PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech government will ask lawmakers to extend its emergency powers until Dec. 3, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Tuesday, as it tries to stem one of the strongest surges in COVID-19 infections in Europe.
The government has strictly tightened restrictions this month, including shutting restaurants and most retail shops, along with public places like pools, fitness centres, cinemas and theatres.
Schools are closed and the government said on Tuesday students would not return as planned next week.
Starting on Wednesday, people will face a 9 p.m. curfew with few exceptions and those shops allowed to open will have to close by 8 p.m. and completely on Sunday.
The government had been expected to seek an extension for its powers, which run out on Nov. 3.
Health Minister Roman Prymula told reporters restrictions do not automatically have to stay in place for the whole period of the state of emergency but would be lifted according to developments.
He reiterated that the state wanted to keep industry running. The aim was to get the R number, measuring how many people get infected on average from each new case, down to 0.8 and daily cases below 1,000.
The Czech Republic, a country of 10.7 million, has reported on average more than 12,000 cases a day over the last week and its R number is estimated at 1.36. It last reported a daily tally of cases below 1,000 on Sept. 20.
In the last two weeks, only Belgium has had a higher per capita infection rate among European countries, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control data shows.
The country’s death toll has doubled to 2,365 in the past two weeks and hospitals are coming under strain.
Reporting by Robert Muller and Jason Hovet; Editing by Catherine Evans and Nick Macfie
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