even wear veils and sit in larger groups while eating.
We want to keep shopping centers open, but on the condition that their owners arrange for government measures to be strictly observed. We can’t fight the virus ourselves, we need the help of others.
What about disease transmission in schools? High schools are already in distance learning, the second grade alternates after classes at home and at school. Are you considering closing the first stage of primary school?
Yes, covide transfer between children and students is a problem. As for the first stage, their closure for a time unfortunately cannot be ruled out. Epidemiologists’ thoughts also point to the fact that after a week-long autumn holiday (from Saturday, October 24 to Sunday, November 1), 14 days of distance learning would follow. So three weeks in total.
Would nursing care be extended? And would kindergartens close?
These are things to debate. We need to talk about nursing in the House.
Do you envisage a ban on going beyond a certain distance from the home as in other countries?
I have not heard such a suggestion from epidemiologists, but some considerations go in the sense that there would be limited hours to go out, except when someone goes to work or has responsibilities. But nothing like that has been agreed and is not on the table.
Is it planned to introduce drapes outdoors? Slovakia has done it.
There was no talk of that either, but there are suggestions that veils should be worn outside in certain places where more people gather, such as at public transport stops. Everything is up for debate and different epidemiologists have different views.
President Zeman suggested that the police could fine people with two or three thousand crowns for not wearing veils. What do you think about such a proposal?
There are countries that are introducing this. Bavaria, for example, where growth is also high, is tightening the fight against coronavirus and proposing a fine of EUR 250 for not wearing veils. As far as I know, the police in our country have the competence to impose a fine of up to 10,000.
The situation must be resolved by the police on the spot, we do not want to establish a police state here.
That is why we are still appealing to people that the situation is serious and that we should now reduce our lifestyle and be in solidarity for a while. If we do not succeed, then the measures will have a negative impact on everyone. And we do not make these measures out of pity, but mainly so that our entire health system does not collapse. Unfortunately, there seem to be people who still ignore our challenges.
Covid is not a fiction or the flu, it’s a serious problem. We must also perceive what is happening in the surrounding countries. The number of infected people is huge throughout Europe. In France, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia.
But we are the worst off in Europe.
If you calculate it according to the ratio of the number of infected per capita, then yes. According to
The absolute number of deaths is not so bad.
Do you not feel that many people are rejecting the measure because of you and the Minister of Health, Prymul? And that it is also necessary because of chaotic communication?
There are certainly people who reject the measures because of me, Professor Prymul or the government. But this is very unfortunate, because we have a responsibility to protect the lives of our citizens and minimize economic damage.
We cannot afford to freeze the economy completely like in the spring, it cost us 200 billion. We don’t have it anymore. At the same time, we must fight for every life, I do not want to approach the debate on how much human life costs. We try to find a balance, I hope most people understand that.
And when it comes to chaotic communication, the main contributors are various media and websites, which imprint the opinion of anyone, which, of course, confuses citizens. With the arrival of Mr. Prymula, the communication has significantly improved, he actively communicates for the entire department, responding to comments.
At the same time, he will say one thing at the press conference, for example about the closure of the zoo, the ministry will issue an overview of where it is different, and the Office of the Government will inform it differently. Isn’t that chaos?
So Mr. Prymula argued, didn’t that happen to you? Again, someone did not check the officials. You are also not perfect. Come sit here for a while and see what the onslaught is, what we are dealing with, what to think about. That pace is murderous.
What do you say to Prymul’s suggestion that he not be buried in the ground?
This is an epidemiological matter, I am not an expert and I do not know much about it. I take note, I suppose he wouldn’t suggest something like that if it wasn’t necessary.
Prymula has become a lightning conductor for people’s dissatisfaction. Are you still standing behind him? Is it no longer a burden for the government?
Of course, I stand behind the Minister. I am in contact with the representatives of most countries in the EU and the pressure on the Minister of Health, but the whole government is similar there, at this time it is logical. But even if some are angry with him, most people realize that covid is a serious matter.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped us find people for call centers, because despite the huge increase, we still believe that it makes sense to trace contacts and try to isolate them. We don’t want to give up.
What do you say to the proposal of comprehensive testing of people for covid? Prymula is for voluntary testing of millions of people, Hamáček, on the other hand, talks about mandatory testing.
We need to talk about it, we are on the level of reflection, no country has done so yet. A similar debate awaits us regarding vaccination. I am not in favor of any orders, moreover, we have to discuss the proposals with the general practitioners, who are already helping us and the hygienists a lot.
Are you still sure that our healthcare system will withstand this wave?
I firmly hope so. It is true that now the situation is worse than in the spring, we have many more infected medics. We have 2106 people in hospitals, four hundred of whom are in serious condition in the ICU, but the main problem is that the growth of those infected will not show up over time. That’s why we have to react before the wave reaches us. That’s why it’s been tightening since Wednesday.
But then you have a debate about possible help for entrepreneurs. You say that we do not have a general shutdown of the economy. But do we have additional compensation for entrepreneurs?
The support will not be completely widespread, but will have more specific criteria than in the first waves. Deputy Prime Minister Havlíček is preparing specific measures for culture, business in sports, for tour operators, trade fairs, restaurants and tourism. It will be ready within a week at the latest. Next in line will be fitness centers, cinemas, indoor pools, congress tourism.
President Zeman told the iDnes server that entrepreneurs who would now go bankrupt for covid would prove incapable, that the artists of the best work were hungry, and that now Prague cream would have time to read books. Do you agree with the president? According to the opposition, you said yourself that there are too many restaurants.
These are the views of the President, I will not comment on them. I did not say that there were too many restaurants, but I quoted statistics according to which we have a large number of these facilities compared to other countries. As far as I know, Mr Havlíček is considering that aid to restaurants should again be linked to rent compensation; for tourism, we are considering subsidies based on sales or VAT.
You have spoken several times about deriving personal responsibility. Would it not be the cleanest, after all that has happened, to go to the House with a proposal for early elections next June instead of the due date in October 2021?
That’s not the question for me. I do not think that the early elections will solve anything. Nobody knows what will happen. The disease is on the rise all over Europe. The final balance can only come after the vaccine is over, when the virus is over. Finding the culprit is not appropriate now, we will return to it at the right time.
We managed the first wave to number one, we were among the best. Yes, then summer came, yes, we could have done something sooner. I take everything. We have done and are doing our utmost to protect the lives and health of our people. Covid was not caused by any of us, but we all have to fight him. I have a clear conscience, no government in front of us has dealt with such a situation. And the citizens will issue us a report card in the finals next year.