The Czech Republic reported its highest daily rise in new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, with cases surpassing 25,000 for the first time and putting further strain on hospitals.
The country of 10.7 million has the world's fourth-highest infection rate per capita, according to Our World in Data, as Europe is again an epicentre for the pandemic.
The Czech government, due to hand over power in the coming weeks after losing an October election, has put in place measures barring unvaccinated people from visiting restaurants, cinemas and other services such as hairdressers, aiming to boost vaccination figures that lag many in the European Union.
The outgoing government is also looking to institute mandatory vaccines for people over 60 and some professions, like healthcare workers.
But while medical groups have called for tougher lockdown measures, politicians have been cool to taking such a step, unlike in neighbouring Austria, which locked down its population for at least 10 days this week.
Slovakia, another neighbour, was due to debate on Wednesday whether to implement a similar short-term lockdown to battle spreading COVID-19 infections, the world's fastest surge.
On Wednesday, the Czech Health Ministry reported 25,864 new coronavirus cases for Tuesday.
Hospitalisations for patients ill with COVID-19 have jumped to around 5,600, from under 1,000 a month ago, and are the highest since April but below a peak of 9,551.
Hospitals in some regions are seeing a bigger rush of patients than in the previous wave, with one eastern region on Tuesday announcing measures to limit social life for two weeks by banning gatherings of more than 100 to protect its hospitals.
A hospital in Kyjov expects to fill its capacity for patients who need lung ventilation in coming days despite reprofiling some beds, and it is also lacking staff trained for such care, a spokesman said.
The reaction to the new surge in cases is complicated by the continuing transfer of power.
Centre-right parties negotiating a new government said on Wednesday they would avoid locking down schools and spoke against mandatory vaccines.
The parties said their actions will be driven by the situation in hospitals, not the number of new infections.
"It is obvious that COVID will be here for longer, and we have to learn how to live with it, how to deal with the situation," said Petr Fiala, the coalition's prime minister candidate who was due to be appointed on Friday.