Czech Republic reports record 1,677 coronavirus cases, plans new restrictions

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech Republic’s daily count of new coronavirus cases rose to 1,677 on Tuesday, the highest on record, as the country struggles with a resurgence of the pandemic.

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The overall number of confirmed cases rose to 38,896 as of Sept. 15, data from the Health Ministry showed on Wednesday. Deaths in the country of 10.7 million have reached 476.

The acceleration has brought the central European country into third place in Europe, behind Spain and France, using two-week infection rates per population size, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech told parliament the government was planning to ban stand-up indoor events as of Friday to help stabilise the situation.

“Inevitably the numbers in the coming days will be very similar to the current increases,” Vojtech said.

The government put the current reproduction rate of the virus at 1.59, meaning that every infected person passes on the virus to more than one other.

“We have to calculate with that, although we are hoping for a certain decline or at least stabilisation from the measures adopted,” Vojtech said.

The Czechs were quick to order universal face-mask wearing and shut down borders and retail businesses in March, bringing the epidemic under control. But they were also quick to lift restrictions and are reluctant to bring them back.

Masks were made compulsory again indoors last week, and bars in the capital Prague were required to close at midnight.

Public health officials have reported they are stretched in tracking contacts of infected people.

The government has said it was raising testing capacities and that hospitals were prepared to cater to multiples of the 333 people hospitalised as of Tuesday.

The Health Ministry said on Tuesday there were 1,086 empty intensive care beds and 7,870 beds with oxygen supply.

Reporting by Robert Muller and Jan Lopatka; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Catherine Evans