World’s worst COVID mortality rate sends Czechs back to the misery of the Cold War



Litomerice, Czech Republic — A flashing blue light across the bedroom window is characteristic of the night. Litomerice, a town in the northern part of the Czech Republic. The light comes from yet another ambulance climbing the access road leading from the dark, deserted town to the hospital on the hill. There may be another COVID-19 patient on board. This is the country with the highest COVID mortality rate on the planet and is experiencing another surge in infectious diseases.

Doctor Kateřina Steinbachová lives in a medical facility next to Lithmierzice Hospital. A year ago, the hospital was selected as one of the special COVID units in the northern part of the country.

Ironically, ambulance traffic is the only sign of life during these desperate nights of the pandemic.

“My parents told me that the outside world looks like a night during a communist dictatorship,” says a 31-year-old doctor.

Back in the communist era, businesses closed early, neon signs didn’t flash at night, and people wanted to stay home rather than walk around. At that time, boredom, anxiety, and abandonment suffocated the town. Last year, a series of restrictions, bans, curfew and blockades brought back these unfortunate memories for many Czechs.

“Many of my older patients are depressed, and they say they are now reminiscent of the era of” normalization of communism. ” They feel swallowed in gray, “says psychotherapist Tomáš Rektor.

He refers to the 1970s, following the so-called Prague Spring, when Soviet tanks sent from Moscow brutally crushed the Czechoslovak rebellion against communist rule. Bloodshed regained responsibility for the Communist hardliners. They then ruled the country with a combination of bureaucratic overkill and violent repression.

Aside from the similarities in appearance, what has been suddenly saved recently is the communist social heritage. Many Czech ideas were formed during the dictatorship. The dictatorship ended in 1989, 42 years later, and the current generation of Czechs over the age of 50 reached the height of their lives. According to analysts, this has contributed significantly to the current health crisis.

The COVID-related mortality rate per 100,000 people in the Czech Republic remains the highest in the European Union, as does the number of infected people per day. Dozens of hospitals are on the verge of collapse, many of which are unable to accommodate seriously ill patients due to ICU beds and a shortage of medical personnel.

Dozens of hospitals in the Czech Republic have declared “massive casualties”. This means that it may not be available to patients who need an ICU bed. It has become so important that the Czech government has asked Germany, Switzerland and Poland to accept dozens of patients to support these overwhelming hospitals.

The current crisis here is particularly striking as the Czech Republic succeeded in destroying the virus in the first wave of spring 2020. The Czechs watched over their favorite vacation destination, Italy, for fear of being attacked by the coronavirus. Hundreds of Italians die each day, but in the Czech Republic, the daily death toll in the first three months of the pandemic did not exceed ten. There were days when no one died.

The COVID-19 pandemic serves as a major test of this young democracy, and many believe that the Czechs have failed after their first victory over the virus. There is still a feeling that the government is hoping to solve the problem, not personal responsibility.

“Since the collapse of communism, we have not yet learned how to live freely. We have not developed a sense of self-responsibility. We prefer to delegate it to someone else. This If so, to the government, “said sociologist Zicina Cyclova, who was a close ally of the late President Vaclav Havel. She is from the same dissident as Havel and was a good friend of the first freely elected head of state after the totalitarian regime was over.

This backpass attitude is unlikely to help you well if the government turns out to be incompetent during a crisis like the COVID pandemic. And, under the leadership of the current controversial Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, the Czech government has a long record of failed decisions and failed strategies in addressing the threat of COVID.

Babiš, a former member of the Communist Secret Service police, admitted some failures in his recent speech. Specifically, he said it was a bad decision to allow the company to reopen during the Christmas season, and the summer relaxation of masks wearing mandates was wrong. He also admitted that his government underestimated the British variant of the virus.

Litoměřicre’s local hospital accepts these mistakes and mistakes. It is flooded with COVID patients infected with dangerous British mutations.

“My colleagues in the COVID unit are exhausted. They have been there for a year and have had to endure war-like situations in the past few months,” says Dr. Steinbachová.

Due to the lack of staff, many hospitals continue to desperately seek voluntary workers with little or no experience. Some even hire soldiers and firefighters. In addition to these extreme situations, many doctors and nurses have been infected and, according to government statistics, are one of the hardest hit professionals in terms of COVID infection.

And it’s not over yet. At the end of February this year, Prime Minister Babiš said March was hell. Statistics proved he was right. Hospitalization rates, the number of seriously ill and currently infected people are at record levels. And the country of 10.7 million is rapidly approaching 27,000 COVID-19-related deaths. Globally, the Czech Republic ranks first in terms of deaths per 100,000.

PavelŽáček, a former director of the Institute for the Comprehensive System, said the necessary pandemic response had a dictatorial past response, forcing Czech residents to take a period of self-examination.

Democracy, which developed at the beginning of the pandemic, could not slow the spread of the virus because they were not accustomed to being told what to do and had many rebellious restrictions. Said Žáček. The dictatorship was more successful in enforcing the rules, but used the situation to chase opponents.

“The Czech Republic lies somewhere between these two systems,” he said, while many are deeply distrustful of the Babiš government’s response to the pandemic, but more intervention on the other. The majority of the population that demands is still present.

Žáček fears that people may have forgotten what they have learned since the end of the Cold War.

“I’m worried that in the post-COVID era, a sufficient number of Czechs want the government to continue to support them, and the country will move to socialism again.”

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