From model student to unbridled infections: what happened to the coronavirus in the Czech Republic?

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His handling of the virus at first was exemplary. But today it is the worst European nation. The reasons.

The Czech Republic was one of the model students in Europe in the fight against the coronavirus during the first months of the pandemic. His situation was so good that donated medical supplies to countries like Spain or Italy. The widespread use of chinstraps since the first cases were detected in early March – was the first european country that imposed them on a mandatory basis – and the almost hermetic closure of its borders to avoid importing more infected were the measures with which the Czech Government stopped the virus. Successfully.

His “victory” against the pandemic was such that on July 1, on the iconic Charles Bridge in Prague, a gigantic open-air banquet was held with thousands of people celebrating the defeat of the virus. But the European summer passed and the autumn has brought a bad surprise: the Czech Republic is, according to data from the European Agency for Disease Prevention and Control, the European country in worst situation right now.

The data for this Friday show that the country has an incidence of 701.9 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in recent days, a figure that far exceeds those of other European countries that are currently having a worse time: 304 for Spain, 320 for the UK, 346 for France, 461 for the Netherlands and 577 for Belgium. It is also the one that is suffering the most fatalities from the virus: 5.2 people per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days.

The Czech Republic is the most striking case, but in almost all of Eastern Europe the indicators showing the incidence of the virus are rising faster and faster. Countries that barely noticed it already have a significant number of cases: Slovakia 243 per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days, Slovenia 231, Romania 200, Poland 148 and Hungary 147.

The agency cables have been counting for days that medical services are much more saturated that in March and April, they lack doctors and material. Germany announced Wednesday that its hospitals will start treating Czech patients.

There is no single reason And no one yet fully understands why these countries went from being model students against COVID-19 to beginning to go through the problems that the most affected countries went through in the first wave. With the difference that the health systems of Western Europe have more means than those of Eastern Europe.

One of the reasons for this difference in incidence between the first wave and this second would be the political polarization. As in the United States, the most conservative forces – not only political, but also the Church – were not in favor of the widespread use of chinstraps. The hierarchy of the Polish Catholic Church came to protest because the use of chinstraps meant that priests had to administer communion in their hands and not directly in the mouth, something they did not want to accept.

The other main reason is economical. The harsh containment measures that the governments of these countries took in the first wave they are unsustainable in time except if the intention is to bring the country’s economy to its knees.

The evolution of the pandemic in the end left more alternative than to return to restrictions. The Czech Government announced on Monday the closure of bars, cafes and restaurants – they closed this past Wednesday -, prohibited any gathering of more than six people and suspended the school year at all levels except kindergartens. Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Wednesday: “It is a very difficult decision but we are only entitled to one try and must succeed”.

The Babis government, which dismissed the Minister of Health to put in his place an expert in epidemiology, Roman Prymula, even apologized for having removed all restrictions during the summer.

Without any measure, the Czechs believed they understood that the pandemic had disappeared. And with her the chinstraps disappeared and the trips and the parties returned. Come October, the country may be the first to return to strict confinement.

Brussels, special



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