The Czech lower house on Wednesday approved giving the government an extension of state of emergency powers to December 23, a shorter period than the cabinet sought as it looks to contain rising COVID-19 infections.
Daily COVID-19 case tallies are increasing again in the central European country that was among the worst hit in Europe in the autumn. The uptick comes just a week after the government eased some of its restrictions, allowing shops and restaurants to open their doors for the first time since October.
The state of emergency is the legal basis for some government measures being used to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, such as limits on assembly or temporarily shutting businesses.
PM Andrej Babis’ government had asked for a 30-day extension beyond the current period’s expiry on Dec. 12. A shorter extension put forward by the far-left Communist party, which props up Babis’ minority government, won enough votes.
Infections have steadily increased, with the seven-day rolling average rising in the past week. Hospitalisations are above 4,300, also ticking up after steadily falling from a peak of more than 8,000 in early November.
Health officials reported 5,848 new infections on Tuesday, the highest since November 24, to bring the total number of cases since the pandemic struck in March to 556,927. Deaths stand at 9,126, having tripled since late October.
The government this week walked back some easing measures in a blow to business before the Christmas holiday, bringing forwards the closing times of bars and restaurants to 8 p.m. from 10 p.m. Public alcohol consumption was also banned.
The measures were due to begin on Wednesday and some pub owners have already said they would defy the earlier closing time in protest.