The Czech Republic could be on the verge of a second lockdown after a spike in Covid-19 infections that has turned it into the fastest spread in Europe after just months of being hailed as one of the continent’s success stories in managing the pandemic.
A new peak of 8,618 cases was recorded on Friday in the country of 10.7 million, an increase of more than 3,000 cases the day before and far more than the per capita of any other European country. Spain, which has a population of less than 47 million and is the second most affected country, documented 12,788 injuries on the same day.
The Czech Republic has now recorded 451.2 Covid cases per 100,000 people over 14 days, compared to 308.1 for Spain, according to statistics from the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Friday’s number, which raises the number of infections recorded in the first ten days of October higher than the entire month of September, left politicians and health experts scrambling to find solutions within days of declaring the state of emergency last week.
The country has surpassed the previous worst-case scenario presented by Health Minister Roman Primula, an epidemiologist who was appointed last month with a briefing to combat the growing infection rates. He said when he took office that without tougher measures, the numbers could reach between 6,000 and 8,000 per day, which would be beyond the health system’s ability to cope.
Czech news site Denik N reports that Primula, who has publicly clashed with prominent doctors in other fields who have petitioned against tighter restrictions, has called for the bodies of people who have died from the virus to be cremated rather than buried to prevent the infection from spreading. .
The current outbreak is a far cry from last spring, when the Czech Republic became one of the first countries to close its borders and impose a nationwide lockdown in response to the pandemic. Its regulations for face masks, which require blankets to be worn even in the open air for about two months, have won widespread international praise as infection numbers remain modest compared to other countries.
The apparent success prompted the government of Prime Minister André Babis to gradually ease restrictions before lifting them almost entirely in late June.
As the country returned to nearly normal, cases began to spike in August before rising in September, sparking accusations of complacency by political opponents.
Babys, who had initially rejected a veto against proposals to reimpose masking rules before backing down, sought to partially blame the supposedly non-compliant public, who he said was less willing than before to follow the rules.
“The virus is behaving differently than it was at the beginning of the year,” he said last week. “People’s opinion about wearing a face mask has changed drastically, and 7% of Czechs never wear it.”
Czech Radio reported that he said over the weekend that he would accept any recommendation made by the team regarding the need for a second lockdown.
The government introduced a raft of regulations last week, including orders to close bars at 8 p.m., limit serving restaurants to four patrons per table, and shutting down gyms, swimming pools and zoos.
On Monday, all sporting, cultural and religious events with more than 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors are banned, and high schools and universities have been restricted for distance learning.
Amid indications that the steps weren’t enough, Primula met with the government’s expert team of epidemiologists over the weekend to consider additional measures. The National Security Council is due to meet on Monday, sparking speculation of a blanket lockdown despite Babish’s repeated insistence that the sweeping lockdowns not be repeated last spring.
Primula said the situation is worrying and he admitted the failure of previous measures taken by the government. “What worries me most is not the increasing number of injured people, but the increasing number of people who need hospital and intensive care treatment, in addition to the increasing number of deaths,” he told reporters.
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