Prague, Czech Republic – As the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to reach new highs, the Czech government has ordered a near-full lockdown starting tomorrow.
The strict measures will go into effect from Thursday, October 22, at 6 am, until at least Tuesday, November 3 (the planned end date of the state of emergency).
What are the restrictions introduced?
Starting tomorrow, all non-essential shops will have to close down, with the exception of food and grocery stores, pharmacies and drugstores, while wholesalers will also be allowed to stay open. According to Health Minister Roman Prymula, the government doesn’t plan to set aside specific shopping hours for seniors over the age of 65, as it did in the spring.
Bars, cafes and restaurants have already been forced to close earlier this month.
The Czech government has also decided to re-introduce restrictions on the free movement of people in order to avoid all non-essential contact between residents: people will only be allowed to go out to go to work, to make essential purchases in stores that remain open, to make essential visits to family members or to go to the doctor.
People living in the Czech Republic are still allowed to go to parks or to travel to countryside cottages in groups of no more than 2 people (except for members of the same household).
The obligation to wear face-masks in public, including in the street, came into effect today.
No further restrictions on travels abroad or border closures have been announced.
Why is the Czech Republic going into lockdown?
While Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Minister of Health Roman Prymula avoided to use the term “lockdown” as much as possible, the measures introduced by the Czech government are somewhat similar to those introduced in the spring.
The epidemiological situation, however, is much more critical today than it was several months ago. Largely spared by the first wave of COVID-19, the Czech Republic now has the highest rate of new coronavirus infections in the EU. Nearly 12,000 additional cases were reported on Tuesday, an all-time high since the start of the epidemic.
According to PM Babis, the Czech healthcare system could collapse and reach saturation before mid-November without these restrictions. Some 4,000 people are currently hospitalized with the disease in Czech hospitals, and more than 600 of them are in serious condition.
Health Minister Prymula added that such measures were necessary as an important part of the population did not comply with the previous restrictions.