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Czech crisis chief: we may start relaxing measures from mid-April if things go well

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech Republic’s tough measures to slow the spread of coronavirus may be relaxed somewhat in three weeks, but the country’s borders are likely to stay shut to most travel for months, the head of the country’s crisis committee said on Sunday.

Roman Prymula said on Prima television the pace of spread of infections was slowing and he was hoping the total number of cases would not exceed 10,000.

If that is the case, he said the government may relax some of Europe’s most severe restrictions, which include a ban on non-essential movement apart from commuting to work and shopping, as well as the closure of all shops and restaurants except for food and drugstores.

Prymula, an epidemiologist and deputy health minister, was not specific about which measures may be relaxed but said the focus was on limiting economic losses.

It was likely schools would stay closed much longer, people would still be required to wear facemasks, and borders were likely to remain shut for months because of developments in other European countries.

“We are determined to aim at 8,500 (cases), with the limit of 10,000 at which point we want to halt the increase,” Prymula said in a live television debate.

“From this point on, the daily growth in percent should not be as it is now, although we have already managed to lower that a lot. The daily growth should be zero.

“If we manage that, which we expect some time after Easter, we would like to gradually relax the measures, let’s say from mid-April, and return the country to life,” Prymula said.

On the other hand, a worsening development may lead to even tougher lockdowns, he said. This was not on the agenda now apart from the possible limitation of daily cross-border work commuting that is at the moment still possible.

The country of 10.7 million people had 1,047 cases as of Sunday morning, after an increase of 158 cases, or 18 percent, on Saturday, and no deaths so far. Nineteen patients were in intensive care on Sunday.

The Saturday rise followed 124 new cases on Friday, 205 on Thursday and 110 on Wednesday.

Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by David Holmes