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Czechs say epidemic under control; further lockdown easing on Monday

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech health authorities believe the spread of the new coronavirus is under control despite a tick-up in cases in recent days, as the country prepares to open pubs, hotels and relax mask-wearing rules on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: A bartender pours a glass of draft beer at an outdoor seating section of a pub, as the Czech government lifted more restrictions allowing restaurants with outdoor areas to re-open amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Prague, Czech Republic, May 11, 2020. REUTERS/David W Cerny

The Czech Republic took early action in March to close borders, schools and much of the services sector and has also been eager to relax many of the restrictions.

Most retail and sports grounds have already reopened and from Monday public events for up to 300 people will be allowed and swimming pools and schools will reopen.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech said an initial easing of restrictions from May 11 had not had an adverse effect.

“There are no negative trends noted, it is still valid that the Czech Republic has managed the situation very well,” he told reporters, adding that the relaxation of lockdown would continue.

The Czech Republic had recorded 8,757 cases of COVID-19 by Friday morning, with 306 deaths.

There were currently two main local infection hot spots, chief public health officer Jarmila Razova said - Prague, and a mine in the east of the country, where more than 100 cases have been identified, mostly among the miners from one shaft and their families.

A rise in cases to a May high of 111 on Tuesday, were mainly attributed to the mine.

In Prague, there were 13 new daily cases on average since May 1 scattered across the whole city, a presentation showed.

The overall number of hospitalised patients had dropped by two thirds from the peak to 150 on Friday.

The ministry predicts around 9,430 cases at the end of May, compared with approximately 8,600 in a previous outlook presented on May 6.

(This story corrects average number of daily cases in Prague to 13 (not 50) in 3rd paragraph from bottom)

Reporting by Robert Muller; Writing by Jan Lopatka