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New Czech government dismisses mandate vaccination plan

The Czech Republic's new government on Wednesday dismissed the previous government’s plan to require older adults and people in some professions to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The previous government, led by Prime Minister Andrej Babis, released an order in early December, making vaccination mandatory for people age 60 and over as well as medical personnel, police officers, firefighters and medical students.

It was due to take effect in March. But Babis’ administration was replaced later in December by a new government formed by five parties and led by Prime Minister Petr Fiala.

FILE - Health care workers transport a COVID-19 patient, in Ceska Lipa, Czech Republic, Thursday, March 18, 2021. On Wednesday Jan. 19, 2022, the new Czech government dismissed the previous government's plan to order a vaccine mandate for the elderly people and for some professional groups. (AP PhotoPetr David Josek, File)

“We’ve agreed that vaccination against COVID-19 won’t be mandatory,” Fiala said, stressing that his government still considers the vaccines “the best tool to fight COVID-19.”

Opponents of a vaccine mandate had staged several protests in Prague and elsewhere in the country.

So far, 62.9% of Czechs are considered fully vaccinated, below the European Union average, according the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. Almost 3.4 million people in the nation of 10.5 million also have received a booster shot.

Fiala said about 90% of people who would have been covered by the mandate already have gotten vaccines.

The new government's decision came as the Czech Republic is facing a surge in coronavirus infections caused by the highly contagious omicron variant.

The 7-day infection rate was 950 new cases per 100,000 residents on Tuesday compared to 799 a day earlier.

Despite the record numbers, the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals dropped to 1,635 on Tuesday with 252 needing intensive care.

Follow all AP stories on the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic