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What happens when a country suddenly stops wearing masks

While other European countries battled coronavirus outbreaks earlier this year, the disease barely touched the Czech Republic.

For several months, the nation of 10.7 million was a brilliant retreat in a world ravaged by a pandemic. The headlines exclaimed that the Czechs had “defeated” COVID-19.

They don’t do it anymore.

In March, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš ordered masks to be worn outside the home at all times. That was before the World Health Organization started telling people to wear face coatings.

Medical masks were in short supply and were reserved for health professionals, so people began to sew their own face cloths. The Czechs did not like wearing masks more than anyone else, but they did.

“As an American living in Prague, I was amazed to see this country̵

7;s remarkable transformation, virtually overnight, into Europe’s leading model of social discipline in wearing homemade face masks,” wrote USA Today contributor Stephen Capkett.

An influential government video explaining the meaning of “my mask protects you, your mask protects me” was widely circulated and reached a global audience.

The message was heard loud and clear. Cap writes that “in March, April and most of May, only a small minority, maybe 10-15%, can be seen without tiling on the streets of Prague.”

Coronavirus cases peaked at 408 in mid-March, but the curve leveled off and on June 30, the nation did not register new COVID-19 deaths. A giant open-air dinner for 2,000 people without masks or social distancing marked a milestone. The Czechs declared victory and gradually eased the restrictions. For the most part, the masks were packaged. All that was required of them was public transport and a few other specific settings.

In August, Babis boasted that his country was among the “best at COVID,” words that would soon return to pursue him.

Today, more cases of COVID-19 per million people are reported in the Czech Republic than in any other major country in the world. A record 11,984 new cases were announced on Tuesday, breaking the previous record of 11,104 set on Friday alone. Citing records from the health ministry, Reuters reported Wednesday that COVID-19 deaths have risen to 1,619 from 1,513 in the last 24 hours.

Hospitals and intensive care units are filling with increasing cases. Due to a shortage of medical staff, health workers wear full hazmat suits to prevent any chance of infection. Health Minister Roman Primula called on doctors abroad to return home and asked nurses who had left the profession to return to help, CNN reported.

The mandate of the mask, which was revoked, has been restored. As cases began to rise in mid-September, the government ordered face-to-face coverage in public indoor spaces again. On Monday, Primula extended the directive to require universal mask wear in any urban area, inside or outside, as well as for people in cars.

Exceptions are made for people who play sports outdoors or outdoors, where a distance of 2 meters can be maintained. Members of the same household are exempt from the car requirement, as are independent drivers. Children under the age of two are not required to wear masks.

As San Francisco moves to the “yellow layer” – the least restrictive level of Governor Gavin Newsum’s graphically resumed schedule, it is useful to listen to the Czech Republic’s lesson: Making progress against a pandemic is not a license to reject precautionary measures.

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