The Czech Republic has scrapped plans for mandatory COVID vaccines. The country’s Prime Minister, Petr Fiala, announced on Wednesday that the country’s new government ditched the previous government’s plans to introduce mandate vaccines for older people and those in certain professions.
“We do not want to deepen the rifts in society,” Fiala announced at a press conference on Wednesday. Plans had been made that over 60’s and healthcare workers would be forced to be jabbed from March 2022. However, the proposed mandates will no longer go ahead, with many across Czech society and internationally expressing relief at the decision.
“Freedom is spreading!” one tweet posted to social media read.
Czech Republic ends all vax mandates.
Freedom is spreading !
— Real Developments (@pdubdev) January 19, 2022
BREAKING: The world is waking up!
Czech Republic PM Petr Fiala said today at a press conference that vaccination against COVID will not become mandatory.
Also today, UK PM Boris Johnson: “The government will no longer mandate the wearing of face masks anywhere.”
— Jenny Beth Martin (@jennybethm) January 19, 2022
“Vaccination against Covid will not be mandatory in the Czech Republic,” said Fiala said after a government meeting on Thursday. During the meeting, Fiala did stress that the government still sees vaccination as the most effective way to deal with COVID, but said that the government will not force citizens to comply. The compulsory vaccination decree had been introduced by the previous ANO-led government.
Although the Czech Republic’s vaccination rate is higher than in some other Central and Eastern European countries, it sits below the EU average. The country’s vaccination rate is currently 64%, having risen from a reported 56% in September.
In the nation with a population of 10.7 million, 6.7 million are considered fully vaccinated. Reports state that just 2.8 million people in the Czech Republic have received a booster shot.
New Czech Health Minister Vlastimil Válek said that the paragraphs on compulsory vaccination will be removed. He added that mandatory vaccination was “nonsense from the start.”
The decision to scrap the vaccine mandates followed uproar over the plans. On the 9th of January, thousands rallied in Prague against the mandate, marching through the capital to protest compulsory jabs for certain groups and professions.
The protestors gathered in the centre of the city to publicly question the effectiveness of the current vaccines and reject the vaccination of children. They chanted through the capital, chanting “Freedom, freedom.”
Prague, Czech Republic rallies against discriminatory COVID policies pic.twitter.com/18aH4ftqZG
— The Vigilant Fox (@VigilantFox) January 16, 2022
Similar protests took place that weekend, with smaller demonstrations taking place in several Czech cities on Saturday 8th of January. The demonstrations were in response to the previous government’s release of an order in early December, making vaccinations mandatory for over 60’s and those in a range of professions, including medical personnel, police officers, medical students and firefighters.
In December, Prime Minister Andrej Babis’ administration was replaced by a new government formed by five parties that won October’s parliamentary election, led by Prime Minister Petr Fiala. The new administration voiced its opposition to a vaccination mandate for older people and was keen to cancel it, but it previously did not rule out compulsory vaccinations for some, depending on the development of Covid. The government has announced its decision earlier than some expected, with reports predicting that it would announce its decision by the middle of February.
In Ireland, reports have surfaced that all restrictions including masks and vaccine passes could be axed by the end of March. The news, which has reignited hope for many, came as Health Minister Stepehn Donnelly met with Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan on Monday as the latest data confirmed that Ireland has passed the peak of the Omicron wave.
Speaking to RTE, Minister Donnelly said that he believes some COVID restrictions could be eased before the end of this month ahead of a NPHET meeting on Thursday. The meeting comes as Boris Johnson announced yesterday that England was axing all COVID Plan B restrictions – with the country waving goodbye to controversial vaccine passports. The news was met with cheers as it was announced in Parliament. People will no longer be told to work from home, mandatory mask wearing will be dropped, and forced Covid certification will end from Thursday next week when Plan B measures will be allowed to lapse, Mr Johnson said.
Meanwhile, Aontú leader, Peadar Tóibín, has slammed what he described as “the glacial easing of restrictions over twelve months” while the Irish government ignores the “Champagne Party held by Deputy leader’s Department”.
Responding to the Tánaiste’s comments on national radio, the Meath West TD hit out at what he described as the “duplicity” of Fine Gael in government.
“From #Golfgate, to #LeoTheLeak, to #ZapponeGate, Leo’s Varadkar’s Fine Gael have sent a crystal-clear message to the people: ‘we are not all in this together’,” said Deputy Tóibín.
“In a Boris Johnson-esque manner, the Tánaiste went on national radio yesterday to warn people that it could take up to another year before draconian and damaging restrictions will be eased while his own Deputy Leader’s department held a champagne party in breach of Covid-19 regulations – which the Minister admits knowing about,” he said.
Addressing plans to ease restrictions in Ireland, Minister Donnelly said: “What we all want to see is a return to normal life and to ease the burden on people as quickly as possible.
“Do I think some of the measures will be lifted, that the Government will decide to move ahead of the end of the month? Yes. I think it’s likely that measures will come in before the end of the month.
“Then it’s a question of what is the best and safest way to unwind the restrictions in place.”