Central European nations grapple with Covid second wave

Vienna, Nov 18 (efe-epa).- The Covid-19 pandemic is heaping pressure on both health systems and politicians in countries across Central Europe, where several nations that fared well during the first wave of the pandemic, such as Austria, Czech Republic and Hungary, have developed into hotspots with some of the highest rates of deaths and infections in the European Union.

On Wednesday, Austria passed the threshold of 100 daily deaths for the first time and now has the second-worst infection incidence per 100,000 people in the EU.

With most cultural, hospitality and other non-essential activities banned, only half of Austrians approve of the government’s handling of the crisis, a sharp contrast to six months ago, when Chancellor Sebastian Kurz enjoyed approval ratings of 83 percent due to his government’s response to the pandemic.

Austrian authorities have announced a nationwide testing campaign amid soaring infections in the Alpine country, similar to the one tried in neighboring Slovakia.

Slovakia, home to 5.4 million people, became the first country to call for a Covid test for everyone over the age of 10 earlier this month, isolating 50,000 positive people.

The strategy, which the government justified as an alternative to a total lockdown, seems to be working. In the last 24 hours 1,311 cases were detected, 50 percent less than two weeks ago.

The authorities opened the theaters, cinemas and houses of worship on Monday, but the country will remain in a state of emergency until January 1.


The Czech Republic, despite having the third highest cumulative infection rate in the EU, from Wednesday onwards has reopened schools for in-person classes for children in the first and second year of primary school, although pupils must wear masks at all times.

The measure contrasts with those affecting shops, where no more than one customer for every 15 square meters will be allowed. Opening hours will be extended by one hour, until 9pm, to mitigate the limit on customers.

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