PRAGUE (Reuters) – Czech restaurants, hotels and indoor sports venues, which reopened from a coronavirus lockdown only two weeks ago, must shut again from Friday in response to a new rise in infections, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Monday.
The Czech Republic has suffered a surge in cases since September; a peak of over 15,000 cases a day in November forced hospitals to drop all non-urgent care.
The wave had ebbed, but the past two weeks have brought another increase, to around 6,000 cases per weekday.
The shift to risk level 4 out of 5 will mean not only widespread closures but also a curfew from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. and an early start to Christmas school holidays.
(Interactive graphic: Czech coronavirus cases rising https://tmsnrt.rs/3mfJ72p)
Graphic: Czech Republic: COVID-19 cases again rising: https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/CZECH/oakvejmlbpr/chart.png
Public gatherings will be limited to six people both indoors and out, instead of the current 10 and 50, respectively.
“This year’s Christmas will be totally different, but that is the result of the situation we are in,” Health Minister Jan Blatny told a news conference.
All citizens are to be offered rapid antigen tests for free from Dec. 16 to help curtail the number of undetected infections.
The government said it would expand compensation schemes for affected businesses amid growing protests from the hospitality sector.
“Most neighbouring countries have had hotels and restaurants closed for some time,” Blatny said. “We are trying to find a compromise.”
Shops will remain open, however.
Ski lifts will be allowed to open as of Friday, but without attendant accommodation or restaurant services.
The Czech Republic had reported 9,609 deaths from COVID-19 among its 10.7 million people as of Monday.
(Interactive graphic: COVID-19 in Europe https://tmsnrt.rs/3mjJ5GX)
Graphic: COVID-19 in Europe: https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/CZECH/dgkvlqdeapb/chart.png
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Kevin Liffey)