Czech COVID-19 ‘R’ rate rises to 1.59 as cases spike

A woman wearing a face mask leaves a shopping mall in Prague

PRAGUE (Reuters) – The reproduction ‘R’ number of COVID-19 infections in the Czech Republic has risen to 1.59, the Institute of Health Information and Statistics (UZIS) said on Tuesday, showing the spread of the virus amid a spike in cases in the country.

The Czech Republic has seen one of Europe’s largest surges in new coronavirus cases in recent weeks, when adjusted for population size, just behind Spain and France.

The spike in cases has prompted the government to tighten mask-wearing rules while it aims to avoid large-scale shutdowns like those in the spring, which hammered the economy.

The R number represents the average number of people to whom one infected person will pass the virus. An R number above 1 can lead to exponential growth.

UZIS said that although the figure can be influenced by a number of factors such as testing rates or local outbreaks, the indicator had risen to above 1 in all regions of the country. The estimate was from data up to Sept. 12.

The Czechs reported 1,038 new cases of the virus on Monday, the sixth time in the past week the daily rise was above the 1,000 level, which it breached for the first time in September.

Of a total 37,222 cases reported since the first virus detection in March, 465 patients have died and 22,129 have recovered. Hospitalisations had risen to 305 as of Sunday, up from 172 on Sept. 1.

Several countries have put travel restrictions on Czechs due to the surge in cases.

Neighbouring Slovakia said on Monday it would put the Czech Republic on its “red list” of high-risk countries, meaning travellers across the border would need a negative COVID-19 test or to go into five-day quarantine followed by a test.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet, editing by Ed Osmond)