Czechs scrap mandatory COVID-19 jabs, daily cases hit record

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Medical staff member collects a swab from a person at a COVID-19 drive-in testing station of the Nachod hospital, Czech Republic February 11, 2021. REUTERS/David W Cerny

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PRAGUE, Jan 19 (Reuters) - The Czech government scrapped a decree on Wednesday making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for key professionals and over 60s to avoid "deepening fissures" in society, while the daily tally of new cases hit a record high.

Prime Minister Petr Fiala said his new centre-right government did not see reasons for compulsory inoculation as the previous administration had planned in some sectors.

"This does not change our stance on vaccination. It is still undoubtedly the best way to fight COVID-19 ... however, we do not want to deepen fissures in society," Fiala told a news conference.

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In December, the previous government ordered COVID-19 vaccinations from March 2022 for hospital and nursing home staff, police, soldiers and some other professions, as well as those aged over 60. read more

That brought protests. read more

The policy turn comes as a wave of the Omicron variant hits the central European country of 10.7 million people.

The Health Ministry said 28,469 new COVID-19 cases were reported for Tuesday, a record daily number since the start of the pandemic and more than double the 12,371 reported the same day last week.

Like other central European nations, the government expects about 50,000 daily cases by the end of the month. read more

In preparation, asymptomatic essential healthcare workers and social service personnel who test positive may be allowed to continue working. Businesses want the list extended. read more

Fiala's government has also shortened quarantine and isolation times, while launching mandatory testing of employees at companies from this week.

Hospitalisations, which peaked in the latest Delta wave at more than 7,000 in early December, dropped to 1,635 on Tuesday from 1,761 reported for Monday.

The country has reported 36,937 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic, one of the world's worst rates per capita.

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Reporting by Robert Muller and Jan Lopatka; Editing by Jacqueline Wong, Timothy Heritage, William Maclean

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