PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech Republic has reported its lowest daily rise in new coronavirus cases in more than six weeks as it eases out of a lockdown imposed to curb the spread of infection.
The number of cases rose by 41 on Monday, bringing the total to 7,449, with 223 deaths.
The central European country with a population of 10.7 million has seen far fewer cases than its western European neighbours after taking quick action to close schools and most shops and require face masks in public.
Interactive graphic on new coronavirus cases in the Czech Republic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2S2oJ8A?eikon=true
The daily increase in new cases has been below 100 since April 22 while businesses have put pressure on the government to lift some of its lockdown measures in place since mid-March.
Consequently the government has sped up its phased re-opening, even though some health experts have cautioned against moving too quickly.
From Monday, shops up to 2,500 square metres (26,910 square feet) and public spaces such as fitness centres have been reopened. The government is planning a full-reopening of shops and restaurants by May 25.
Restrictions on gatherings have been loosened, with groups of up to 10 now permitted in public, up from a previous limit of two. Czechs are once more allowed to travel abroad but have to present a negative coronavirus test or quarantine when they return.
The country’s car manufacturing sector is also starting back up, giving some relief to an economy set to contract sharply this year.
Skoda Auto, a unit of Volkswagen and the country’s biggest exporter, returned to work on Monday after a more than five-week outage since major factories idled last month to fight the spread of the virus.
(Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)