PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Omicron variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus has become the dominant strain in the Czech Republic, the country’s National Institute of Public Health (SZU) said on Monday.
The central European country of 10.7 million expects the Omicron wave to culminate in late January, with about 50,000 daily cases detected, but that may not be a complete picture because of the expected strain on testing capacity, the government and independent experts have said.
The SZU said that Omicron had accounted for more than 50% of positive tests as of Jan. 8, with samples from mainly big cities on Jan. 9 showing 79% of COVID-19 cases were the Omicron variant.
In an effort to reduce the impact of rising numbers having to self-isolate, the government has been planning to allow people in critical professions, including the emergency services and workers in the health and energy sectors, to continue to work work even after a positive lateral flow test.
It has also cut the length of quarantine and isolation to five days for people without symptoms.
So far the pick-up in Omicron cases has not raised daily infection numbers significantly and the number of hospitalised people continues to decline as the previous wave of infections recedes. There were 2,229 people in hospital on Sunday, down form more than 7,000 in early December.
The country has suffered among the world’s worst death tolls per capita during the pandemic, with 36,624 deaths as of Sunday.
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by David Goodman)