PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech Republic may make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for people over the age of 60 as well as for some professions including health and social care workers, under plans now being drawn up, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Tuesday.
Like many other countries in central and eastern Europe, the Czech Republic has seen a relatively slow vaccination campaign. It has fully vaccinated about 58% of its population, well below an average for the European Union of 69%, data shows, though more than 80% of Czech over-60s have received a shot.
Faced with a record surge in COVID-19 infections that is straining hospitals, the government council for health risks backs the mandatory vaccination proposals, Babis said, adding that the health ministry would assess them next Tuesday.
“This age group (of over-60s) is the most at threat,” Babis said.
From Monday only the vaccinated or those who have recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months are allowed to enter Czech restaurants, hotels, cinemas, and gyms or to access other services.
Debate has turned to whether stricter lockdown measures may be needed to slow the spread, including making vaccines mandatory for specific professions, mirroring discussions in other countries including Germany.
Neighbouring Slovakia, with the third lowest vaccination rate in the 27-nation EU, has also targeted the unvaccinated with restrictions.
Austria, which borders both the Czech Republic and Slovakia, this week became the first nation in western Europe to re-impose a short-term lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. It will require its whole population to get vaccinated as of February.
Hungary said last week it would make a third, booster shot mandatory for healthcare workers.
(Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Gareth Jones)