Czechs in chaos with political infighting amid virus surge

PRAGUE (AP) — With a new, highly contagious coronavirus variant gaining force, the already hard-hit Czech Republic was in chaos on Friday after lawmakers deprived the government of a powerful tool to tackle the pandemic.

The lower house of Czech Parliament late Thursday refused the minority government’s request to extend a state of emergency, a measure that gives Cabinet powers to impose and keep in place strict nationwide restrictive measures and limit individual rights.

Ministers have warned the move will further worsen the situation and might cause the struggling health system to collapse.

Opposition parties say the current lockdown isn’t working and accused the government of not doing enough for businesses and others affected by restrictions. They also complained that the government has been refusing to take seriously their proposals to deal with the pandemic, and insisted schools should re-open.

The current state of emergency will expire tonight after 132 days. The government can use other legal options to reimpose some measures but not all of them. As a result, restaurants and cafes can possibly re-open tomorrow while the night-time curfew and a ban on gatherings of more than two people will be cancelled.

The end of the state of emergency might also limit use of military medical personnel in civilian hospitals, and firefighters helping distribute protective gear and other equipment.

Healthcare workers moving a COVID-19 patient to the Motol hospital in Prague, Czech Republic. PHOTO: AP