Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said Monday that he got “carried away” over the summer when he lifted stringent coronavirus restrictions, admitting the move was a “mistake” as infection rates soar.
He made the comments at a news conference as the Czech Republic struggles to contain a severe new wave of the virus that has forced the government to begin bringing back measures introduced in March to slow the spread of infection.
From May, people no longer had to wear masks in public, and hotels, bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen. In July, residents in Prague held a huge “farewell party” for the pandemic, sharing platters of food, sitting together and hugging in the street.
Many, it seemed, believed the virus was long gone, including the now-former health minister, Adam Vojtech, who told citizens in May that “the covid-19 crisis is behind us.”
With restrictions relaxed, however, the virus has returned in the country, which now has one of the fastest-growing infection rates in Europe, after Spain and France. Confirmed cases, hospitalization rates and death rates are climbing once again.
Last Thursday, the Czech Republic reported a record daily high of 3,130 new cases, with infections spreading among young people in particular.
There are now almost 51,000 confirmed cases in the country, and health officials warn that the number could climb to around 70,000 this month. At least 522 people have died from the virus in the country.
This week, the government extended the mask rule to outdoor events and schools, while bars and restaurants will operate under limited opening times.
The World Health Organization says it is concerned about the resurgence of the virus across Europe, calling the return of high levels of infection a “very serious situation.”
“More than half of European countries have reported a greater than 10 percent increase in the past two weeks,” the WHO’s regional director for Europe said last week.