Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia have the lowest amount of cases of coronavirus in Europe with approximately 50 confirmed cases per million people, according to the National Agency for Communication and Information Technologies (NAKIT).
The Czech Republic also ranks near the bottom in Europe in terms of coronavirus cases, coming in 16th in the European Union and seventh in the number of performed tests. The country features 265 cases per million people.
In a global comparison, the Czech Republic ranks 38th in the number of coronavirus cases per million inhabitants and 14th in the number of performed tests per million inhabitants.
Other nations are faring much worse. Luxembourg, which placed first in the European statistics, recorded 3,115 cases per million inhabitants followed by Spain with 1,713 cases and Italy with 1,616 cases per million inhabitants. Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary are at the other end of the ranking with approximately 50 cases per million people.
Visegrad Four countries took action against the virus early
The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia all launched some of the most stringent preventive measures in Europe before most others, including closing their borders to foreigners and putting in place strict social distancing measures, all in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
For example, on March 13, both the Czech Republic and Slovakia closed their border to foreigners, with Slovakia making an exception for Poles at the time before closing them later entirely. A Slovak Interior Ministry spokesperson said that “no foreign citizens will be allowed to enter Slovakia”, adding “at the border crossings with Poland, only Polish citizens will be allowed to enter the country.”
Slovakia had only 21 cases at the time.
The Czech Republic also banned travelers from Germany and Austria, and most of the other countries most affected by the virus, including France, Italy, Norway, Britain, and a number of others on March 13, as well as China, South Korea, and Iran. At the time, the Czech Republic had 120 cases.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis also said Czech citizens were restricted from traveling to countries most affected by the coronavirus.
Hungary also banned flights from Italy, China, South Korea, and Iran on March 11 before expanding travel bans to other countries in the following days.
Although Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia were criticized at first for quickly closing their borders, data from NAKIT appears to show that this strategy, along with other strict social distancing measures, effectively slowed the infection rate in these countries.
Other EU leaders demanded open borders
During German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s first public address about the outbreak, she warned that border closures would not be enough to prevent the spread of the virus.
She said, “We in Germany, in any case, are of the opinion that border closures are not an appropriate response to the challenge.”
“This is a test for our solidarity, our common sense and care for each other. And I hope we pass the test,” she said, adding that she did not plan to follow Austria’s lead and ban visitors from Italy.
Germany eventually closed its borders on March 18 to all EU travelers in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on March 10 that Slovenia and Austria made “bad decisions” by severely restricting travel with Italy.
“I sincerely believe that these are bad decisions,” Macron remarked after partaking in a meeting with other leaders.
A top Italy virologist told CNN that in Italy, fears of being called “racist” may have contributed to the country’s failure to close its borders earlier, especially with China.
“There was a proposal to isolate people coming from the epicenter, coming from China,” Dr. Giorgio Palù, a former president of the European and Italian Society for Virology and currently a professor of virology and microbiology, said in his interview with CNN. “Then it became seen as racist, but they were people coming from the outbreak.”
Dr. Palù believes if the country had acted earlier, it could have halted the rapid spread of infections that have killed over 12,400 people.
Czech Republic continues to take preventative measures against the coronavirus
According to the data from NAKIT regarding the number of performed tests per million inhabitants, the Czech Republic placed seventh in the EU with 4,062 tests. In this regard, Slovenia dominates the statistics, with nearly 10,000 performed tests per million inhabitants, followed by Estonia, Latvia, Italy, Germany, and Austria.
So far, the number of people infected with the coronavirus in the Czech Republic has already exceeded 3,000.
Although the day-to-day increase in new cases is relatively low, the Czech government has decided to extend the restrictions on freedom of movement until April 11 and plans to keep shops and restaurants closed until Easter.
However, on Monday, health officials and the army started testing the so-called smart quarantine in the east of the country. The system aims to isolate and locate those in contact with infected individuals with the help of technology. If the smart quarantine proves successful, it could replace existing restrictive measures after Easter.