Eastern Europe Tilts Toward More Curbs as Virus Cases Surge

The Czech Republic and Poland signaled that more restrictions may be near as they struggle to fight off the coronavirus pandemic that’s overwhelming the European Union’s east.

Czech authorities, who already shut down schools, restaurants and most shops and services after becoming the EU’s worst Covid-19 hotspot, will probably impose additional social-distancing rules, Prime Minister Andrej Babis told newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes in an interview published Monday.

While Babis said he “can’t imagine” a full economic shutdown, Poland may be heading in this direction, the Dziennik Gazeta Prawna newspaper reported. The Polish government will introduce new restrictions, effectively banning non-work travel, unless the growth in infections slows by Friday.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said last week that Poland faced the prospect of a “deep lockdown” as new cases are expected to surge to as much as 25,000 a day this week -- nearly double the current record high. Still, that may not be as severe as the spring lockdown.

Eastern Europe Tilts Toward More Curbs as Virus Cases Surge

Read More: Economists Brush off Deep Lockdown Scenario

Hungary, which surpassed Romania for the second-highest coronavirus death rate in the EU behind the Czech Republic, has been dragging its feet in imposing tighter restrictions to stem the virus. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has ignored the advice of doctors to impose a curfew, close schools and ramp up testing.

Across the region, leaders are also coming down with the virus. Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, 61, tested positive for and is feeling a “general malaise,” he said on Facebook.

In Poland, President Andrzej Duda and Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak also tested positive, as Poland registered its worst weekend yet with 25,370 new Covid-19 cases over the two days and a total of 266 deaths.

In Ukraine, former world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who’s seeking re-election as mayor of Kyiv, said he tested positive on Oct. 24. He went into isolation before the vote, but still won the first round and is heading toward a runoff in mid-November, according to an exit poll.

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