Vojtech announced his resignation at a press conference on Monday morning. The minister’s decision comes amid a rapid increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the country, with the daily total exceeding 2,000 several times in the last week. Photo credit: Vlada.cz.

Czech Rep., Sep 21 (BD) [Updated 11:45] – The Czech Minister of Health, Adam Vojtech, resigned his post on Monday morning, after two years and ten months. He has received heavy criticism in the last week due to the resurgence of the coronavirus outbreak, which has required the reintroduction of various measures to control the outbreak. His replacement will be the Government Commissioner for Health, Roman Prymula.

Vojtech announced his resignation at a press conference on Monday morning. “After careful consideration of the current situation, I have decided to resign as Minister of Health of the Czech Republic. I have already handed over my resignation to the Prime Minister,” he said. “I want to create space for a new solution to the coronavirus epidemic, which will be with us for some time to come,” he said.

The minister defended his record as Health Minister, saying that the reforms he had wanted to make became impossible to complete due to the coronavirus pandemic, which he said had transformed him into the “Minister for Covid-19”. 

“We have been working on Covid-19 for the ninth month in a row – since January. I think that my colleagues and I did our best day and night to protect our citizens from the disease, and I dare say that we managed the first wave very well,” he said. “I think I worked hard for healthcare and did everything I could to move it forward. I put all of my strength into the role. It was a difficult but enriching three years, and a great experience. I feel I don’t have anything to be ashamed of.”

Writing on Twitter, Prime Minister Andrej Babis thanked Vojtech for his service, describing him as a “decent, honest, and very hardworking person”, and adding that if it had not been for the coronavirus pandemic, he could have been remembered as the country’s best Health Minister. Commenting on his departure, Babis added that: “I understand that it must have been too much for him, that he was disgusted with politics and the media and decided to leave.”

Vojtech will be replaced as the minister by Roman Prymula, the current Government Commissioner for Health, who will meet President Zeman today at Lany and take office on Tuesday. Babiš said that he had negotiated the change of minister in advance with Zeman over the weekend.

On Sunday, in a television interview with Vaclav Moravec, Vojtech said he had considered resigning on several previous occasions: “There were many moments like that. For nine months, the ministry wasn’t dealing with anything other than Covid-19. The situation was very complicated, and can I say for myself that there were a lot of moments when it seemed too much.” 

After some praise for his handling of the initial months of the crisis, including internationally, Vojtech, the Health Ministry, and the government have received sharp criticism for the renewed escalation of the outbreak in recent weeks, and perceived chaotic messaging over the implementation of new measures.

At the beginning of September, Vojtech announced plans for the wide-ranging reintroduction of facemasks in indoor spaces, to coincide with an anticipated increase in social contacts with the schools reopening and people returning to work after summer. However, most of the plans were scrapped the next day following intervention from Prime Minister Andrej Babis, only to be reintroduced again bit by bit over the next weeks. The number of cases duly began rising quickly shortly after the schools reopened.

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