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World News

Czech government could declare coronavirus state of emergency, says minister

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech government could declare a state of emergency if a recent spike in coronavirus cases continues in the coming days, Health Minister Adam Vojtech said.

FILE PHOTO: People wait in line to be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) before a sampling station opens at Wenceslas Square in Prague, Czech Republic, Sept 16, 2020. REUTERS/David W Cerny

The Czech Republic’s daily count of new coronavirus cases has reached record highs in recent days and the country of 10.7 million had reported a total of 48,306 cases as of Saturday, Health Ministry data showed.

“Should we need to have some deeper measures (against the epidemic), then the emergency state will be necessary,” Vojtech said in a televised debate on Sunday.

The government should debate this step on Monday, Vojtech said, added that he would not yet propose declaration of a state of emergency.

“We have not seen an escalation. The ‘R’ (reproduction) number is around 1.6. We will have to assess it based on weekdays when more tests are done,” he said.

The ‘R’ number measures how many people are likely to get infected by one person that carries the virus.

Earlier in the weekend, Vojtech told the seznamzpravy.cz news website that he would consider proposing a state of emergency if the number moved close to 2.

The Czech government last declared a state of emergency in March in the early days of the global pandemic. Such declarations do not impose any specific measures but create a framework for the executive to act faster and with stricter measures than under normal conditions.

In the past 14 days, the Czech Republic has had 193 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people, the second highest number in Europe behind Spain, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Czech authorities are now bringing back some measures imposed in spring, such as the wearing of face masks indoors, while seeking to avoid a full-scale lockdown.

For a Reuters COVID-19 tracker, click on: here

Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by David Goodman

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