Czech daily virus cases hit new record
People waiting to get tested for Covid-19 at a sampling station in Prague, the Czech Republic. AFP
The Czech Republic registered a record high of 3,130 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, reaching in 24 hours a figure comparable with the entire month of March, health ministry data showed Friday.
It was the third straight daily record for the EU member of 10.7 million people, which has registered 44,155 confirmed cases and 489 deaths since the March outbreak.
And it matches a pattern across Europe of a surge in cases in August-September that has seen many countries move back towards tougher infection control restrictions.
Data cited by the Czech News Agency (CTK) show the Czech Republic is now the second worst-off in the EU after Spain in terms of daily growth in cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
Most of the patients have mild or no symptoms and only 413 people are currently in hospital.
But epidemiologist Roman Prymula, a government coordinator, said on Sunday that "if the epidemic keeps growing in this explosive way, we will get to the very limit of our hospital capacity."
Ladislav Dusek, head of the Czech Institute of Health Information and Statistics, said Thursday the epidemic was no longer spreading within closed clusters. "We are facing a big risk of an exponential spread," Dusek said.
The government has meanwhile closed bars and clubs between midnight and 6am and introduced face masks in classrooms for pupils and students aged over 11.
It already reintroduced mandatory face masks on public transport and in hospitals on September 1, before extending the measure to most indoor areas including shops and restaurants on September 10.
The recent spike has seen the Czech Republic cut from the so-called "safe countries" lists in a dozen fellow EU countries.
After fending off much of the Covid-19 pandemic with timely steps including mandatory face masks outdoors in the spring, the government lifted most of its anti-coronavirus measures before the summer holidays.
"Maybe we should have kept face masks on throughout the summer," populist billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis said Thursday, adding: "We just wanted life to return to normal."