The Czech government has lost a parliamentary vote to extend a state of emergency, likely leading to the end of shop closures and curfews from next week and eliminating its main tool against a raging coronavirus pandemic.
MPs rejected the pleas of Prime Minister Andrej Babis to extend the powers beyond February 14 despite his warnings of a healthcare collapse as infections spread.
Babis's minority government said it would be unable to extend nationwide limits on movement, including a night-time curfew and public gathering ban, and the closure of retail stores and services.
Pubs and restaurants could stay closed while some other measures could remain under different legislation.
The country of 10.7 million has been in various levels of lockdown almost continuously since October.
In recent days, flare-ups blamed on the UK variant have overloaded hospitals in several regions.
Three districts were put into stricter lockdowns on Thursday while German media reported a likely entry ban on travellers from the Czech Republic.
Czech daily cases were the second highest in Europe in the past two weeks after Portugal, according to European Centre for Disease Control data.
The country has reported 17,772 deaths, according to ourworldindata.org.