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Protest in Prague against pandemic restrictions

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Warsaw (dpa) – Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at Prague’s Old Town Square on Sunday afternoon to protest against the government restrictions to contain the coronavirus, which were recently extended.

According to police estimates, some 2 thousand people protested in the square shortly after 2 pm (1300 GMT). Footage of the demonstration showed many protesters were not wearing masks and stood close to each other.

Demonstrators waved Czech flags and posters, some of which read “Stop corona-terror” and “Stop Covid tyranny.”

Included in the programme for the demonstration were speeches by business representatives from the hospitality sector, fitness trainers and business unions, among others, CTK agency reported.

Former president Vaclav Klaus was also among the speakers.

On Thursday, the Czech Republic extended its lockdown measures in the fight against the pandemic.

The government’s highest coronavirus warning level will initially apply until January 22, and further tightening cannot be ruled out, according to Health Minister Jan Blatny said.

A maximum of two people are allowed to meet in public. Shops selling goods not considered daily necessities are shut, as are hotels, restaurants and cultural institutions.

There is a nightly curfew between 9 pm and 5 am.

Earlier on Sunday, the country’s President Milos Zeman called on his compatriots to be patient and follow the measures in place to stem the spread of the virus. He said the recent increase in cases was due to people who were weary of the restrictions and failed to observe them.

According to Zeman, who gave an interview for Blesk.cz news site, the vaccine brings hope.

The president praised the European Union for its efforts in purchasing vaccinations for member states. He also asked Israel, the world’s leader in terms of the pace of its vaccination campaign to help the Czech Republic organize its inoculation programme, Zeman was cited as saying by CTK agency.

As of Saturday, some 40,000 Czechs had been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The president himself expects to be inoculated against Covid-19 in about a week.

Zeman, 76, who suffers from diabetes and neuropathy, initially planned to receive the jab in early February, and not cut ahead in the vaccine line. However, his advisors convinced him to be vaccinated sooner, he said.

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