Open letter to WHO: breach of newborn and women rights in the Czech Republic

The Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic has imposed a ban on fathers being present at the birth of their children amid the recent coronavirus COVID-19 crisis. Such a measure contradicts guidelines published by the World Health Organization

Despite nation-wide criticism, the Minister of Health of the Czech Republic, Adam Vojtěch, has imposed a new distressing ban. From Wednesday 18 March, fathers are not allowed to be present at the birth of their children. Minister has stated that the ban aims to protect the medical personnel from the risk of coronavirus COVID-19 infection.

This highly counterproductive measure contradicts the guidelines published by the World Health Organization (WHO) that emphasise the rights of women in labour of having their companion of choice present during delivery.



For this reason, I have published an open letter to WHO asking them to revert such an unjust measure:

Dear representatives of the World Health Organization,

I am reaching out to you regarding the current situation caused by the worldwide spread of COVID-19, and in particular, its implications towards the conditions regarding childbirth. Mainly, I would like to inform you about an unjust breach of your recent guidelines in the Czech Republic. 

It has come to my attention that you have published Questions and Answers regarding pregnancy during the crisis and clarified the rights women have during labour. That Q&As are accessible here: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-on-covid-19-pregnancy-childbirth-and-breastfeeding? 

In the statement, you are clarifying that: “All pregnant women, including those with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infections, have the right to high-quality care before, during and after childbirth. This includes antenatal, newborn, postnatal and mental health care.

A safe and positive childbirth experience includes:

  • Being treated with respect and dignity;
  • Having a companion of choice present during delivery;
  • Clear communication by maternity staff;
  • Appropriate pain relief strategies:
  • Mobility in labour where possible, and birth position of choice.

If COVID-19 is suspected or confirmed, health workers should take appropriate precautions to reduce risks of infection to themselves and others, including appropriate use of protective clothing.”

Despite your clarification and guidelines, I have to inform you that the Government of the Czech Republic has decided to impose an absolute ban on fathers being present at birth, which contradicts your statement causing immense distress to both mothers and fathers.  

The measure imposed by the Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic without particular explanation has been in place since Wednesday, 18 March, and despite nation-wide criticisms, the insensitive and unjust rule has not yet been reverted.  



I would like to emphasize that the measure is highly counterproductive. Minister has stated that the ban aims to protect the medical personnel from the risk of infection. However, it is likely that the absence of fathers would eventually lead to an increased risk of infection transfer. Fathers not only provide psychological support to mothers but are also a great help to the personnel in many situations meaning that their absence could lead to a total collapse of birth assistants’ service. And exhausted staff is far more likely to get infected after all. 

Via this email, I kindly ask you to utilise your authority to try to ameliorate or reverse the Minister’s decision and to give mothers their dignity and mental stability back. 

Kind regards,

On March 21, 2020, in Brno, Czech Republic,

Ondřej Koraba