The Czech Republic has surpassed a milestone of 1 million confirmed coronavirus infections since the pandemic began.
The Health Ministry said Wednesday that the day-to-day increase in new infections was 9,057 cases for a total of more than 1 million.
Despite the number of new infections falling since they reached a record high of almost 18,000 in early January, they have stagnated in recent days at still dangerously high levels despite a strict lockdown.
In Europe, only Portugal and Spain had higher per-capita infections in the past 14 days, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. The Czech death rate is also among the highest in Europe.
Deaths from COVID-19 in the Czech Republic reached 16,683 as of Tuesday, doubling since the end of November. The death toll has grown 39-fold since the start of September.
Hospitals have been strained by the surge in cases that began after the summer holidays, with a shortage of healthcare workers and the number of patients needing care hovering around 6,000 since falling from peaks of over 7,000 in mid-January.
The government aims to cut the number of hospitalized patients to around 3,000 before loosening lockdown restrictions.
Currently, 93,043 people are ill with COVID-19 in the Czech Republic. Of them, 5,811 are hospitalized, while 1,002 of them in intensive care. The numbers are putting the health system under pressure.
The AstraZeneca firm will start supplying its vaccine against Covid-19 to the Czech Republic on February 8, Health Ministry spokeswoman Barbora Peterova confirmed on the Smart Quarantine Twitter account to CTK.
Meanwhile, the Czech cabinet today approved a two-month suspension of value-added tax (VAT) on respirators of the FFP2 and higher category, reacting to an appeal addressed to it by producers of respirators as an anti-COVID protective means.