Czechs still contemplating on Covid lockdown

Deputy Prime Minister Karel Havlicek

The Czech Republic, which has the highest coronavirus infection rate in Europe, will wait at least two weeks before deciding whether to order a full lockdown or not, Deputy Prime Minister Karel Havlicek said on Sunday.

“We will not decide this week about a lockdown,” Havlicek said on Czech Television. “We have clearly said we will wait (until 2 November) for results.”

Since schools reopened in September, the cumulative number of cases has risen almost seven times. The growth in cases, with almost 100,000 this month in a country of 10.7 million, and 1,352 deaths overall from Covid-19, is thus forcing authorities to make plans for field hospitals and seek foreign help. The Czech Fire Rescue Service even said it had sent a formal request through European Union channels for ventilators.

On Saturday alone, the Czech Republic reported 8,713 new cases. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said it had registered 828 cases per 100,000 population in the last two weeks, more than 10 times the rate in neighbouring Germany. 

To stop the spreading of the coronavirus, in the past week, bars and restaurants have been ordered to close except for takeout orders, and schools have moved to distance learning. Sport and fitness clubs, theatres and cinemas had already shut. Nevertheless, shops have remained open.

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek commented on CNN Prima’s Sunday show the new measures should cut the R number, which measures average spread from one infected person, by 30-40%. A number above 1.0 indicates an exponential increase, and the current rate is estimated at around 1.4.

If the latest restrictions are not effective enough, he said there were few options other a lockdown.

Meanwhile, in Prague, more than 500 sports fans, including militant soccer supporters’ groups known as ultras, protested against the coronavirus measures, defying restrictions on gatherings. Police used water cannon and tear gas and local media said there had been some injuries.

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