Czech COVID-19 daily tally lowest since September as pupils return to classroom

A teacher shows a child how to perform an antigen rapid test at a re-opened elementary school, as restrictions ease following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Prague, Czech Republic, April 12, 2021. REUTERS/David W Cerny

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)

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