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New Covid-19 lockdown for Czech Republic amid PM’s stark warning of health system ‘collapse’

New Covid-19 lockdown for Czech Republic amid PM’s stark warning of health system ‘collapse’
The Czech government has ordered most shops to close, in a bid to prevent the country’s health system from collapsing in November under the pressure of Covid-19.

The new restrictions, in place from 6am on October 22 until November 3, will force all retail outlets to shut, apart from essential services such as supermarkets and pharmacies. 

Group sizes outdoors will also be limited to two people, with the exception of households or colleagues. 

This fresh wave of measures comes as the Czech Republic is now suffering Europe’s fastest-growing Covid-19 infection rate. 

On Tuesday the Ministry of Health reported a record 11,984 new cases of the virus, the country’s highest daily total since the pandemic began. 

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Infections have skyrocketed in recent weeks, and it was only on October 9 that more than 8,000 cases were registered in a single day for the first time. 

Official data released on Wednesday also showed that the number of people to have died from the virus in the last 24 hours reached 1,619, up from 1,513 the previous day, in the country of 10.7 million. 

On Wednesday, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis apologized for the effect of the measures on people’s lives, but issued a stark warning that the health system was nearing breaking point.

The reason we do this is the capacity of the beds. Even though we have one of the most robust healthcare systems in Europe, if we did not take action, the healthcare system would collapse around November 7-11.

The PM’s Minister of Health Roman Prymula unveiled the package of new measures at a media conference on Wednesday after it was agreed upon by the Chamber of Deputies. 

He cautioned that, at the current growth rate, even if the country had 30,000 beds, capacity would be exhausted. 

Some 7,670 beds are currently occupied out of 22,807, the latest government figures show. 

“With a reproduction number of 1.36, we are unfortunately at a level that leads to the exhaustion of capacities,” Prymula said. 

He added that the measures would not be relaxed until the ‘R’ (reproduction) value decreases to 0.8, and said that a review of an extension to the country’s state of emergency – currently in force until November 3 – would be held by October 30.

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Growing public dissent towards the Czech government’s handling of the pandemic recently sparked violent clashes between demonstrators and police in Prague. 

The Czech capital was marred by protests on Sunday as riot police were deployed to the Old Town Square, where officers seized dangerous weapons and hundreds of people gathered to protest.

The total number of confirmed active Covid-19 cases in the Czech Republic stands at 113,219, while there are 4,064 people currently hospitalized  and 634 in a serious condition. 

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