Czech PM says could lift most COVID measures from March

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Newly appointed Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala speaks to members of the media in front of the Lany Chateau in the village of Lany near Prague.

The Czech Republic aims to increase the number of people allowed at public events in the coming weeks, with expectations that from March nearly all COVID-19 restrictions could be lifted, Prime Minister Petr Fiala said.

The central European country of 10.7 million has faced its highest rates of COVID-19 so far since late January, but although the number of hospitalisations has climbed, the number of patients is well below previous peaks.

From Thursday, the government is going ahead with previously announced plans to allow the unvaccinated back into restaurants and other venues as infections start to ebb. 

Fiala said the government would gradually ease measures depending on the pandemic’s development and in consultation with health experts, but believed the worst of the latest wave had passed.

The Health Ministry reported more than 37,000 new cases on Tuesday, or 20,000 less than a record hit a week ago.

“Gradually we will raise the number of visitors to cultural or sports events with the view that from March 1 there will be very few measures in place. Practically only wearing masks,” he said.

Starting from Feb. 19, crowd sizes could be increased to 500 or 50% of capacity at larger venues, the Health Ministry said.

The Czech government has sought to boost vaccinations, with 63.5% of its population inoculated, below the European Union average of 70%, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Almost 36% of Czechs have had a booster shot.

Optimism on the pandemic’s development was shared by neighbouring Poland, whose health minister on Wednesday said the pandemic had reached “the beginning of the end” and raised the prospect of restrictions ending in March.-REUTERS