Prague, Czech Republic- Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis announced that re-introducing a new state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic could not be ruled out, the Czech News Agency (CTK) reported on Saturday.
The Czech government declared a national state of emergency on March 12 to stem the spread of coronavirus, an exceptional – and contested – measure that allowed authorities to introduce drastic restrictions on public life, economic activity and free movement of people.
It expired on May 17 as the first wave of COVID-19 was receding in Europe.
But with the recent spike in infections and a looming second wave, the Czech Premier said it could be necessary to re-introduce a state of emergency if the government had to introduce measures and restrictions that go beyond the Health Ministry’s normal legal prerogatives.
In April, a set of government measures restricting free movement of people and business activity was struck down by the municipal court in Prague, who argued that they had been illegally adopted under the wrong regulatory framework. As a result, the government passed a bill to extend the powers of the Ministry of Health which, however, has yet to be approved by Parliament.
The proposal to declare a second state of emergency would have to come from Health Minister Adam Vojtech (ANO), who himself said the measure was not off the table “if the situation escalates”.
The issue will be discussed at a government meeting on Monday, Babis told reporters.
On Thursday, a record 3,130 new cases of COVID-19 were registered in the Czech Republic, by far the highest single-day increase since the start of the epidemic. While the number of positive cases has been slightly receding in the last few days, Saturday’s 2,046 confirmed cases was still a record number for a week-end day, when fewer tests are performed.
Facing one of the highest infection rates in Europe, the Czech Republic reintroduced some restrictions over the past ten days, including the mandatory wearing of face-masks in almost all indoor spaces and the closing of all public establishments (restaurants, bars, etc.) at midnight.
In Prague, the hardest-hit region in the country with a virus reproduction rate of 1.8, mayor Zdenek Hrib announced that distance learning would apply to secondary schools and universities starting next week.
Main photo credit: Official Facebook page of Andrej Babis