Church bells mark one year since first Czech Covid death

Prague (AFP) –


Church bells rang out across the Czech Republic Monday to mark one year since the first Covid-19 fatality in the country with the highest per capita death rate in the world.

People were also asked to observe a minute's silence to remember the dead, and members of a local movement drew 20,000 crosses onto the pavement of Prague's historic Old Town Square.

"Thousands of crosses for thousands of victims. Many of them did not have to die," said Benjamin Roll, head of the Million Moments for Democracy, which organised the event and is a fierce government critic.

"The government, which prefers its business dealings to its citizens, is responsible for these wasted lives," Roll said on Twitter.

The EU member of 10.7 million people has registered 24,810 Covid-19 fatalities, making it the world's leader in deaths per capita, according to an AFP tally based on official data.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis's government was credited for containing the first wave of the virus last spring with timely measures.

But the country has been struggling to tame the spread since last summer, with restrictions labelled as lukewarm and chaotic by critics.

The growth in infections is now slowing, with 2,373 new cases registered Sunday, the lowest since mid-December.

Restrictions banning Czechs from leaving their districts except for work remain in place, while schools, restaurants, cinemas, theatres and most shops are still closed for business.