Cyprus Mail

Poland and Czech Republic entering third wave

people visit a shopping centre in gdansk

The Czech government on Friday dropped plans to possibly open non-essential retail shops from next week as a surge in coronavirus cases continued to put pressure on strained hospitals.

Industry Minister Karel Havlicek announced the decision on Twitter.

“The pandemic situation is not good, the UK variant is still spreading. That’s why we decided not to open closed shops for now,” Havlicek said, adding the government will debate shop openings again next week.

The country of 10.7 million has Europe’s highest infection rate currently, reporting 968 new cases per 100,000 people on a two-week basis, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The minority government of Prime Minister Andrej Babis has faced criticism from the opposition and citizens groups for chaotic management and unpredictability in the pandemic, but it is also facing growing demands to ease restrictions.

The government had considered opening shops from Monday. It is planning to partly open schools to get many children back to classrooms in March.

Hospitals, though, have seen capacity stressed in past weeks.

As of Friday morning, 14% of intensive care and high dependence beds were available across the country, including 149 places for COVID patients.

The number of COVID patients hospitalised in serious condition has reached 1,258, above peaks seen in November.

Health Minister Jan Blatny said  that Czech hospitals may be overwhelmed with coronavirus patients in two or three weeks, issuing the starkest warning yet.

Poland is seeing the beginning of a third wave of coronavirus infections, a health ministry spokesman said on Friday, as the country posted a large week-on-week increase in daily cases.

Poland has loosened some restrictions, recently opening ski slopes as well as cinemas, hotels and theatres at up to 50% capacity, but authorities have warned that these measures may have to be rolled back depending on the pandemic situation.

“We are at the beginning of the third wave, it is not as dynamic as in Slovakia or the Czech Republic…, but unfortunately we are observing this upward trend,” Wojciech Andrusiewicz told reporters. “Week-to-week we unfortunately see a 20% growth trend.”

He added that around 10% of COVID-19 cases in Poland were now the British variant.

On Friday Poland reported 8,777 new cases of the coronavirus and 241 deaths.

In total, it has reported 1,623,218 cases of the coronavirus and 41,823 deaths.

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