PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech Republic reported its biggest one-day increase in new coronavirus infections for a third straight day on Sunday, recording 1,541 cases as the country battles a surge in the virus in recent weeks.
It was the fifth day in a row with new infections above 1,000 for the country of 10.7 million after cases began to accelerate in August. One state health official said a second wave was under way.
Adjusted for population, the country has reported 94 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last 14 days, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control data. Only Spain and France have seen a bigger spike in that time.
(Graphic - Czech spike in COVID-19 cases among fastest in Europe Czech spike in COVID-19 cases among fastest in Europe: https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/CZECH/xklvynyjnpg/chart.png)
The Czech Republic came through an initial outbreak that began in March - when daily cases peaked at a high of 377 -relatively well compared to western Europe and has kept the death toll lower than most.
As of Saturday, 453 patients had died out of a total 35,401 cases, with 60% of patients having recovered.
Hospitalisations remain below peaks of over 400 seen in the first few months of the outbreak, but figures are growing, with 297 patients as of Friday compared to 172 on Sept. 1.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis told tabloid Blesk's website on Sunday the country had one of the lowest death tolls in Europe and said he would appeal for people to maintain health measures.
Epidemiologist Roman Prymula, the government's commissioner for science and research in healthcare, said on Czech Television's Sunday debate show a second wave had started and hospitalisations would rise.
The country was one of the first in Europe to mandate wearing masks, shut schools and retail businesses, and restricted travel to contain the spread of the virus.
But it was also quick to ease measures going into the summer months and aims to avoid repeating the harsh lockdowns that helped lead to a record 11% year-on-year contraction in the economy in the second quarter.
Last week, it tightened rules for face mask use across the country.
Cases quickly surpassed 30,000 cases this past week after not hitting 10,000 until mid-June or 20,000 until mid-August.
The uptick has led neighbouring Germany to require travellers from the capital Prague to provide a negative COVID-19 test or observe a two-week quarantine period upon entry.
** For an interactive graphic on new coronavirus cases in the Czech Republic: https://tmsnrt.rs/3dIscS3 https://tmsnrt.rs/3dIscS3?eikon=true
(Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Susan Fenton, William Maclean)
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