The Czech Republic has reached one million confirmed coronavirus cases, health authorities in the capital Prague said this week.
It is by far the smallest of the 21 countries to surpass that grim milestone, with the US leading the global table with more than 26 million confirmed cases out of an estimated population of 330 million.
The health ministry said on Wednesday that the day-to-day increase in new infections reached over 9,000 cases the previous day to rack up a total of just over one million for the pandemic, the Associated Press reports.
With a population of under 11 million, the country has registered nearly 17,000 deaths.
“I’d like to say our approach has not been successful,” said Jan Trnka, a biochemist from Prague’s Charles University. “We’ll likely have more people infected. We’ll have more people in hospitals and more people will die.”
Sources agree that the government has lacked a clear vison about what it wants to achieve and how, and its measures have been met with a growing distrust from citizens.
Around 50% of Czechs says they don’t want to get inoculated because of safety fears and disinformation, according to recent polls.
“There’s no doubt that the Covid is a killer,” Prime Minister Andrej Babis said. “We have to make more people realise that it’s not a harmless flu, that it’s a very dangerous virus. We have new variants of it. The situation’s not good.”
Last week the government abandoned plans to reopen schools and ski resorts and instead brought in further limits on people’s contacts and movement.
This was a very different story from August when Babis claimed the Czech Republic was “the best in dealing with Covid”, and told the population there was no need to impose restrictions.
Two months later, the country topped the world rankings of daily new cases and had the worst death rate by size of population in early January, a result of a decision to allow stores, bars and restaurants to reopen before Christmas.
“We need to state it loud and clear that what happened and is not over yet is the biggest death rate in this country since World War II,” Jan Konvalinka, of Prague’s Charles University told Czech public radio.
Virologist Ruth Tachezy said, “We still have a huge number of infected people and if the percentage of more contagious variants grows in the population, we might be facing a very serious problem for a very long time.”