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Czechs brace for more restrictions as PM admits mistakes in COVID response

Prague, Czech Republic- With the Czech Republic now facing one of the highest COVID-19 infections rates in Europe, Prime Minister Andrej Babis has called the nation to come together to overcome the crisis while admitting the government was wrong to lift restrictions too soon.

COVID-19 pandemic accelerates in the Czech Republic

With 2,349 new cases of COVID-19 registered on Tuesday, the second highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic, the Czech Republic is starting to feel the sting of the much-feared second wave.

Since the start of March, more than 53,000 people have been infected with the new coronavirus, and roughly half of them have recovered. To date, 531 people have died, and there are currently nearly 600 Czech residents hospitalized, including 115 in serious condition – an all-time high since the epidemic broke out.

With the situation rapidly deteriorating in Prague and throughout the country, a growing number of EU states, including neighbouring Slovakia, are imposing travel restrictions for anyone travelling from the Czech Republic.

On Tuesday evening, the Netherlands became the latest EU member state to include the Czech Republic on its list of high-risk countries, forcing Czechs to enter quarantine upon their arrival, even if they submit a negative test of COVID-19. Germany, which has already placed Prague and the Central Bohemian region among the red zones, could also move to add the whole country to its list of risky destinations.

Source: European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)

PM Babis admits mistakes in lifting COVID-19 restrictions

As cases continue to grow, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) addressed the nation on Monday evening to urge citizens to come together to overcome the crisis and respect all the health and sanitary guidelines – including face-masks regulations – in order for the country to avoid a second nation-wide lockdown and protect the most vulnerable.

The Prime Minister also used his address to the nation, held on the same day as the surprise resignation of his Health Minister, to acknowledge mistakes had been made and that the government, which was largely successful in containing the first wave of coronavirus, moved too quickly to ease restrictions during the summer.

Newly appointed Health Minister Roman Prymula, who previously served as head of the Central Crisis staff at the beginning of the epidemic, said that while there were no immediate plans to declare a state of emergency or to impose a strict lockdown, the situation may change in the coming weeks depending on how the epidemiological situation develops.

Prymula, who was appointed only a few hours after his predecessor stepped down, nevertheless announced that further restrictions will be put in place in the coming days: bars and restaurants will probably have to close at 10 pm (compared to midnight currently), while outdoor and indoor events could be limited to a maximum of 100 and 50 people, respectively.

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