The Czech government is likely to further tighten social-distancing rules to curb the European Union’s worst coronavirus surge — without crippling the economy, according to the finance minister.
The cabinet will on Monday decide on more steps to limit human contacts after it banned cultural and sports events, closed some schools and ordered bars and restaurants to close at 8 p.m., Alena Schillerova said on Czech Television. She added the new “blanket measures” will represent an “improved version” of the lockdown the central European country experienced in the spring.
After an initial success in containing the virus with one of Europe’s fastest and strictest quarantine regimes in March, the country of 10.7 million is now suffering the most acute epidemic among European Union states. New infections reached a record of 8,618 cases on Friday, after exceeding 5,000 in two previous days.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s administration is struggling to stem the outbreak after it removed social-distancing rules in the summer and fully reopened schools in September. The nation has leapfrogged Spain as the EU’s top hotspot based on the two-week cumulative number of cases per capita, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
“We will have to very fundamentally restrict gatherings,” Schillerova told the public-service broadcaster, adding “we won’t shut down the economy, we won’t shut down the manufacturing industry.”
When asked if shopping malls will be closed, she said “we have yet to see.”
The worsening pandemic has caused concerns among investors fearing a repeat of the economic paralysis from the second quarter of this year. The koruna is the third-worst performer among emerging-market currencies, after Argentinian peso and Turkish lira, since the start of September.
The government still needs to agree on specific steps, but it won’t impose restrictions that would halt all activity or completely ban people from leaving homes, Health Minister Roman Prymula said in a interview on CNN Prima News.
“It will be a certain tightening of the measures, but it won’t be anything dramatic compared to what’s in place now,” he said. “So I don’t think that it can be characterized as a lockdown.”
(Updates with health minister’s comments in seventh paragraph.)
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