Czechs mull lockdown amid quickest virus spike in Europe

Czechs mull lockdown amid fastest virus spike in Europe

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The Czech Republic faced a lockdown as the growth in COVID-19 cases in the EU member reached a fourth consecutive day record, according to data released on Saturday.

The Ministry of Health said the country of 10.7 million people had 8,618 new cases as of Friday, breaking Thursday's record of 5,394 to bring the total to 109,374 cases with 905 deaths.

By comparison, neighboring Poland, with a population of 38 million, said on Saturday that it had registered 5,300 new cases in the past 24 hours, which was also a record.

Friday's data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control showed the Czech Republic had the fastest two-week growth per 100,000 population in the EU.

The Czech Republic had 398 cases per 100,000 population, topping the dismal statistics ahead of Spain with 307 and the Netherlands with 304.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said Friday the government could reinstate a lockdown if growth continues and urged Czechs to behave responsibly.

"The situation is very serious," he added.

"Either we will all comply with security measures, or we need to quickly introduce more restrictions and we cannot rule out a lockdown," he added.

After weathering much of the first wave of COVID-19 in the spring with timely measures such as a lockdown, the Czech Republic has seen a surge in infections since August as most restrictions were lifted in the summer.

The government has since reintroduced the mandatory wearing of masks for indoor spaces, reduced the number of people attending indoor and outdoor events, as well as closed swimming pools, zoos and gyms.

From Monday, sporting events will be suspended and cinemas, theaters, museums and galleries will be closed, while Czech universities and secondary schools switch to distance learning.

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