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At a cabinet meeting yesterday, the government agreed to extend the Antivirus Program until the end of May, to guarantee state economic contributions to employees. It also approved the National Strategy for Combating Hybrid Action, to counter hybrid threats affecting the rule of law, the effectiveness of decision-making, and internal security. Photo: Ministers at the press conference after the government meeting on April 19. Credit: Vlada.cz.

Czech Rep., Apr 20 (BD) – On Monday, April 19th, the Czech Government agreed to extend the Antivirus Program until the end of May. The program was extended due to the current unfavourable epidemiological situation, with the purpose of mitigating the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the employment rate. From its launch on April 6th, 2020, until April 11th, 2021, the program has resulted in 72,085 grant agreements with employers, giving support to 1,006,179 employees. 

“The Antivirus Program proves, week after week, to be the best government plan. It was already clear at the tripartite last week that it must continue beyond April 30th. We have to make sure that people have something to live on,” said Jana Maláčová (ČSSD), Minister of Labor and Social Affairs.

The government will also submit to Parliament a draft amendment to the law on extraordinary allowance for employees required to self-isolate, which pays individuals up to CZK 370 per day. According to the current law, this payment is due to end on April 30th, but the government has agreed to extend it until the end of June. 

The future of the Antivirus Program depends on the future development of the pandemic and follow-up measures, and on the final decision by the Chamber of Deputies, which should take place in the coming days. 

The government also approved the National Strategy for Combating Hybrid Action, jointly developed by the Ministry of Defence, the Office of the Government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, intelligence services, the Czech Army, and the National Cyber ​​and Information Security Office. It was established based on the recommendations laid out in the National Security Audit in 2016, and responds to hybrid threats affecting the rule of law, the effectiveness of decision-making, and internal security.

“The National Strategy for Combating Hybrid Action is an essential tool for recognizing hostile actions and responding to them in a timely and adequate manner, both in the State administration and across the whole society, because hybrid operations are becoming a part of everyday life and can take many forms”, said Defence Minister Lubomír Metnar (ANO).

As the Czech Republic’s first strategic document dedicated to this area, it will complement already existing security strategies, and will be followed by an action plan

“The goal of the strategy is not to panic society, but to ensure that we are aware of security risks and approach them responsibly. We can only create a comprehensive defense system if most institutions across the state administration contribute. Only a systemic approach will enable us to build a resilient society,” said Jan Havránek, Deputy Minister for Defense Policy and Strategy.

During the meeting, the government also discussed several partial amendments to extraordinary health measures, mainly concerning education. From April 26th, practical teaching will be resumed in secondary schools and kindergartens will be completely opened in regions where the weekly average of new confirmed cases is below 100 per 100,000 inhabitants daily. This currently applies only to the Karlovy Vary and Hradec Králové regions, but the Plzen region could soon be added to them, according to Health Minister Petr Arenberger. 

From the same date, high school and final year of university students will be able to participate in practical classes. Testing at least once a week will be one of the conditions for participation in full-time teaching, but exceptions apply to people who are fully vaccinated or have had Covid-19 in the last 90 days. Testing will be provided directly by the university, but students can bring any valid test performed at an authorized site.

The Cabinet also decided to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine to help the country fight the pandemic. The Czech Republic, with the help of the Fire and Rescue Service, will collect 192,000 masks for Ukraine and a total of almost 130,000 rapid tests.

Ministers also approved a proposal to provide free antigen testing for homeless people. With the help of social service providers, the government will allocate more than 13,000 test kits from the stocks of the Ministry of the Interior to this purpose.

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