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Face masks in the Czech Republic may stop being compulsory

Man wearing a face-mask walking on the Charles Bridge in Prague

Prague, Czech Republic – Many Czech residents have, over the past few weeks, gotten used to seeing people with face-masks more or less everywhere they go. This, however, might soon come to an end as the government moves to relax face-masks regulations.

On Sunday, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said that wearing face-masks in public could stop being mandatory in outdoor settings, and will be downgraded to a mere recommendation.

Interior Minister and head of the Central Crisis Staff Jan Hamacek added that the government will discuss this issue on Monday.

Meanwhile, wearing face-masks will remain an obligation in certain situations and closed public spaces, where the risk of transmission is highest, including public transport, shops and cinemas – set to reopen tomorrow.

The Czech Republic, along with Slovakia, has been one of the first countries in Europe to order its citizens to wear face-masks in public at the start of the epidemic.

This approach, mimicking east-Asian countries like Taiwan and South Korea and partly credited for both countries’ apparent success in containing the spread of the viral outbreak, has since then been adopted by a number of EU countries.

But as temperatures rise and shops and businesses start to reopen as part of the government’s gradual lockdown exit strategy, the debate over the compulsory wearing of face-masks in public has intensified in recent weeks.

Experts remain divided on the issue and the government, which had initially planned to keep the current restrictions in place until mid-June, is facing growing pressure to relax regulations sooner.

And while the state of emergency, prolonged several times since early March, is due to run out next Sunday, the Ministry of Health has been granted special powers to maintain a number of extraordinary restrictions beyond May 17.

Main photo credit: Michal Cizek / AFP via Getty Images

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