Government decides to extend restrictions on movement in public until 1 April, and approves further steps to support employers
The restriction on free movement and congregating in public will be effective at least until 6:00 a.m. on 1 April 2020. The government decided to extend the extraordinary measure against the spread of the coronavirus on Monday, 23 March 2020. During the video conference, the ministers also approved other crisis management measures to support employers, farmers and entrepreneurs. The government will submit a new state budget deficit of CZK 200 billion for this year to the Chamber of Deputies for approval.
The extraordinary measure under which the government restricted, with some exceptions, the free movement and congregation of persons from Tuesday, 24 March 2020 following the declaration of a state of emergency, will be extended until 6:00 a.m. on 1 March 2020 due to the development of the coronavirus pandemic in the Czech Republic. On the same date, all the other extraordinary measures valid to date, which limited e.g. retail sales and the sale of services, prohibited the presence of the public in restaurants, restricted the operation of authorities and cancelled fees for using blue parking zones, have also been extended.
Following discussions, the government proceeded to once again modify the reserved shopping hours for seniors and holders of disability passes over the age of 50 years, and their essential accompaniment. From Wednesday, 25 March, the ban on the entry of other persons into stores is moved to the period from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., whereas this will now only apply to retail stores selling foodstuffs, hygienic goods, cosmetics and other drug store products with a sales area of more than 500 m2. In smaller stores selling the same range, retailers are ordered to give priority to seniors and disabled persons.
In a state of legislative emergency, the government prepared and approved several extraordinary legislative bills, which it will submit for accelerated proceedings to the Czech Parliament. The Ministry of Finance has compiled a draft amendment to the Act on the State Budget of the Czech Republic for 2020, which anticipates an increase of the state budget deficit from the original CZK 40 billion to CZK 200 billion, given the expected loss of revenue and rising costs related to the adoption of measures to help the Czech economy and workers. Further information in the press release from the Ministry of Finance (only in the Czech language).
The government will also submit a draft bill to Parliament for a remission of the minimum mandatory pension insurance payments for independently gainful individuals for half a year. The pardoning of payments will apply to about one million entrepreneurs, whereas the period from March to August will be included in their pension insurance as usual. Details are available in the press release from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (only in the Czech language).
Likewise, under the extraordinary amendment to the Act on Public Health Insurance Premiums, entrepreneurs should be forgiven mandatory health insurance premiums.
At tomorrow’s extraordinary meeting of the Chamber of Deputies, the MPs will also receive for discussion a draft bill on certain modifications concerning the registration of revenues in connection with the declared state of emergency. In this bill, the government proposes postponing the launch of the final phase of the electronic registration of sales (EET) until the passing of three months from the termination of the state of emergency; for the same period, it wants an exemption from the obligation to use EET, except for the obligation of handling authentication data, certificates for the registration of sales and receipt blocks, so as to avoid their misuse.
The government has also adopted a “stabilisation package” which, among other things, proposes a remission of the June prepayments on personal and corporate income tax for entrepreneurs, institutes the retroactive applicability of tax losses, and proposes postponing the deadline for submitting the declaration of property transfer taxes until 31 August 2020. The summary of the tax relief measures is provided in the press release from the Ministry of Finance (only in the Czech language).
A proposal to postpone and change the organisation of state school leaving examinations and unified acceptance examinations for secondary school, prepared by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, is also heading to Parliament. The unified acceptance examination should have one round only and will be conducted within a timeframe of at least fourteen days once the ban on school attendance is lifted. The state part of the school leaving examinations this year should be limited to didactic tests, meaning without written essays in the Czech and foreign languages, whereas the results will exceptionally be evaluated directly by the affected school. Details in the press release from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (only in the Czech language).
The ministers also approved further steps within the Antivirus program of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Now, financial compensation from the state will be granted to employers for which the current situation has prevented them from giving a substantial part of their employees work due to imposed quarantine or childcare, provided these employers prove that they cannot manufacture due to the limited availability of the required inputs, or if the reason for interruption of a part of the company’s activity is a reduced demand for their products or services. Detailed information about the approved assistance conditions is provided in the press release from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (only in the Czech language).
The ministers also approved assistance for farmers affected by the coronavirus epidemic. The measures enable, for example, the acceptance of deferrals on the payment of commercial loans provided by the Farming and Forestry Support and Guarantee Fund or the provision of guaranteed support for operational financing. The Ministry of Agriculture also submitted a draft measure to the government in the sector of agriculture, food production and forestry, aimed at minimizing the effects of the coronavirus epidemic on the entire sector and society as a whole. The proposed steps, such as increasing national resources in the Rural Development Program or making maximal use of European subsidies to reduce the effects of the coronavirus crisis, are aimed at maintaining plant and animal production on a level so as to avoid fatal effects on Czech producers. More in the press release from the Ministry of Agriculture (only in the Czech language).
The government again addressed the issue of cross-border workers (pendlers). The current setup of their system has become the subject of much criticism from the mayors and governors of the affected municipalities and regions, because cross-border workers working in high-risk areas often disrespected the strict measures regarding the restriction of movement after returning to CZ. Therefore, the ministers have approved another change in the system, whereas employees working across the border must automatically undergo a fourteen-day quarantine after returning to CZ.
In practice, this means that those interested in this work will have to find temporary accommodation at their place of work. This measure will not currently apply to persons working in Slovakia and Poland, where the epidemiological situation is not as critical as in Germany and Austria.
To support remote forms of contact with authorities and institutions, the government also decided to cancel the fees for sending data messages from 24 March until further notice.
The government also approved the decision of the Minister of Health to cancel the ban on direct international flights from the Republic of Korea to all Czech airports, because this ban ceased to make sense after the universal ban on the entry of all foreigners into the Czech Republic was adopted on 13 March 2020. The ministers also approved the increase in the volume of funds for the wages of employees at regional hygienic stations and the Hygienic Station of the City of Prague, in order to adequately pay them for overtime.