Yet the new Czech measures, which came into force Thursday morning, include limits on people’s free movement and the closure of non-essential services and stores. They will remain in place until November 3.
A strict mask mandate was also reinstated on Tuesday, making them compulsory anywhere within urban areas and in cars.
For weeks, the Prime Minister refused to impose stricter rules on the population, citing the need to protect the economy. But the decision — which in some instances contradicted expert opinion — has led to an out-of-control spread of the virus.
The nation of 10 million is now reporting more new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people than any major country in the world. It reported almost 15,000 new infections on Wednesday, an all-time 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 compulsory at a time when most of the Western world barely considered that move. That strict mandate was lifted over the summer, however, when the government believed it had the epidemic under control.
Babis admitted Wednesday that the country had become a victim of its own success.
“We certainly made mistakes when we thought at the end of May, when we finished the reopening, that we had managed it,” he said.
Such is the extent of the crisis that Health Minister Roman Prymula announced Wednesday that the United States National Guard was sending 28 doctors to help the stretched Czech health care system.
The European Union will also send 30 ventilators to help a member “going through hard times,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tweeted Thursday. ‘More support will come,’ she added.