“I am sorry for the new restrictions that will impact the lives of business leaders, citizens, employees. I’m also sorry that I de facto ruled out the possibility of this happening because I couldn’t imagine it would happen, ”Babis said.
The Czech leader’s contrition came as other European countries, including Germany and Poland, reported a record number of new cases daily and Ireland prepared to impose the strictest lockdown on Europe.
The new Czech measures, which came into effect Thursday morning, include limits on the free movement of people and the closure of non-essential services and shops. They will remain in place until November 3.
For weeks, the Prime Minister refused to impose stricter rules on the people, citing the need to protect the economy. But the decision – which in some cases contradicts the opinion of experts – has led to an uncontrollable spread of the virus.
The nation of 10 million people is now reporting more new cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 population than any major country in the world. It reported nearly 15,000 new infections on Wednesday, a record high.
The Czech Republic was praised for the way it handled the first wave of the pandemic in the spring when the government imposed an early lockdown and made masks mandatory at a time when most Western countries were barely considering the move. This strict mandate was, however, lifted during the summer, when the government believed that the epidemic was under control.
Babis admitted on Wednesday that the country has fallen victim to its own success.
“We certainly made mistakes in thinking at the end of May, when we finished the reopening, that we had achieved it,” he said.
Such is the extent of the crisis that Health Minister Roman Prymula announced on Wednesday that the United States National Guard is sending 28 medics to help the stretched Czech healthcare system.
Poland and Germany set record highs
Elsewhere in Europe, governments continue to fight a seemingly unstoppable second wave of infections.
Polish health authorities reported 10,040 new Covid-19 infections on Wednesday, the largest one-day increase since the pandemic hit the country.
The total number of recorded cases is now 202,579, according to the health ministry. The known death toll from Covid-19 has risen to 3,851, with 130 people dying from the disease in the previous 24 hours.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced the creation of 13,000 additional hospital beds to accommodate up to 30,000 beds in total, as he addressed the spike in new infections during a speech in parliament. Temporary hospitals are also being built in the national stadium and in the exhibition halls.
Germany’s center for disease control, the Robert Koch Institute, reported a record daily number of coronavirus cases on Thursday, with 11,287 new cases in a single day. The country has reported a total of 392,049 cases and the total number of known deaths is 9,905.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn has tested positive for the coronavirus, the minister’s office told CNN.
Meanwhile, Spain surpassed the one million Covid-19 cases recorded on Wednesday, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University (JHU). It joins the United States, India, Brazil, Russia and Argentina to cross this threshold.
The death toll from coronavirus in Spain reached 34,366 on Wednesday, according to JHU data. The country, like neighboring France, has struggled to contain a second wave of coronavirus infections after being hit hard in the first European wave in the spring.
Ireland’s tough new lockdown measures went into effect on Thursday and are expected to remain in place for six weeks.
“We just need to remember that we are doing this to protect our families and the most vulnerable in our communities. We’ll get through it and we’ll meet again, ”Taoiseach Micheál Martin tweeted on Wednesday evening.
Under the restrictions, people are encouraged to work from home unless they are providing an essential service. Social gatherings in homes and gardens are prohibited, but people can exercise in parks within 3 miles of their homes. Schools, child care and “essential retail” services will remain open, but bars and restaurants will only be able to open for take-out and delivery.
Ireland saw an increase of nearly 2,000 new cases last week over the previous week, prompting the government to announce the strict measures on Monday.
Relative infection rates
Measured against their populations, the Czech Republic and Belgium have the highest number of new coronavirus cases in the world, according to a CNN analysis of data from JHU and the World Health Organization.
As of October 16, both countries were reporting a daily average of more than 800 new cases per million of their population, the Czech Republic at 817 and Belgium at 811. These numbers roughly represent a quadrupling of new cases in the first two. weeks of the month.
The Netherlands are next most affected, with an average of 462 new cases per million population on October 16, up from 172 at the start of the month.
Poland, meanwhile, had an average of 214 new cases per million population on October 16, more than four times the figure at the start of October.
Italy, one of the worst-affected countries earlier this year, has also seen a strong rebound in reported cases. It averaged 151 per million on October 16, down from 36 in early October. During the same period, Germany’s number of new cases per million rose from 27 to 75.
CNN’s Tomas Etzler, Tim Lister, Maria Fleet, Samantha Beech, Claudia Rebaza, Tim Lister, and Artur Osinski contributed to this report.