Czech Republic starts coronavirus vaccine rollout

·1 min read
The Czech Republic begins COVID-19 vaccinations

PRAGUE (Reuters) -Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis became the first person in the country to be given a vaccine against the new coronavirus on Sunday, as European Union member states begin a pushback against the pandemic which is surging across the continent.

Hungary and Slovakia stole a march on their fellow EU nations as they began vaccinating people against COVID-19 on Saturday. Germany officially launches its inoculation campaign on Sunday, along with coutries such as France and Italy.

Babis received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the Central Military Hospital in Prague, just before other hospitals in the capital and second-largest city Brno started to distribute the 9,750 doses the country has received so far.

"The vaccine which arrived from the European Union yesterday, that is a hope, a hope that we will return to a normal life," Babis said before receiving the jab.

He said that the country has ordered 15.9 million vaccines in total, more than half of which will be the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, which should cover nearly 9 million people in the country of 10.7 million.

Emilie Repikova, 95, a World War Two veteran, was also one of the first to be vaccinated, shortly after Babis.

The country closed non-essential shops, services and ski lifts and enforced a stricter curfew from Sunday as it seeks to curb another rise in COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations.

As of Sunday morning, Czechs had reported 670,599 cases in total, 93,714 of them currently active, 4,226 hospitalised with the illness, and 11,044 have died.

(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)