The government declares state of emergency until 28 March, free movement and retail rules to be tightened from Monday, schools to close again

From Saturday, 27 February, a new state of emergency will apply in the Czech Republic. This was declared by the government for 30 days, i.e. until 28 March, at an extraordinary meeting on Friday, 26 February 2021. At the same time, it has tightened up certain crisis measures and re-confirmed all those that currently apply.

The reason for the declaration of a new state of emergency is the very poor epidemic situation (in Czech language) caused mainly by the rapid spread of the so-called British SARS CoV-2 coronavirus mutation and the confirmed occurrence of a very dangerous South African mutation of the virus, as well as the critical situation in healthcare facilities, which are overloaded by severe cases of patients with Covid-19.

“We are convinced that we need a state of emergency mainly to protect the lives of our fellow citizens. Going back to last year – on 12 March 2020, we declared a state of emergency when the number of people infected was 22, there were three people in hospital and no one had died. Today, we have 7,100 people in hospitals, almost 1,400 in intensive care units, and unfortunately people dying every day, and we have no choice but to declare a state of emergency.” stated Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.

“We would very much like to go back a year in these three weeks of emergency and try to do the same again. I understand that it is a huge burden for all of us, and we get no satisfaction from doing this. But if we don’t, the whole world will see a Bergamo in the Czech Republic, because our healthcare system will simply not be able to withstand it. That is why I am requesting – asking you – and I understand that our government has made many mistakes in the past and we are aware of that – but in short, we would like you to give us one more chance to try to endure these three weeks together in this state of emergency, in order to stop the virus and gradually return to normal,” the Prime Minister said.

At the same time, the government has decided to re-confirm the government’s existing crisis measures and to extend the validity of the Ministry of Health’s extraordinary measures. However, given the current situation, there will be a tightening of a number of measures, to take place from 1 March. In the built-up area of a municipality, it will be mandatory to wear everywhere outside as a minimum a surgical mask, respirator or other similarly effective item of protective equipment meeting the relevant standard. In the most high-risk places, such as shops or public transport, it will no longer be possible to replace the respirator with a double surgical mask.

The exception for employees is also cancelled. They will only be able to take off protective equipment if they are alone in the workplace. However, from 1 March, employers must equip those employees who come into contact with other people with a sufficient number of items of protective equipment for each shift.

The government has decided on a drastic tightening of the free movement of persons. From 1 March, it will be forbidden to leave the district, or the City of Prague, in which the person in question has permanent residence or domicile, without good reason, such as travel to work or to a doctor. The ban will also apply in reverse, for entry into another district where a person does not live. If people own a holiday home, they may go to it until the entry into force of the regulation, but it then will be considered as their place of residence for the duration of the measure. In the event of an inspection, everyone must be able to justify travel outside their own district either by affidavit or by an appropriate confirmation.

The tightening also applies to movement during the day in leisure hours. Only necessary trips, such as shopping, trips to the countryside and sports activities, will be allowed, but only under the condition of the presence together of just the members of a single household, in the municipality in which those persons have permanent residence or domicile. The government strongly recommends that playground operators close their playgrounds to the public.

There are further restrictions in the retail trade and services. The government has reduced the number of exemptions from the ban on the presence of the public in work premises. Exceptions no longer include, for example, laundries and dry cleaners, car repair shops and spare parts shops, textile material and textile haberdashery shops, locksmiths, stationery shops and shops with weapons and ammunition. Children’s clothing and footwear stores will again have to close, and for example, only self-service operation of car washes will be allowed. Day care for children under the age of three will also have to close down, with the exception of a children’s group at a medical or social services facility. The operations of providers of spa medical rehabilitation care will again be restricted such that it is possible to provide only such spa medical rehabilitation care as is at least partially covered by public health insurance.

From 1 March, full-time school attendance will be suspended for pupils in the 1st and 2nd years of primary schools, including preparatory levels, special schools and one- and two-year practical schools. The government has also decided to close kindergartens. Exceptions will be made only for primary schools, kindergartens and children’s groups at medical facilities, schools established at institutions for institutional or protective education, and the government regulation requiring regional governors and the mayor of Prague to provide childcare for employees of the integrated rescue system, and for workers in critical infrastructure, the security forces and other selected professions, will continue in force. Only individual consultations will be possible.