World news – The Czechs tighten the restrictions in view of the new virus variant

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The Associated Press
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Medical workers take a Covid-19 patient to an ambulance in a hospital overrun by the Covid pandemic in Cheb, Czech Republic, on Friday February 12, 2021. The Czech government has imposed a full lockdown on the three hardest hit districts to help contain the spread of a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus. The measures will take effect on Friday for the two districts in the Western Czech Republic on the German border Cheb and Sokolov as well as for another district in the north of the country Trutnov on the border with Poland. (AP Photo / Petr David Josek)

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC –
The Czech government decided on Friday to further tighten the restrictive measures in view of a highly contagious coronavirus variant in one of the most severely affected countries in the European Union.

The worsening situation has forced the cabinet to abandon its plans to reopen all stores as early as next week, while there are further signs from Central Europe of a new wave of infections.

Blatny said residents now also need to wear better masks in places where large numbers of people gather, including shops, hospitals and public transportation. He said that cloth masks, previously used by many, will no longer be good enough and that medical masks, respirators or two surgical masks will be required instead.

« We agreed that everything must be done to prevent the infection from spreading, » said Blatny.

In Poland, Health Ministry spokesman Wojciech Andrusiewicz said the country was seeing « the beginning of the third wave » as hospital stays increase. There it was also discussed whether the mask requirements should be changed.

A fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus has emerged in the Czech Republic, first found in the UK and considered by scientists to be more deadly than the original virus.

The three most affected districts of the Czech Republic on the border with Germany and Poland are completely closed. The number of new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days is around 1,000.

Additional measures, including a complete lockdown of the hardest hit districts, will be discussed by health officials over the weekend. The government is also planning to make coronavirus testing mandatory for all employees who are away from home.

According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the Czech rate of 968 newly confirmed cases per 100,000 people in the past two weeks is the worst in the EU of 27.

The seven-day moving average of daily new cases has increased in the past two weeks from 64.95 new cases per 100,000 people on February 4th to 77.77 new cases per 100,000 people on Thursday, the worst in the world, figures from Johns Hopkins University showed .

The government wants to pursue a plan to partially reopen schools, with students in the final grade of high schools returning as the first group on March 1. All students are required to be tested in schools on a regular basis with the government providing all necessary tests while teachers receive preferential vaccination.

The nation’s 10.7 million daily increase in new confirmed cases reached 11,553 on Thursday. It was the third day in a row with over 10,000 new cases per day and 2,500 more than a week ago.

Some hospitals were in a critical situation and had to move COVID-19 patients to other clinics across the country. The number of people in need of intensive care this week was at a record high of over 1,200.

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