Monday, September 14, 2020

Czech PM Babiš: Keep Calm & how the CZ Covid response teams work

Lots of the sensationalist media in Czechia and in the world paint the Covid situation in Czechia as bad. Of course, it's not bad at all. Nothing bad is happening here at all, and I am just 5 km from the district (Pilsen-South) that had the highest number of cases in 7 days per 100,000 folks up to the last night.

In this Sunday video, the Slovak-born prime minister of Czechia sported a "keep calm and wash your hands" T-shirt and he delivered a calm message, indeed. In the spring, I believed that Babiš actually was the right man for a similar situation and he would quickly regain his composure and did a lot to keep the economy running etc. But only in the recent month or two, I am sure about it.

Here is a transcript.

Prime minister Babiš: About the face masks and the death due to Covid

So ciao folks, it's Sunday today. I will obviously talk about Covid-19, about the coronavirus, about the testing, about the lethality rates. And especially, I understand that you're bombarded by negative news from all directions. But I am here to calm you down, to give you some positive news that the Czech media, especially the public Czech Television, are not broadcasting.

The first such good news is that yesterday, no one died due to Covid or with Covid. The second news is that relatively to the same period of 2019, 545 fewer people died in total between the January and mid July 2020. The third good news is this graph I got from Prof Beran [a staunch opponent of panic] who tried to explain the point in the Czech Television but the host didn't give Prof Beran much space to do so. Maybe he did explain it on [commercial] TV Prima today. And that's the apparent case fatality rate. You may see that the rate is dropping. The deaths are decreasing in the relative sense and, obviously, also in the absolute sense.

These days, we often hear from the media that we're worse that Spain and France. Yes, if you calculate a particular quantity in some way, it's the case. As a matter of trends, it doesn't look good. In this "Ciao the People", I want to kindly ask you to team up and prevent a big increase. It will obviously be about the face masks. But if you look at the today's numbers describing the most important thing that I follow, the deaths with Covid per 1 million people, and if you omit the midget land of Malta and the dwarf countries of Lichtenstein and Monaco, and then also Lithuania, Latvia, and Slovakia, yes, that looks like a miracle. Just to be sure, we had over 18,000 tests on Saturday and Slovaks only 5,000, their prime minister told me. OK, Greece has 29 deaths per million. But we have 42, about the 5th best country in Europe in this sense, who died with Covid per 1 million people. They were ill and they died with the new virus in their body.

So when someone talks about Spain where 29747 died or Italy where the number was 35603 or France with 30910, we should see a difference. I understand that the media need a sensation and the opposition loves to scream that things are bad in our country. And I will clearly explain to you why they are acting in this way.

What is important is clearly the capacity of hospital beds. That is why I watch the lethality rate in real time. We have 288 patients with Covid in hospitals now including 47 serious cases [another source says 69]. The full bed capacity is 4800. All faculty and regional hospitals where care may be given to the people with Covid. Out of those, 1000 ICU beds are reserved for serious cases, please listen carefully, 1000 serious beds. In the morning, we needed 47 for Covid.

Those are facts we need to perceive and there's of course the assumption that the number of hospitalized patients will be increasing, depending on our success to tame the increasing trend. Without the deep economic restrictions that we imposed during the first wave.

As far as testing goes, yes, the media talk about the record number of infected people. But on Friday, we did 18204 tests. It was the absolute record, a point that none of them has made. Yesterday, it was 12300 tests, a record high for Saturdays. 60% of the tests are ordered by physicians, 40% are initiated and paid by the patients themselves [self-payers]. Colonel Šnajdárek was telling me in the morning that a gang of people wanted to go to the Beerfest in Germany and they needed the fast testing. Of course the official testing venues give a higher priority to the tests that were ordered by the healthcare system and also those who have symptoms. The capacity of the venues is 16500 and will be increasing. The number over 18,000 I mentioned shows that a plan of ours for 20k tests a day has basically been fulfilled already.

Well, the face masks. I understand that they may drive you up the wall, they are unpleasant. I also wear a respirator and it also causes problems to me. But I still have it. And that's of course a big burden for one's psychological state. But an even worse burden is the permanent fearmongering in the media, 24 hours a day. Yes, we have an increase of positive tests. How many of them have symptoms? 90 percent of them are healthy. Tomorrow the minister of healthcare Adam Vojtěch who just left his personal quarantine will give a talk about the methodology of sending people to the quarantine.

OK, I chose a T-shirt telling you to Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands. Something is missing on the T-shirt, put on a face mask. All of us, the citizens of the Czech Republic, are sailing on one boat and all of us need to put them on. Youth understandably don't want them but I would like to ask for some inter-generational solidarity. Our seniors, grandparents, grandpas, and grandmas are at stake. And also those who have other diseases and fight several of them. They may suffer from high blood pressure or diabetes. Or they may be oncological patients.

Please, don't be afraid. Don't be afraid of going to hospitals, especially you, the oncological patients. I am really confident that you face no risks there. But if you neglect the care, it will be bad for you. So please, don't allow others to terrify you, keep on going to the hospital, our healthcare system is wonderful and it is ready. It aced the first wave. So there's no reason for fear.

So let me also say that I thank to all the people who respect the decisions made by the hygiene folks and people at the ministry of healthcare where the face masks should be put on. I believe it has no economic consequences. I am confident about it. And you should also kindly persuade those who avoid face masks to join us. We are on the same boat. Together, we must ace it. Our future is at stake. And so are lives of some fellow citizens. It's not a political issue or about the restriction of your freedom.

Most people accept it and we must show that we work as a society. As a herd that can unite in the time of crisis. And the freedom of each of us ends when the personal freedom of another person begins. We should behave in such a way not to infect other people's parents, grandparents, or someone who is ill. So what is the problem with putting on face masks and respecting social distancing?

Unfortunately, many people say that they will avoid face masks, shares these comments on the social networks en masse, they are against the face masks and they disagree with them. But it is a mistake. Do you remember April? All of us had solidarity and we even had face masks outside. And when someone didn't have one, others alerted him. It was automatic.

Yes, we aced the first wave. We belonged among the best ones and we bragged about it. I was also proud that Czechs did great. Even about the Czechs' sowing of the face masks. Because no country in the world was capable of securing all those face masks. Now, the situation is different, 75 million face masks are available in storage areas. And don't forget, many people screamed that face masks were muzzles that were restricting their freedom and that we were jailed here as in a Lager (camp).

That's why we loosened the rules. The demand for loosening was huge. All enterpreneurs, small business owners, and self-employed people were visiting us and telling us that they wanted to return to the normal life. We were looking forward to it, we loosened the rules. And in June, we felt that the virus went away. Well, that guess was incorrect. No one can know what the virus will do in the future. These days, some of the same people who were screaming that it was undemocratic to order the muzzles are screaming that we should have imposed the face masks earlier.

Maybe it was a mistake. We got to the group of early openers like Israel and Singapore. They also have a second wave. Some other countries didn't end the restrictions. But we had a clear societal situation with the high demand for freedom and we were looking forward to the normal lives again. But even those who didn't end the restrictions are seeing an increase of the number of cases.

In the first wave, we imposed nationwide restrictions on the economic activities. The GDP obviously dropped because of these widespread policies, closed shops, and banned self-employment occupations, restaurants, and so on. And we had to stimulate the economy. Our debt was being increased because of the virus, not because of the pensioners, we had to stimulate the people and the economy. And we could afford it because we still belong among the least indebted countries of Europe.

Up to August 31st, we paid CZK 181.5 billion (over $8 billion) in Covid help. And I have said... obviously, they always exploit every imperfect formulation I make, every imperfection expression of mine... I said that there wouldn't be any more nationwide economic restrictions. We won't shut down schools. And we need to complete the details about the methodology. It's simply important for the economy for us to do it right. We want to return our lives to the normal state. And we must find a balance that also protects the lives of our people, and that's the priority, but also to keep the national economy going. That is why I don't want any economic restrictions again.

If we want to evaluate the dynamics of the virus, I understand that everyone, the opposition and journalists, are excited that we are seeing this increase. But please, the true evaluation of our record may only take place at the end. The evaluation will involve the number of fatalities, extra debt, unemployment, and obviously also the economic growth. We simply can't allow hundreds of thousands of unemployed people. That is why we are taking the money and invest them into the people. In the year 2009, it was the other way around. Those who are criticizing us took the money from the people. The pensioners got nothing at all.

So I would primarily ask the media to... yes, I understand that it is a sensation that the numbers will grow now and every day will bring a new record, record... So folks, try to occasionally help us because you're on the same boat, too. Including the media. It's wrong for you to nurture the negative atmosphere. I am very sorry that it has become a political issue. It is not a political issue. We are just saving lives.

How many people are abusing this issue before the regional elections? And why? We should be united. The future of our country and all citizens is at stake.

Of course, in the case of the coronavirus, we are seeing hundreds of interviews, various physicians and scientists are agreeing or disagreeing.

I primarily want to thank all the hygiene folks, labs, physicians, nurses, soldiers, students, volunteers for their everyday work. Your job is not easy. I understand that in the phone, people are sometimes nasty to you, they scream at you or use vulgarities, even during the tests. You may read in the newspapers that you don't do enough even though you know that you are doing the maximum.

Lots of work has been done and Vlado Dzurilla finally says it in "Ciao the People", too.

So I am thanking to the whole Smart Quarantine team, especially the brigade general Petr Procházka. He has done a lot, indeed. He was a commander of our troops in Kosovo and Afghanistan and now he is doing the Smart Quarantine. Yes, the Smart Quarantine works and it is getting better every day.

I am also grateful to Colonel Petr Šnajdárek who is unfortunately Covid-positive now but he still works. So does Ms Rážová, the chief public health official, who was also positive. And Vlado Dzurilla. And Prof Dušek, the statistician in chief. And the whole Central Control Team. And many others. Also, in the government, we established the Government Council for Health Risks. I also thank to the minister of interior Mr Hamáček who is responsible for the distribution of the face masks and respirators to our seniors which will be done through the Czech Post Office.

So I think that one must be an optimist. I understand that many people are negative and they mock us and they are joyful that the numbers are increasing. I am unhappy. We should have solidarity with each other.

That is also why I want to inform you about the systems again, how they work. On July 27th, we created the Government Council for Health Risks where the key ministers are represented, Hamáček, Vojtěch, Metnar, myself, governor Běhounek as a representative of the regions, Šmehlík for the health insurance companies.

And we created the Control Bureau for the Integrated Control Team which is led by the main publich health official Ms Rážová. It also has Gen Procházka, Col Šnajdárek, Ms Macková from the ministry of healthcare, and Prof Dušek.

Aside from that, under the ministry of healthcare, after a controversy about their opinion, I made a clear order on August 24th that Ms Rážová is in charge of all these groups. They include the group led by Prof Chlíbek, a clinical group led by Prof Černý, and a lab group led by Assoc Prof Hajdúch. Please notice that all these systems are operating correctly.

I am confident that we are doing the maximum to protect our citizens and especially the ill people. And to keep our economy going. And I want to ask you to help us. I am certain that together, we will succeed. Because the situation is different than what it was in the first wave.

Also, please, use the face masks. Do the things prescribed by the ministry of healthcare. Respect the 3R rule: washing youR hands, Rface masks, and Rsocial distancing. ;-) I can promise you, on behalf of myself, that I and my government will do everything to do things as well as in the first wave. I thank you for your help.

Vladimír Dzurilla, a government person for IT and digitalization. Good afternoon from me, too. A short report on the Smart Quarantine.

What we managed to do recently was to connect all the regional hygiene station to a unified system Daktela which is used to launch epidemiological investigations. And it's used to collect all the contacts that must be quarantined to maximally slow down the contagion.

We're particularly successful in hiring new people who help with th tracing. Next week, we will add 60 new people who will operate the system.

All the regional hygienic stations are connected now, and that is why we are seeing all the queues that must be processed and that must be processed ASAP because of the piling number of infections.

We are doing our best to do these things within 24 hours. It means to do the investigation, to collect the contacts, and send the people to the hygienic stations ASAP.

Those 5 weeks have been used very nicely, I think, because the system already works today. And we see all the data that we need. And we primarily use these things to scale up the system.

Today, with the new operator with a unified system in place, we can already do the tracing and further help immediately.

The consolidated system Daktela also brought another advantages. The regional hygienic stations may help each other. Within Prague, it is very clear that they are doing so. And 6 other regions' stations have joined to help, too. And that is why the system is helping to fight the epidemic in risky areas, that is how the Smart Quarantine was really built. To allow us intervene only to those places where the intervention is needed. And this selection seems to work fine now.

The current number of the people with the access to "call" within this system is 519 including 72 army physicians. We keep on increasing the numbers because, as I said, Daktela is capable of scaling up. And that is why we can add people, according to the immediate needs, who are helping the regional hygienic stations with the "calls". We are preparing 200 extra people today who will be gradually trained. We will start on Tuesday when extra 60 people will go through a crash course. And we will gradually include them in the system to help the tracing.

It is too long and too Czech, I won't do proofreading. Sorry.

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