Czech Parties Clash Over Easing Lockdown as Virus Surges Again

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Government parties in the Czech Republic, which is in the middle of one of the fastest-spreading and deadliest coronavirus outbreaks in Europe, are arguing over a plan to reopen shops and schools.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s minority cabinet is under pressure from the public and the opposition to ease lockdown measures that shut most of the nation’s shops, bars, restaurants and schools. Babis’s ANO party wants to reopen stores next week and return children to in-class learning in March. Its coalition partner is against it.

Czech Parties Clash Over Easing Lockdown as Virus Surges Again

“I don’t think that the moment when we’re running out of spots in intensive care units is the right time to start easing,” Interior Minister Jan Hamacek, the leader of the junior coalition member Social Democrats, told the daily Pravo newspaper.

Hospitals have around 1,200 patients in serious conditions, the highest number so far, and there were 148 free ICU beds left in the country of 10.7 million as of Thursday morning. Since the start of the pandemic, 18,739 people have died because of Covid-19, about half in the past two months.

After the country launched one of the European Union’s most successful efforts to tame the coronavirus last spring, its hospitals are now at risk of being overrun and authorities have ordered police to close off some of the most affected counties. Like in the rest of the EU, the inoculation drive has had a bumpy start, with about 1.7% of the Czech population fully vaccinated so far.

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