Friday’s figure, which brings the number of infections recorded in the first 10 days of October above that of all of September, has left politicians and health experts scrambling for a few solutions. days after the state of emergency was introduced last week.
The country has surpassed a previous worst-case scenario put forward by Health Minister Roman Prymula, an epidemiologist appointed last month with a mandate to combat soaring infection rates. He said when taking office that without more stringent measures, the numbers could rise to between 6,000 and 8,000 per day, which would be beyond the capacity of the health system to cope.
Prymula, who has clashed publicly with prominent doctors in other fields who have called for tighter restrictions, has advocated that the bodies of those who have died from the virus be cremated rather than buried to prevent the spread of the virus. infection, Czech news site Denik N reported.
The current outbreak is a long way from last spring, when the Czech Republic became one of the first countries to close its borders and impose a nationwide lockdown in response to the pandemic. Its face mask regulations, which required the coverings to be worn even outdoors for almost two months, were widely praised by the international community as the number of infections remained modest compared to other countries.
The apparent success prompted the government of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to gradually ease the restrictions before lifting them almost entirely at the end of June.
However, as the country returned to normal, cases began to rise in August before skyrocketing in September, prompting accusations of appeasement from political opponents.
Babiš, who initially vetoed proposals to reimpose the mask rules before backtracking, sought to shift the blame in part onto a supposedly non-compliant audience, who he said was less willing than before to follow the rules.
“The virus is behaving differently from the start of the year,” he said last week. “People’s opinion of wearing a face mask has fundamentally changed and 7% of Czechs never wear one.”
He said over the weekend that he would accept any recommendations from the team regarding the need for a second lockdown, Czech Radio reported.
The government introduced a series of regulations last week, including orders to close pubs at 8 p.m., limits on restaurant service to four customers per table, and closing gyms, swimming pools and zoos.
All sporting, cultural, and religious events with more than 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors are banned from Monday, and high schools and universities have been restricted to distance education.
Amid signs that the measures were insufficient, Prymula met with the government’s expert team of epidemiologists over the weekend to consider further measures. The National Security Council is due to meet on Monday, fueling speculation about a full-scale lockdown despite Babiš’s repeated insistence that there would be no repeat of the blanket shutdowns last spring.
Prymula said the situation was alarming and admitted that previous government measures had failed. “What concerns me most is not the growing number of people infected, but the growing number of people who require hospitalization and intensive care as well as the growing number of deaths,” he told the journalists.