Government approves incorporating the Smart Quarantine under the Ministry of Health, new exemptions from wearing masks, and the cancellation of shopping hours for seniors

The government has approved a proposal to implement the Smart Quarantine 2.0 project into the organisational structures of the Ministry of Health. It has also approved exemptions from the wearing of masks for the drivers of public transit vehicles, lifeguards, and employees at all facilities. Under the extraordinary measures, the government has also approved the obligation to end quarantine with a PCR test, the easing of the use of double protection by hairdressers, changes in the cross-border movement of persons, new exemptions from the prohibition of pupils and students at elementary, secondary and higher specialised education, the cancellation of shopping hours for seniors, and measures for the issuing of electronic applications.

The most crucial material for the future handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has been approved by the government. This material implements the Smart Quarantine 2.0 project into the organisational structures of the Ministry of Health, and accelerates the epidemiological investigation process. “The Smart Quarantine project was launched at the height of the crisis through the enthusiasm of a number of volunteers from various entities. We are now working on incorporating the project under the chief hygienist of the Czech Republic. The project will help hygienists substantially accelerate epidemiological investigations and detect contacts, as recently demonstrated when addressing the local outbreak of the epidemic in Karviná,” said Minister of Health Adam Vojtěch.
The Ministry of Health will establish an Emergency Operations Centre to operate 24/7 under the chief hygienist. The regional public health authorities, National Institute of Public Health, health institutes, the Institute of Health Information and Statistics of the Czech Republic and the ICT instruments which serve to support their activities are all integral parts of the system. “One of the key Smart Quarantine instruments that facilitates work for hygienists is the eRouška application. I recommend it to all citizens because the speed at which an outbreak in a given locality is detected is of the utmost importance. Using the modern technologies available today significantly helps with this,” the Minister of Health added.
The capacities of the regional public health authorities should increase substantially thanks to the proposed project. “The pandemic has shown all of us the irreplaceable role played by hygienists. They have done a great job. Yet the last few months have also shown us that the regional public health authorities need financial and staffing support and development, so we will focus on that,” explained the Minister of Health.  
At its meeting today, the government also approved new exemptions from wearing masks. From 25 May 2020, an extraordinary measure prohibits movement without protective respiratory equipment to prevent the spreading of droplets in all indoor premises of buildings outside the home, in public transit, and at locations where there are at least two people less than 2 metres apart, unless these are exclusively household members. Now, in addition to previously defined exemptions, protective respiratory equipment need not be used by drivers of public transit vehicles who do not come into direct contact with passengers as they board the vehicle. Furthermore, the exception for employees while in their office has been extended, in that it now applies to all employees, e.g. also at production plants, for the period when the employee is performing work in one place, if they work at a distance of at least 2 metres from other persons. Furthermore, an exemption is granted for lifeguards, coaches and instructors who perform activities at pools and who cannot properly perform their work wearing a face mask or other protective respiratory equipment, if they maintain a distance of at least 2 metres from other persons as a rule.
“We introduced the wearing of masks and other protection of the respiratory passages due to the risk of uncontrolled transmission of the contagion during the epidemic spreading of infectious disease through the population. The aim was to protect citizens and preserve the healthcare system’s capacities for those who need acute treatment in connection with COVID-19 disease. This is because parallel spreading, where one infected person simultaneously infects more than one other person, thus leading to the massive spread of the infection through the population, is the most dangerous. From the outset, key measures were to restrict gatherings, limit the provision of selected services, increase disinfectant use and personal protective equipment use,” said Chief Hygienist of the Czech Republic Jarmila Rážová, listing the reasons why the country has not yet entirely eased the wearing of masks, adding that similar measures as those adopted here have gradually been adopted by the governments of other countries. It must be emphasized that some countries opted for less stringent steps and measures at the beginning. Over time, however, it was found that such moderate measures do not work practically anywhere. As they worked here, we can now gradually and prudently increase the exemptions from wearing protective equipment for those groups most hindered by this measure,” Jarmila Rážová added.
The government has approved such easing for barbers, hairdressers and employees at manicure, pedicure, massage, and cosmetic studios. They will no longer have to wear a protective shield, and the use of only protective respiratory equipment that prevents the spreading of droplets while they work will suffice. Despite such easing, it is still recommended that hairdressers wear a shield and change their masks every two hours. “Hairdressers no longer have to use double protection of the respiratory passage, and can wear a shield on a voluntary basis. If they opt out of wearing a shield, we strongly recommend they change their masks every two hours to protect their clients,” said the Minister of Health. The risk of infection comes mainly from the hairdresser breathing at a close distance around the head for a relatively long time when providing their service. Important measures to prevent the spreading of the disease are to refrain from providing their service if they have symptoms of infection, and to observe other stipulated preventive measures.
From 26 March 2020, the opening hours of stores with a sales area exceeding 500 sq. m for seniors from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. are cancelled. Given the current development of the epidemiological situation and the status and trend in the number of patients with COVID-19 disease, the reasons for ordering this obligation have ceased to exist.

The Ministry of Health has also introduced the obligation to terminate quarantine with a PCR test. To date, quarantine was terminated by means of a rapid test, but now it will be necessary to have a negative PCR test based on a swab of the upper respiratory passages.
The Ministry has also regulated the cross-border movement of persons, and now citizens of the European Union and foreigners who have been granted long-term residency in another EU Member State may enter the Czech Republic if they have a negative coronavirus test, but for no longer than 72 hours and under the condition that they will perform economic activity or visit family members. This also applies to EU citizens who enter the Czech Republic to study at a university and to workers in food production who were issued a visa valid from 11 May 2020. All of these will have to present a negative COVID-19 test upon entry.
The Ministry of Health has also issued an extraordinary measure for the issuing of electronic applications. Pursuant to Act No 258/2000, all public health protection authorities that request the taking of samples to test patients for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus are thus ordered to use only the electronic application form for this purpose. All healthcare services providers who request the taking of samples to test patients for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus are ordered to also use the electronic application form for this purpose, even if they use their own type of application form.
As for changes in education, the extraordinary measure is expanded, and from 1 June 2020 the prohibition on the presence of pupils and students in primary, secondary and higher vocational education at schools and educational facilities will no longer apply to pupils at special primary schools, children in the preparatory level of special primary schools, and pupils at secondary schools and conservatories for practical instruction, while attendance is not mandatory and these pupils must form fixed groups of no more than 15 pupils, and from 8 June 2020 to pupils at the 2nd level of primary schools and secondary schools or conservatories and students at higher vocational schools for conducting consultation or class lessons, under the same conditions.

All the extraordinary measures approved by the government are available online here.