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Monday, Nov 30, 2020

'We need a miracle': Czech PM says more restrictions are looming

'We need a miracle': Czech PM says more restrictions are looming

The Czech infection rate is the highest on the planet except for tiny Andorra, and the spread of the virus among doctors and medical workers is worsening the strain on hospitals.
The Czech Republic is facing a 'catastrophic' Covid-19 outbreak and needs a 'miracle' to avoid new restrictions, its prime minister said last night with its infection rate now the highest of any major country in the world.

Andrej Babis said the current lockdown measures 'are not working yet' after the country's coronavirus deaths doubled in the space of two weeks.

Like many countries which escaped lightly from the first wave, the Czech Republic is now seeing record numbers of fatalities, with average daily deaths rising from 14 at the start of October to 111 today - after a peak of just 10 in the spring.

When adjusted for population, the Czech Republic's current rate of deaths is around four times higher than Britain's.

The light death toll in the spring means that many older and vulnerable people in the Czech Republic had yet to be exposed to the disease when the second wave struck.

The spike in deaths could also be linked to the rising average age of patients - with over-50s now making up 35 per cent of new infections compared to 22 per cent in early August.

In addition, the spread of the virus among doctors and nurses is worsening the strain on Czech hospitals, with as many as 1,000 medical workers being infected every day and medics having to be drafted in from abroad.

Saturday saw a new record of 126 deaths along with 15,258 cases, and the current Czech infection rate is the highest on the planet except for tiny Andorra.

Under the Czech government's current measures, shops and restaurants are closed while schools have gone back to distance learning.

Students have been sent home from universities except for those studying medicine or other healthcare-related subjects.

Restrictions on movement mean that people can only travel for certain reasons such as work, shopping or medical care - although they are allowed to go to a second home in the countryside if they have one.

Gatherings are limited to two people except for weddings and funerals which 10 people are allowed to attend.

While the new measures are already almost identical to those imposed in the spring, Babis warned last night that they might have to get even tougher.

'The measures which we have taken aren't working yet,' Babis said in a video message, saying that the current figures were 'catastrophic'.

'The next week will be the key one, and unless a miracle happens, we won't have any other choice than to tighten our measures further,' he said.

Babis pointed to excessive crowds of people at a Prague market on Saturday, while Czech media says people also travelled across the border to Poland to go shopping.

While hotels have been closed and tourism to the Czech Republic is now officially banned, border controls have not been re-introduced.

Acknowledging that support for lockdowns was lower than in the spring, the PM said that 'the opinion of our citizens has changed fundamentally' since the early lockdown in March.

Babis said that he wanted Christmas to be celebrated as normal, but he could not promise anything for now.

'I don't know what will happen with the virus. I don't know,' he said.
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