The new Czech government on Wednesday threw out the previous administration’s plan to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for over-60s and people in key professions.
Under the former government, older adults, health care workers, firefighters, police officers and medical students would have been required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, effective March.
But Prime Minister Petr Fiala scrapped his predecessor Andrej Babis’s decree, which was issued in early December. He told reporters Wednesday that his new center-right government did not see the need for mandatory vaccination.
“We’ve agreed that vaccination against COVID-19 won’t be mandatory,” Fiala said. ”This does not change our stance on vaccination. It is still undoubtedly the best way to fight COVID-19 … however, we do not want to deepen fissures in society.”
Opponents of a vaccine mandate had staged several protests in Prague and elsewhere in the country.
So far, 62.9 percent of Czechs are considered fully vaccinated, below the European Union average, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. Almost 3.4 million people in the nation of 10.5 million also have received a booster shot.
Fiala said about 90 percent of people who would have been covered by the mandate have already received vaccines.
The new government’s decision came as the Czech Republic is facing a surge in COVID-19 infections largely fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.
The seven-day infection rate was 950 new cases per 100,000 residents on Tuesday compared to 799 a day earlier.