New spikes in coronavirus cases shake central and eastern Europe.

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The Czech Republic has introduced a state of emergency to tackle a surge in coronavirus cases, as new infections reach or approach record levels in much of central and eastern Europe.

From Monday, secondary schools in “red” and “orange” districts in the Czech system of coronavirus monitoring closed for two weeks, and rules on the number of people allowed in pubs and restaurants and at sport and cultural events were tightened nationwide.

The Czech Republic reported its highest one-day rise of 3,793 coronavirus cases last Friday, and the number of infections confirmed on Saturday and Sunday – when fewer tests are conducted than on weekdays – set a weekend record.

The country got through the spring wave of coronavirus with a daily rise of no more than 377 cases, and the Czech government won international praise for being quick to impose a tough lockdown and mandatory mask-wearing.

Prime minister Andrej Babis admitted recently that Czechs were now paying a price for lifting restrictions too quickly: “I got carried away by the coming summer and the general mood. That was a mistake I don’t want to make again,” he said.

Big increases

In neighbouring Poland, incoming education minister Przemyslaw Czarnek announced that he had tested positive for coronavirus on the day Polish president Andrzej Duda was expected to confirm him in his new post.

“I was tested this morning due to a headache so as not to expose the president, the cabinet and other participants in today’s events. I feel good. Don’t underestimate the symptoms,” Mr Czarnek wrote on Twitter on Monday.

Poland reported a record rise in infections of 2,367 cases on Saturday, some four times greater than the sharpest daily increase in spring and early summer.

“We do not expect the situation to change drastically in the coming days,” a spokesman for the Polish health ministry said on Monday. “We will likely be observing results at the level of 2,000 cases and above.”

Slovakia, which introduced a state of emergency last week, also registered its biggest one-day increase in cases on Saturday, when 818 infections were confirmed.

“We’re heading into very difficult days,” said Slovak prime minister Igor Matovic. “The numbers will obviously increase significantly and our capacity will start to creak. Nevertheless, I believe that we will pass this test.”

Russia

Romania confirmed a daily record of 2,343 new cases on Friday. The count fell over the weekend, when fewer tests are conducted, but officials on Monday noted with concern that a positive result came back from almost a quarter of tests taken over the previous 24 hours, when 1,591 people were found to be infected.

Russia reported 10,888 new cases on Monday, its biggest such rise since May. Firms in Moscow – which accounts for about a third of new infections – have been told to ensure that at least 30 per cent of staff now work remotely.

In a bid to control the spread of illness, the capital’s schools will close for a fortnight’s holiday this month, rather than the customary week.

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