Prague Police officer gives startling first-hand account of Czech COVID-19 bureaucracy failure

The experience with doctors and health officials fell far short of the what the family expected

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 03.08.2020 11:15 (updated on 03.08.2020)

A member of the Prague Police has recounted their family’s experience with the bureaucracy around COVID-19 on the official police website, and it was not what they expected. In the end, they had to rely on themselves.

The officer’s 20-year-old son visited the Prague 2 club that has been at the center of a large outbreak on July 11, and five days later had a mild headache.

By the evening of July 19, more symptoms became apparent and the son told his employer he would be staying home. His symptoms now included headache, loss of smell and taste, and fever. He contacted his attending general practitioner, who told the family by telephone that the boy just needed rest. “Well, we found it weird, but a doctor is a doctor,” the officer said.

Since the symptoms got no better, the son on July 21 visited the ear, nose, and throat (ENT) department of the local hospital.

“However, to our surprise, the attending physicians basically confirmed the previous telephone diagnosis of the attending general practitioner. The diagnosis was flu, and my son was prescribed medication and sent home. Even though we didn’t think so, we said to ourselves that if a general practitioner on the phone could be wrong, the doctors at the ENT hospital can no longer be wrong. And in fact, white coat syndrome doesn’t give you much room for any professional discussion or even opposition,” the officer said.

By July 22, news of the outbreak linked to a Prague club began to appear in the media.

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“When we read it, our blood literally froze in our veins, after all, it is a son, a family member, and our entire large family. Dreamless night. We called everywhere we could, online lines, info lines, hygiene, etc. The result was always the same, either they didn’t work or no one answered,” the officer said. The hospital that diagnosed the son’s case as flu also wasn’t helpful. “The circle closed. [We felt] helplessness, a mixture of fear and anger.”

The next day the ENT doctor agreed to send the son for testing, but not any other family members, even though two were over 65 years old. “He even told us not to be hysterical,” the officer said. The family wanted results as soon as possible, so that measures can be taken and contacts could be traced. The doctor said that other family members would be tested only after results of the son’s tests were in, which would take several days.

The officer looked for a testing site that could work faster, and found one that was 60 kilometers away.

“We paid 4,500 CZK. We didn’t grumble, though in a dream we had a vague memory of some kind of capping the test prices. The most important thing is health and timely information, and results in the fight against this disorder. … The result arrives in a few hours,” the officer said.

The test result was positive, and the entire family went into quarantine. “I admit that at that moment you mix a feeling of fear for your son, aggression towards everything and aversion to everything official and especially professional. Fortunately, common sense and concern for our son and other household members prevail. In addition, it was necessary to prepare the family for the fact that all its members could be infected, at least those in the common household, two of whom belong to the most endangered group of people over 65 years of age,” the officer said.

The rest of the family, plus the son’s girlfriend and mother, still have not been tested. They went to a local hygiene station on July 24.

“Meanwhile, during the morning, the local hygiene station finally calls our son and very superficially asks about his primary contacts. The son tries to describe everything in the smallest detail, but the interest on the other side of the telephone handset is pathetic,” the officer said.

The new round of testing of the family, the girlfriend and her mother showed three new positives and four negatives. One of the people over 65 was positive for coronavirus.

“As soon as we learned of the results, we contacted the local hygiene station again and assumed that now, perhaps, someone would finally pay due attention to the case,” the officer said.

“On the other side of the phone, the lady from the hygiene station replied with an icy calm that it was already Friday at 3:30 pm [and] she would not deal with it until Monday, July 27, and that we had to call all our contacts (or potentially endangered people) ourselves,” the officer said.

“After this experience, you really don’t know if you should laugh or cry — in any case, you will lose the illusion of anything working in this state,” they added.

On July 28, two members of the common household who tested negative went to emergency services at the local hospital due to sudden health complications. No new coronavirus test was made. Fortunately, their condition improved as quickly after treatment and they went home in the evening.

By the afternoon of July 30, nobody from the hygiene station had contacted any of the three newly positive members of the common household or asked about contacts for tracing. The family again has to take care of it themselves.

“Unfortunately, the collision of a 20-year-old boy and his family with reality is much more painful than the worst-case scenarios,” the officer said.

“The most important things in the world are health, family, friends and self-reliance, because no one else in this country will help you,” the officer added.

“I wish you all health and happiness and not having to deal with dramas like ours. Keep your fingers crossed for us to get out of it as soon as possible and without consequences,” the officer concluded.