An elderly woman receives Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a sports hall in Ricany, Czech Republic.
An elderly woman receives Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a sports hall in Ricany, Czech Republic. Image Credit: AP

Prague: The Czech government said Friday it would ban people from leaving their districts from March 1 as coronavirus infections kept soaring in the world's worst-hit country.

It also ordered people to wear face masks outdoors in inhabited areas and in busy workplaces, and closed all schools, kindergartens and shops selling non-essential goods.

People will only be allowed to leave their district with a document showing they are going to work, to a doctor or to take care of their relatives.

Shopping is possible only within a district, while sports and walks will only be allowed within the home town or city.

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said the measures would be in force for three weeks, adding the police would carry out random checks.

"The only goal is to reverse the rising curve of new infections and patients in intensive care before it's too late," he told reporters.

The cabinet also declared a new, month-long state of emergency, its legal vehicle to keep the restrictions in place, starting on February 28.

The country tops the world in terms of new infections per 100,000 people over the last 14 days and is second only to neighbouring Slovakia in deaths, according to an AFP tally.

Grappling with recurrent upswings since last summer, the EU member of 10.7 million people has seen 1.2 million cases and 20,000 deaths since the outbreak began.

Daily new infections are running at around 15,000, which Health Minister Jan Blatny said he expected to grow to some 20,000 soon.

Vaccinations are arriving slower than expected as doctors have so far given just over 600,000 jabs with EU supplies hitting bottlenecks.

The Czech government already shuttered three of the worst-hit districts earlier this month, following a curfew, a limit on gatherings, and restaurant or cinema closures approved last year.

On Tuesday, the health ministry said intensive care wards were reaching capacity and that the entire health system was close to its limit.