PRAGUE - The Czech Republic will begin offering a second COVID-19 boosters from July 18, recommending the shot for people over 60 and those in risk groups, the Health Ministry said on Friday.

Boosters will however be available to anyone over 18 and are voluntary, the ministry said.

"I want everyone who is interested to have access to vaccination," Health Minister Vlastimil Valek said.

COVID-19 infections are gradually ticking up in the Czech Republic and around Europe.

The Czech ministry reported more than 2,000 infections for the first time since April on Monday, although case figures are still well off peaks in the tens of thousands reported earlier this year in the last wave. Hospitalisations have not jumped, and Valek has said no plans for restrictions were in the works.

On Monday, European Union health agencies recommended a second booster for everyone over 60, as well as medically vulnerable people.

Existing coronavirus vaccines continue to provide good protection against hospitalisation and death, although their effectiveness has taken a hit as the virus has evolved.

Adapted versions of established vaccines that address two variants in one shot will soon offer people better protection, a European health official said this week.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet; editing by John Stonestreet)