Czech health minister resigns amid surge in virus cases

Vojtech resigns as the country records the second-fastest rate of virus infection in Europe. (Wikipedia pic)

PRAGUE: Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtech resigned on Monday following criticism of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic after a surge in cases.

Before the start of the summer, the government lifted almost all restrictions imposed during the first wave of the pandemic.

The number of infections has doubled this month and has grown at the second-fastest rate in Europe in recent weeks, behind Spain.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis thanked Vojtech for his work in a Twitter message.

Vojtech had been heavily criticised over the new wave of infections although some opposition politicians saw him as a scapegoat for the government.

“The prime minister is more responsible as he strongly and incompetently interferes with Health Ministry work,” Marian Jurecka, chairman of the opposition Christian Democrats, wrote on Twitter.

Babis said on Sunday that instead of posting his usual weekly video message on Facebook, he would address the country on television on Monday evening.

He gave no further details.

Vojtech resigned two weeks before regional elections, and public debate is growing over whether the government should take steps allowing it to impose stricter measures if needed.

In the past 14 days, the Czech Republic has had 193 cases per 100,000 people, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The health ministry reported 985 new Covid-19 cases for Sunday, the first time in a week the count was below 1,000.

The 3,129 reported last Thursday marked the highest number of new cases in a day since the pandemic hit the central European country.

Almost 49,300 people have been infected with the coronavirus in the Czech Republic, about twice as many as at the start of September.

The ‘R’ number, which measures how many people are likely to be infected by one person carrying the virus, has hit 1.6.

The virus has killed more than 500 people in the country.