World news

Czech Covid-19 infections hit record high

Karel Janicek, Associated Press

Coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic have jumped to a record high, a surge that has affected the country’s president and delayed the appointment of the new prime minister.

The Health Ministry said the daily tally of new cases was 27,717 the previous day. That is almost 2,000 more than the previous record, set on Tuesday.

The country’s infection rate has risen to a new high of 1,231 new cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days.

Meanwhile, Czech President Milos Zeman is set to be discharged from Prague’s military hospital on Saturday. On Friday he was discharged following more than a month’s treatment for an unspecified illness, but was readmitted only hours later after testing positive for Covid-19. The president received monoclonal antibodies and has no symptoms of Covid-19, the hospital said.

Mr Zeman, 77, had been taken to the hospital on October 10, a day after the election for the lower house of parliament, to be treated in an intensive care unit. His condition was attributed to an unspecified chronic disease.

The presidential office said that following his discharge the president will swear in Petr Fiala, the leader of a coalition that won the election, as the country’s new prime minister. The ceremony had been due to take place on Friday.

“It’s in the interest of everyone to have a new government soon,” Fiala said.

The office said the ceremony would be organised in line with current coronavirus measures but the details were not known. Those who test positive must isolate.

The new record surge was reported a day after the Czech government declared a 30-day state of emergency and imposed additional coronavirus restrictions in its effort to tackle the pandemic.

Among the other measures that took effect on Friday, all Christmas markets were banned, along with drinking alcohol in public places. Bars, restaurants, night clubs, discos and casinos have to close at 10pm.

The number of people at culture and sports events will be limited to 1,000 – and they have to be vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 – while all other public gatherings can be attended by up to 100 visitors, down from 1,000.

The nation of 10.7 million has registered 32,643 deaths.

The Czech Republic has also banned entry to foreigners who have spent more than 12 hours in the past two weeks in South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia in reaction to the new coronavirus variant, the Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

The exceptions include EU nationals and long-term Czech residents.

Meanwhile in Poland, despite soaring infections, the government has said it is not about to introduce any new measures. Its resistance to new lockdowns and restrictions amid rising infections and deaths is drawing criticism from the country’s medical professionals and is bucking a growing European trend to put limits on unvaccinated people.

The populist rightwing government of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki appears unwilling to enact measures that would anger voters and deal another blow to an economy struggling with high inflation. In western Europe, where vaccinations are markedly higher than Poland’s 53%, restrictions have recently led to protests and rioting.

“We certainly know at the moment that restrictions are not an effective means of limiting the growth of the pandemic,” Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said on Thursday, when 497 new deaths were recorded in Poland.

It is an idea sharply disputed by many doctors in Poland, who have been calling for the government to act.

In recent weeks, the rise in infections has prompted authorities to re-activate temporary hospitals that were shut months ago. Thousands of school children have been quarantined or begun remote learning amid outbreaks.

On Friday, another 421 deaths were reported, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,784 since Monday — a level last seen in the spring when the central European region was a global virus hotspot.

Meanwhile, 26,735 new infections were reported on Friday, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to nearly 3.5 million infections and more than 82,000 deaths in the nation of 38 million people.

The health minister has said the government would consider additional restrictions by mid-December if infection numbers don’t decline. He said that would be a “black scenario,” and “it all depends on the efficiency of hospitals.

Michal Dworczyk, the government’s vaccination chief, said the government doesn’t plan to make vaccinations mandatory.

Dworczyk said that at this stage, a “sharp increase in the number of vaccinations can only be influenced by fear”.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

World news