The State Institute of Public Health and the Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine are developing a vaccine for Covid-19, Health Minister Adam Vojtěch said at a press briefing in Prague on Monday. The research is still in its laboratory phase. If it proves successful the Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine will start testing the vaccine on mice. Clinical tests on humans should take over 18 months.
Minister Vojtěch said the Health Ministry will co-finance the research, which is expected to cost tens of millions of crowns.
More than 80 vaccines are being developed worldwide, some of which could also be tested in the Czech Republic. The health minister said that despite this, and given the probability of a second and third wave of the pandemic, it was important for the country to be self-sufficient in this respect since demand for the vaccine in the world would be overwhelming.
Meanwhile, in the Czech Republic patients with Covid-19 are receiving the experimental drug Remdesivir, which has been approved by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 26 on Sunday to 7,781 the Czech Health Ministry reported. 249 people have died and 3587 have recovered from the disease. Although the daily increase is slightly higher than on Saturday, epidemiologists say the situation remains stable.
The highest number of infected individuals is in Prague which registers 1754 infected persons, but the Karlovy Vary region, in the western part of the country, leads in the highest number of infected persons per 100,000 inhabitants which is currently 129. Over 265,000 people have been tested altogether.
The mobile app eRouska, which should facilitate and speed up the process of looking for people who are at risk of infection due to contact with an infected person, is now available for iPhone users, a spokesperson for the COVID19CZ initiative which developer the app told journalists.
Mobile users with operating systems Android were able to download it a fortnight ago. 160,000 people have installed it in their phones.
The app which is based on the Bluetooth technology saves anonymized data into the owner’s phone about mobile devices with the same application which were recently in its vicinity.
If the user gives permission, health officers will be able to pair individual identification numbers with phone numbers to contact potentially infected citizens. The mobile app is part of the smart quarantine project launched nationwide on May 1.
Czech researchers are looking for traces of the coronavirus in wastewater, after its presence in sewage was detected in Austria, the Netherlands and the US.
Studies abroad suggest that the virus is present in excrements even during the incubation period of infected individuals. Higher concentrations of the virus in wastewater correspond to a higher number of infected people who contribute to the sewer system in the given area, providing a cheap and reliable early warning system of approaching outbreaks.
Czech researchers are testing samples from 17 wastewater plants around the country, serving some 700,000 inhabitants.
Minister of Agriculture Miroslav Toman has assured the public that despite the severe drought, which experts say is the worst in 500 years, the country’s reserves of drinking water are still adequate. Despite this the situation is serious and more action is needed urgently, he said.
The water level in streams is between 6 and 30 percent of the long-term April average, although the country’s dams are full. They retain 485 million cubic meters of water, which should secure the country's consumption needs for 18 months.
The Ministry of Agriculture is working to select 31 places where new water reservoirs could be built. Last year, it spent CZK 13.7 billion on measures to fight the drought.
This year's damage to agricultural crops caused by drought will probably be greater than last year, Toman said, with losses of up to 40 percent in some areas.
Children’s summer camps, currently banned due to the coronavirus epidemic, could take start in July, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš told Czech Television on Sunday. He said the situation should be clear by the end of May.
From May 11, social, sporting and cultural events of up to 100 people will be permitted. Epidemiologist Rastislav Maďar, head of the working group on quarantine measures, said larger summer camps may have to be divided into smaller units. About a quarter million children take part in summer camps each year.
Tuesday should be partly cloudy to overcast with rain in places and day temperatures between 10 and 14 degrees Celsius.