Czech coronavirus cases top 5,000 but growth slows

PRAGUE (Reuters) – The number of cases of the new coronavirus in the Czech Republic has risen past 5,000, although a slowing growth rate has given the government confidence to start easing some lockdown measures that have hit the economy.

The Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 195 new cases the previous day, a 4.0% daily rise to bring the total to 5,017, a figure that was updated to stand at 5,033 by 8:25 a.m.

The daily percentage rise in cases has grown at a single-digit rate so far in April.

The country was among the first in Europe to declare a state of emergency in March – which parliament agreed on Tuesday to extend to April 30 – and has been swift to put in place drastic measures including closing schools, most shops and restaurants, and restricting people’s movement.

The government on Monday agreed to relax some measures, such as reopening shops selling hobby goods and building materials, and also eased rules on open-air sports activities where people do not congregate, such as running and cycling.

More shops may be opened after the Easter weekend.

Like others in central Europe, the Czech Republic has seen far fewer cases of the new virus than western neighbours, along with fewer deaths.

The ministry has reported 91 deaths as of Wednesday morning and 181 recovered patients.

A total of 98,681 tests have been carried out, with 7,434 tests conducted on Tuesday, the most since the first infections were detected on March 1.

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