One of the more bewildering aspects of the Covid crisis in the Czech Republic is the hostility and aggression directed at health workers. But it is a problem that existed before the pandemic, and is unlikely to end with it.
“A year ago people were applauding health workers. Now they’re cursing them,” said Dr Milan Kubek, an angiologist, sitting in his surgery in a small polyclinic in Prague’s 9th District.
Angiology – also known as vascular medicine – is perhaps an uncontroversial field. But Dr Kubek has been regularly followed home by an angry mob and has had excrement pushed through his letter box. He’s reported to have received police protection.
This is due to his role as president of the Czech Medical Chamber, and his vocal support of Covid restrictions and vaccination.
“We’re professionals of course and care for every patient. But we’re also people, with the right to our own opinions,” he told the BBC. Earlier I’d watched one of several Facebook videos featuring Dr Kubek being harangued by a group of anti-vaxxers carrying megaphones.
“The level of enthusiasm and willingness to sacrifice ourselves has of course decreased as people started to become aggressive and rude. Some of what we’ve been through lately is just unprecedented.”
Vaccination teams have been harassed by anti-vaxxers; one mobile crew was even pelted with stones.
Czech hospital staff treating Covid victims have described arguing with hostile relatives and even patients themselves, who’ve been so indoctrinated by disinformation they’ve refused to accept either the diagnosis or the cure.
GPs have been described being verbally abused by patients when asked if they were vaccinated. Dr Kubek told me the elegant, well-spoken 70-year-old lady who emerged from his surgery as I went in had just moments ago told him to get lost when he enquired about her vaccination status.
“And her husband died of Covid,” he said.
Dr Kubek glanced nervously at his watch – he was due on Czech television shortly for another media interview. As soon as we had finished, he jumped up and began packing his things into a small rucksack, embossed – incongruously – with the Harry Potter logo.