PRAGUE—Czech authorities tightened coronavirus restrictions in the northeast of the country on Friday after a spike in cases, reinstating compulsory face coverings, limiting restaurant opening hours and ordering checks on cross-border commuters.
The country has suffered just 355 COVID-19 deaths, far fewer than in Western neighbours, but has seen a new spike in infections in the past three weeks, mostly concentrated in the industrial Moravia-Silesia region bordering Poland and Slovakia.
The area, which includes the city of Ostrava, is home to around 11 percent of the country’s 10.7 million population.
Since lifting a strict nationwide lockdown imposed in March, the authorities have pledged to avoid future countrywide measures and instead respond to local outbreaks regionally.
The Czech Republic has seen more than 100 new cases in seven out of the past 10 days, with a large portion from the northeast following an outbreak in the state-owned OKD coal mines.
The national tally of new positive cases hit 305 on June 28 when the mine outbreak peaked. The mine suspended most operations earlier this month after criticism that it had acted too slowly.
Health Minister Adam Vojtech said on Twitter that public events attended by over 100 people would be banned in the region, and cross-border workers would have to present a negative swab test for the novel coronavirus every two weeks.
Visitors to hospitals and social care homes will have to wear respirators. Face masks will be compulsory indoors and on public transport, and bars and restaurants must close between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m.
The country had reported 13,612 total infections as of Thursday, with active cases creeping up to 4,617, near a high of 4,737 on April 11.
By Jan Lopatka