PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech Republic reported 650 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, its highest number for a single day since the start of the coronavirus pandemic as infections gathered speed amid relaxed government restrictions.
The latest cases, recorded by the Health Ministry over the previous 24 hours, took the overall number of cases reported since March to 25,773 in the country of 10.7 million.
The Czech Republic has registered 425 deaths associated with COVID-19, a lower toll than many of its fellow European Union member states.
On five days since Aug. 26, there have been more new cases than on any day during the first wave of the pandemic. Daily increases per population size were mostly in multiples of those in neighbouring Germany in the past days.
The government has put emphasis on low number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals – 172 as of Wednesday evening, including 40 serious cases – as a sign that the health system was not being overwhelmed.
The spread of infections has been illustrated by sports teams cancelling games due to cases in their ranks, and by infections hitting government departments.
Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek and Labour and Minister Jana Malacova said on Twitter on Thursday they were self-isolating after positive tests among people they had met.
They followed Health Minister Adam Vojtech who started isolating on Wednesday after the country’s chief public health officer, Jarmila Razova, tested positive for the coronavirus. The minister tested negative. Industry Minister Karel Havlicek was also self-isolating.
The Czech government was among the first to shut down much of the retail trade and travel in March, putting a brake on the epidemic.
But it was also quick to reopen and has declared it was not planning any nation-wide restrictions that would choke the economy.
(Reporting by Robert Muller and Jan Lopatka; Editing by Kim Coghill, Timothy Heritage and David Gregorio)