PRAGUE (Reuters) – The largest COVID-19 vaccination centre in the Czech Republic was put through its paces on Friday, but it will not be fully operational until May as the country badly hit by the pandemic waits for more vaccine shots.
The government has come under criticism for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, including its failure to order as many vaccines as it could under the EU’s programme.
Following a spat in Brussels over distribution of extra vaccines among member states, the Czechs are now projected to lag behind all other EU countries by mid-year.
The country of 10.7 million has the world’s highest per-capita death toll from COVID-19, according to Our World in Data, while infection rates have only just started easing.
Deaths from the disease have hit 27,617, more than doubling in 2021 alone. On Thursday, 5,245 new cases were reported, the lowest weekday tally since mid-December. In total, 1.57 million infections have been reported since March 2020.
The vaccination centre at Prague’s O2 Arena complex is to be a key component in ramping up inoculations. But it faces a three-week delay until May 3 before starting with a capacity of 7,000 people a day.
On Friday, 1,000 state emergency personnel were set to get shots.
“The centre will start in full at the beginning of May, because at the moment there are not enough vaccines for it to go at full capacity,” Prime Minister Andrej Babis said during an inspection on Friday.
The country has administered 1.97 million vaccine doses so far, including 663,006 people who have got both shots. On Thursday, 58,928 shots were given, the highest daily total.
(Reporting by Jason Hovet and Jiri Skacel; Editing by Mike Collett-White)