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‘I got carried away’: Czech PM regrets lifting virus measures

Showing similar trends to Israel’s handing of the pandemic, Czech Republic is also facing a raging second wave after initial government success in keeping cases low

Czech Republic's then-acting Prime Minister Andrej Babis at a news conference at the government's headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic, April 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Czech Republic's then-acting Prime Minister Andrej Babis at a news conference at the government's headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic, April 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis admitted Monday that his government had made a mistake when it eased restrictions aimed at containing coronavirus over the summer.

His mea culpa came as governments across Europe, like Israel, struggle with a second wave of COVID-19 infections following the holiday months in which the number of cases began rising sharply.

“Even I got carried away by the coming summer and the general mood. That was a mistake I don’t want to make again,” the billionaire populist said in a televised speech.

Following similar trends to Israel’s handing of the virus outbreak, the Czech government lifted most measures before the summer holidays after fending off much of the pandemic earlier in the year with timely steps including mandatory face masks outdoors and an early lockdown.

But the Czech Republic registered a record high of 3,130 coronavirus cases last Thursday, almost matching the total for the whole of March, although testing capacity was low at the start of the pandemic.

People wearing protective face masks wait in line at a coronavirus testing center on September 21, 2020 in Prague. (Michal Cizek / AFP)

Despite initial success in tackling the pandemic, Israel has in recent weeks become one of the countries with the highest number of daily cases per capita. It imposed a national lockdown on Friday, with new far-reaching restrictions to curb Israel’s surging outbreak.

Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said the Czech Republic was now ranked second worst in the EU behind Spain in terms of daily case growth per 100,000 residents.

“The situation is serious. Experts say that if we exceed 120,000 new infections per month, we’ll start running out of hospital beds. We’ll do our best to prevent this,” he said.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech — a lawyer known for singing in the Czech version of the “Idol” series — announced his resignation earlier Monday.

He was immediately replaced with epidemiologist Roman Prymula, who has helped coordinate government measures to curb infections.

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