The new Czech government will allow some workers who have tested positive for the coronavirus to stay on the job, in an extraordinary measure to ease possible staff shortages caused by an anticipated surge of the omicron variant.
Health Minister Vlastimil Valek said Friday the measure, which was also used during previous coronavirus surges, would only apply to workers in health care and nursing homes who have no symptoms of COVID-19.
Valek said it would be used only when absolutely necessary, amid strict safeguards to prevent such workers from infecting other people. Further conditions will be set by health authorities.
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.
New infections in the Czech Republic had been declining since a record high in late November, but started increasing again last week. The highly infectious omicron variant is now dominant in the country.
The Health Ministry has said daily infections could reach 50,000 later this month, far exceeding a record of almost 28,000 on Nov 25.
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.