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Impact of COVID-19 worse than World War II, claims Czech minister

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Prague, Czech Republic – The impact and repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Czech Republic are worse than World War II, Labour and Social Affairs Minister Jana Malacova (CSSD) claimed, sparking controversy on social media.

COVID-19 pandemic worse than World War II?

“Even the Second World War did not cause as many disruptions as COVID did”, Malacova argued during a televised debate on CNN Prima News. “Children still went to school”.

The Social-Democratic minister went on to point out that the COVID-19 pandemic was “an illness that put the country on hold for a whole year.”

Approximately 17,000 people have died of COVID-19 complications in the Czech Republic, according to official figures. Relatively spared by the first wave in the spring, the Czech Republic has gone to record one of the worst infection and death rates per capita in Europe.

Her remarks sparked outrage and faced heavy criticism from politicians and journalists, who accused her of insulting the memory of all those who died or suffered during the Second World War. Ms. Malacova quickly apologized for her “inadequate and bad example”, and assured she had no intention of minimizing the tragedy of World War II, which claimed the lives of more than 70 million people globally, or to offend anyone.

An “inadequate and bad example”

Around 350,000 people (or approximately 2.4% of its pre-war population) are estimated to have died in Czechoslovakia during World War II, which was then divided in two separate entities: the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, established following the German occupation of the Czech lands in March 1939; and the Nazi puppet regime led by Jozef Tiso in Slovakia.

“I only wanted to highlight that we need to find a way” for schools to reopen, Malacova clarified, writing on Twitter that “closed schools are a catastrophe”.

The head of Prague’s Jewish Museum Leo Pavlat commented that even with regards to access to education, her comments were whimsical and did not reflect reality. “It is worth remembering that schools were completely closed during the Second World War for some children: the Jewish ones,” he said in a statement.

Most schools have been closed in the Czech Republic since mid-December, with the exception of kindergartens, special schools and the first and second grades of primary schools, which have been allowed to stay open.

Main photo credit: Official Twitter account of Jana Malacova