Czech COVID-19 cases plateau but seniors increasingly hit

·2-min read
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Prague
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Prague

PRAGUE (Reuters) - New cases of COVID-19 have plateaued in the hard-hit Czech Republic, but hospitals are under strain and infections among vulnerable senior citizens are on the rise, authorities said on Friday.

The number of new daily cases rose above 15,000 three times since Oct. 23 but slipped to 13,231 on Thursday, health ministry data showed.

The "R" reproduction number has dropped to about 1, suggesting a stabilised situation, the ministry said.

"We have recorded a stabilisation of the epidemiological situation ... but we certainly have not won," Health Minister Jan Blatny told a news conference.

"Our predictions show we will continue to see numbers of positively tested patients between 12,000 and 15,000 per day," he added.

Hospitals have cancelled nearly all non-urgent procedures and converted many wards for coronavirus patients, and some have had to start transferring patients to other regions.

The death rate was the worst in Europe over the past 14 days at 23.3 per 100,000 people, according to data from Europe's disease centre ECDC, and overall COVID-19 deaths have reached 4,330 as of Friday morning.

Ladislav Dusek, the head of the health data institute UZIS, told Reuters the worst-case scenario of overwhelmed hospitals had not materialised, but the system was stretched with more than 8,200 patients as of Friday.

A total of 2,351 doctors and 6,613 nurses were infected, piling on the pressure, he said.

There were 209 clusters of infections in nursing homes by the end of October, and the proportion of COVID-19 cases among people over 65 rose to 15% percent in October from 10% in September, he added.

The government has closed schools, restaurants and most retail outlets, and imposed a night-time curfew and ban on unnecessary movement to limit the spread of the infection.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Andrew Heavens)