In final act, outgoing Czech PM declares COVID emergency

PRAGUE — The Czech government of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš on Thursday announced a set of measures to curb the worsening coronavirus pandemic in the central European country on its last day in office.

Babiš told journalists that a 30-day state of emergency would take effect Thursday midnight, two days after a record of nearly 26,000 new daily infections were registered. It empowers the government to impose strict measures on the movement of people in case of a natural disaster.

Restaurants, bars and nightclubs will have to close at 10 p.m. from Friday, while the public consumption of alcohol will be prohibited and on-site consumption of food will be banned in shopping centers.

In addition, a maximum of 1,000 people will be able to attend cultural, sporting and educational events, but only if they have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 in the preceding six months. Participation at other mass events, such as celebrations, parties or balls, will be limited to 100. However, access to funerals will remain unrestricted.

With a new government set to take power on Friday, however, it is unclear how many of the new restrictions will stay in place. Petr Fiala, whose three-party alliance defeated Babiš at a general election last month, is expected to take office after he was tapped to form a government by President Miloš Zeman.

The new measures come as COVID cases have risen steeply in much of Europe — and especially in Central Europe. According to Our World in Data, Slovakia, Austria and the Czech Republic, in that order, have the highest per capita rates of infection in the world.

On Wednesday, the Slovak government announced a two-week lockdown and a 90-day state of emergency as hospitals in that country were overwhelmed with critically ill patients.

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