Czechs, Slovaks hit virus records, target the unvaccinated

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Demonstrators gather to protest against the government restriction measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 during celebrations of the 32nd anniversary of the pro-democratic Velvet Revolution that ended communist rule in 1989 in Prague, Czech Republic, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

PRAGUE – The Czech Republic and Slovakia both reported record daily new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, a day before the two European Union countries plan to approve new restrictions for unvaccinated people in response to rising infections.

Thousands in the capitals of both countries, Prague and Bratislava, used Wednesday’s anniversary of the 1989 anti-communist Velvet Revolution to rally against their government’s upcoming coronavirus restrictions.

The protesters ignored social distancing and didn’t wear masks. Police didn’t intervene in Prague. In Bratislava, police said two officers sustained injuries after the crowd near the seat of the government detonated fire crackers.

The Czech daily tally soared to 22,479 new cases, eclipsing the previous record set Jan. 7 by almost 5,000 and nearly 8,000 more than just a week ago. The country’s infection rate rose to 813 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, up from 558 a week earlier.

Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtech announced Wednesday he would propose new coronavirus restrictions to be approved by the government on Thursday.

“We find ourselves in a very serious situation,” Vojtech said. “There's a real risk that our hospitals will be overwhelmed,"

The key measure being proposed is that most unvaccinated people will no longer be allowed to attend public events, go to bars and restaurants or use hotels based on coronavirus test results. Only people who are vaccinated and those who have recovered from COVID-19 will remain eligible. Similar restrictions are in place in the German state of Bavaria.

They are expected to become effective on Monday.

“It's motivation for the unvaccinated to get vaccinated,” Vojtech said.

Exceptions include teenagers aged 12 to 18, medical personnel and visitors at hospitals and nursing homes.

Vojtech also urged companies to cancel their traditional Christmas parties and return to working at home wherever possible.

Slovakia reported 8,342 new virus cases, surpassing the previous record of 7,244 set Friday. The Slovak government is planning new restrictions on unvaccinated people as the country's hospitals are getting overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger said his Cabinet would vote Thursday on recommendations from medical experts. Among the proposals, which would be instituted for three weeks, are banning unvaccinated people from nonessential stores, shopping malls, gyms, pools, hotels and mass public gatherings.

Slovakia's Health Ministry said 81% of the country's 2,879 hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.

The Czech Republic at 57.9% and Slovakia at 45.3% have vaccination rates well below the average of the EU's 27 nations.


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