Europe virus stars scramble after declaring victory too fast

The Czech government, which had acted faster and more strictly than almost any other in the European Union, lifted rules on social distancing and mandatory masks wearing. Two months later, it’s trying to contain an explosion of new cases that has eclipsed numbers seen earlier this year when the virus raged across Europe.

In an unfortunately growing trend, eastern EU states that acted more decisively than peers like France and Spain are battling a resurgence that took root when restrictions fell. Governments loath to shut down schools and businesses after lockdowns hammered their economies are facing pressure at home, while their neighbors are erecting new limits on travel.

“In June, we all felt like the virus was gone,” Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said Sunday. “Unfortunately, we were wrong.”

With cases rising again worldwide, in the eastern EU, authorities from Slovenia and Croatia to Romania have taken a lax approach toward imposing fines for mask-wearing violations.