With a new, highly contagious coronavirus variant gaining force in the already hard-hit Czech Republic, the country is in chaos after Parliament deprived the government of a powerful tool to tackle the pandemic
The lower house of Czech Parliament late Thursday refused the minority government’s request to extend the state of emergency, a measure that gives the Cabinet the powers to impose and keep in place strict nationwide restrictive measures and limit people’s rights.
Ministers have warned the move will further worsen the situation and might cause the struggling health system to collapse.
The opposition parties charged the current lockdown doesn’t work and accused the government of Prime Minister Andrej Babis of not doing enough for businesses and others affected by its restrictions.
They also complained the government has been refusing to take seriously their proposals to deal with the pandemic, and insisted schools should reopen.
The current state of emergency will expire at week’s end after 132 days. The government can use other legal options to reimpose some measures but not all of them.
“We will immediately apply all those remaining options we have,” Health Minister Jan Blatny said. “(But) they're not as effective” as the powers under the state of emergency.
As a result, bars, restaurants and cafes can possibly reopen Monday while the night-time curfew and a ban on gatherings of more than two people will be canceled.
It might also limit use of military medical personnel in civilian hospitals and firefighters helping distribute protective gear and other equipment across the country.
The government is scheduled to discuss the crisis later Friday and meet the heads of 14 regional governments who could declare a state of danger in their region in order to be able to reimpose some restrictions.
Meanwhile on Friday, almost 600 police officers were deployed to enforce a complete lockdown of the three hardest-hit counties on the border with Germany and Poland to help contain a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus initially identified in Britain.
In reaction to the surge across the border, Germany decided to temporarily reinstate border controls with the Czech Republic and Austria on Sunday due to their high number of variant coronavirus cases.
The Czech Republic, a nation of 10.7 million, has had more than 1 million confirmed cases, with 17,902 deaths
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, its rate of 915 new confirmed cases per 100,000 people in the past two weeks is the second worst in the EU after Portugal.
The day-to-day increase of cases in the Czech Republic was 8,916 on Thursday, a number similar to that recorded in neighboring Germany whose population is more than eight times as big.
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