PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech Republic reported 1,382 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the highest single-day tally to date, extending a renewed spike in infections that has led authorities to impose tighter face mask requirements.
The daily rise announced by the Health Ministry brought the total number of the central European country’s infections to 32,413.
The Czech government on Thursday ordered people to wear face masks inside buildings as the daily new case count topped 1,000 for the first time, but has so far opted to avoid bringing back other tough measures that would hurt businesses.
The government has argued that hospitalisations, which rose to 249 as of Thursday, were still below spring numbers, and daily deaths have oscillated between 0 and 4.
But critics have said the fast buildup of new cases – Thursday’s number compared with 796 cases a week ago and 483 cases two weeks ago – would show up in hospital admissions later given the incubation period of the virus and the likely progression of more serious cases.
Czech officials were the first in Europe to order the wearing of face masks in public and were quick to close borders, schools and most retail businesses in March to halt the spread of the virus.
The country has so far reported 448 deaths connected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, a fraction of the fatalities recorded in the worst-hit European countries.
However, Czech officials were also among the quickest to relax restrictions in the European summer, lifting the face mask obligation, reopening all services including clubs and discos, and raising caps on the attendance of public events to thousands. Schools reopened on Sept. 1, although the requirement to wear masks on public transport was reinstated on the same day.
The uptick in recent infections led Germany, the Czech Republic’s biggest neighbour, to announce on Wednesday it would require travellers from the Czech capital Prague to provide a negative COVID-19 test or observe a two-quarantine period upon entry.
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Jane Wardell)