Amid pandemic, Czech intensive care ward is still half-full

Health

A healthcare worker attends to a COVID-19 patient in an intensive care unit (ICU) at the General University Hospital in Prague, Czech Republic, Tuesday, April 7, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

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PRAGUE (AP) — Unlike their colleagues in Italy and Spain, Czech hospital doctors have not yet needed to make harrowing decisions on which COVID-19 patients get the best care.

Only half the ten intensive care ward beds were occupied Tuesday at Prague’s General University Hospital, where the Czech Republic treats people with the most serious coronavirus complications.

Several of the country’s hospitals were even in a position to offer spare beds to badly-hit France.

While the crisis is far from over in the country, the government’s top epidemiologist, Deputy Health Minister Roman Prymula said the health care system “managed to stabilize the epidemic so it doesn’t have an exponential character. That’s what we can say for sure.”

The country of more than 10 million had 4,828 infected people on Tuesday, according to health ministry figures. A total 80 have died since the pandemic began and 86 patients were in intensive care Tuesday. The number of tests has been on the rise but the day-to-day increase in cases on Monday was at 235 the second lowest in a week.

As the pandemic struck slightly later than in western Europe, Czech authorities gained some extra breathing space. They used it to impose sweeping restrictions on daily life, but — unlike most other European countries — made the wearing of protective masks obligatory in all public areas.

At the same time, a lack of protective gear was gradually resolved with help from NATO that provided giant transport planes to fly in supplies from China.

“It’s clear that the measures were absolutely adequate because they prevented an uncontrolled spread of the infection and made it possible for us to get ready the hospitals’ capacity and enough beds, ventilators and other necessary equipment,” Prymula said.

The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most people, but for some it can cause severe pneumonia and lead to death.

The Czech Republic was the first European country to introduce a “smart quarantine,” with a location-tracking tool that uses real-time phone-location data to track virus carriers and people they come in contact with. The aim is to pinpoint where infections are flaring up, how they are spreading, and when and where exactly quarantines and other containment measures are needed.

It should be in full force after Easter.

On Monday, the Czech Republic and Austria became the first European countries to announce relaxing some of their coronavirus restrictions.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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