Czech, Swedish, S Korean virus cases rise

·3-min read

Rising coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Sweden have sparked government warnings as South Korea recorded its biggest daily increase in more than a month.

Three Czech counties on the borders with Germany and Poland have been under a complete lockdown due to a high occurrence of a contagious coronavirus variant first discovered in the UK.

Health Minister Jan Blatny said on Wednesday that if the infection trend continues, the lockdowns might need to be expanded to other parts of the country in the coming weeks.

With 6171 COVID-19 patients in hospitals and 1196 in intensive care, the country's health system is reaching its limits, Blatny said.

He said the ministry is considering ordering medical students to work in hospitals and planning to ask neighbouring countries to treat Czechs once the hospital capacity reaches 90 per cent.

Slovakia is asking other European Union countries to deploy their medical personnel in the hard-hit country to help treat COVID-19 patients as its own hospitals struggle under the load.

The government has initially requested a deployment of 10 doctors and 25 nurses to work in intensive care units for at least one month.

Slovakia has the most COVID-19 deaths by size of population in the world amid a surge of a highly contagious coronavirus variant first seen in the UK.

Another 105 people died on Tuesday, giving the country of 5.4 million a total of 6168 virus-related deaths.

The seven-day rolling average of fatalities has risen over the past two weeks from 1.37 deaths per 100,000 people on February 2 to 1.78 deaths per 100,000 people on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

A total of 3835 COVID-19 patients were in Slovak hospitals, about a hundred less than a record high recorded on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Swedish government warned on Wednesday of possible local lockdowns for the first time in the pandemic as it fears a new wave following an increase of cases in some regions after weeks of a relatively stable spread of the coronavirus.

"The situation is still serious," Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren said.

"There is a clear risk of a third wave."

In recent weeks, infections in Sweden have been dropping slowly but the numbers in certain regions are now on the rise again.

She added that Sweden didn't plan a shutdown on Wednesday but "we do not intend to wait until it is too late".

Last month, the Swedish parliament adopted a temporary pandemic law that would allow the closing of shopping centres and shops and a halt to public transport and public activities to curb the spread of the virus.

Those breaking it would face a fine.

Sweden has so far adopted mild coronavirus restrictions without enforced lockdowns and relied mainly on citizens' own physical distancing and other measures to fight the pandemic.

South Korea reported 621 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday in the country's biggest daily jump in more than a month, sparking concern about a viral resurgence amid relaxed distancing rules.

Earlier this week, South Korea slightly eased its stringent distancing rules after the caseload showed a gradual decline for weeks.

Restaurants, bars and coffee shops in the greater Seoul area are now allowed to stay open an hour longer while dining curfews elsewhere are lifted.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun has urged people not to lower their guard.

He said the rules were relaxed to help struggling small business owners, not to ease the fight against the virus.

The numbers reported on Wednesday raised South Korea's total caseload for the pandemic to 84,946, with 1538 deaths.

The coronavirus, which was first detected in China in late 2019, has killed 2.4 million people worldwide and up-ended normal life for billions.