PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech Republic reported its lowest daily tally of new COVID-19 cases since September on Monday, the same day a six-month state of emergency expired and many pupils return to the classroom.
The central European country was badly hit by the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Czech government managed to slow the spread of infections by imposing its toughest lockdown yet.
Students in grades 1-5 were set to return to school on Monday and restrictions on movement eased with people allowed once more to travel outside their home districts.
The government has kept non-essential shops, restaurants and sport and entertainment centres shut almost continuously since October, except for a brief re-opening in December that was quickly reversed amid another surge in COVID-19 cases.
Czech students have faced the longest school closures in the European Union.
The state is looking to take a slower approach to relaxing measures this time, hoping to avoid a need to return to lockdowns that could punish the economy, which remains buoyed by factories still running under mandatory worker testing.
The country of 10.7 million has reported a total 1.58 million COVID-19 cases since the pandemic started in March 2020 and deaths have neared 28,000, the highest per-capita rate in the world, according to Our World in Data.
The Health Ministry reported 976 new cases on Sunday while the seven-day average dropped to below 4,000, down from a peak of over 12,000 in early March.
(Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)