March 10, 2020 / 9:00 AM / a month ago

Czech Republic shutting schools, events over coronavirus

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech Republic is to close schools indefinitely and ban events hosting more than 100 people in new measures to contain the coronavirus, its prime minister said on Tuesday.

The central European country has reported 40 cases of coronavirus since detecting the first infections on March 1.

In most cases, the virus appeared in people coming from northern Italy, the worst-hit area of Europe.

“Our paramount task is the health of our citizens,” Prime Minister Andrej Babis told a news conference on Tuesday.

“We understand this will be very unpleasant for people, but we want to prevent, by all means, what happened in Italy from happening here.”

Officials said the measures were decided after a Prague taxi driver was diagnosed with the disease, the first case where the source of infection could not be identified.

The new measures will close schools and universities, but not kindergartens, from Wednesday. A ban from Tuesday night on events ranges from film and theater to other cultural, sports and religious gatherings.

The Czech government has already banned flights with Italy, and issued mandatory quarantines for thousands returning from vacation in the southern European country.

On Monday, it banned hospital and retirement home visits, and started border checks including taking temperatures and testing any foreign travelers feeling ill.

Reporting by Robert Muller and Jason Hovet; Editing by Alex Richardson and Andrew Cawthorne

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