Policy responses for Czech Republic - HSRM

Czech Republic

Policy responses for Czech Republic

1.2 Physical distancing

From mid-May to the end of June:

The State of Emergency ended on May 17. Due to the improved epidemiological situation, a relaxing of restrictions was accelerated in regard to the April 23 plan. For details on schools, business, and other restrictions relaxations, see Transition Measures: Governance in section 5.

The Directive concerning wearing face masks in public places was relaxed on May 25, when people were once again allowed to be outdoors without wearing them, on the condition that they keep a 2 meter distance from others. On June 15, the two-meter distance rule was also abolished, although wearing masks is still mandatory at outdoor mass gatherings, where distance of 1,5 meters between people cannot be maintained. A total removal of the directive is planned for July 1, with exceptions for regions with higher rates of new cases (currently Prague and districts Karviná, Frýdlant and Ostravicí, and Frýdek-Místek in Moravskoslezský region), where face protection will still be mandatory at indoor and at outdoor mass gatherings, in public transport (Prague – only in subway), health and social facilities, etc. Visits to inpatient social and health care facilities were allowed on May 25, two weeks sooner than originally planned. For the Karviná and Frýdek-Místek districts, gatherings of more than 100 people and visits to inpatient facilities are prohibited again starting June 30 (exceptions apply: minors’ and mothers-to-be accompany).

A designated MoH webpage keeps track of releasing or loosening various restrictions: https://koronavirus.mzcr.cz/uvolnovani-opatreni/

From early July to September 9:

Since June 15, physical distancing is no more an obligation, but recommended. Country-wide mass gathering regulations developed substantially over the summer months:
since July 4, indoor and outdoor gatherings are limited to 1000 people. In case of separable sectors, it is allowed for 5 times 1000 participants. If seated, every other row and seat must be left empty.
Since July 27, indoor gatherings limitation decreased to maximum 500 people, but if separable sectors are present, the maximum is 500 people in each of the 5 separated sectors. At the same time, face masks must be worn for all gatherings of more than 100 people. None of these regulations apply, however, to restaurants and bars. Outdoor gatherings limitation stays the same and every other row and seat left empty apply as well.

Starting on September 1, mass gathering restrictions are eased when no more empty rows and empty seats between participants are required. Under certain circumstances, the limit of a mass gathering increased to 1000 participants above which the remaining premises’ capacity can be taken up to 50%. This applies both to indoor and outdoor mass gatherings.  
The obligation to wear face masks was withdrawn in June in reaction to the generally good epidemiological situation at that time. Facial protection was, however, made temporarily mandatory for certain places (ie. indoor public places, public transport) in local areas with higher infection incidence.

Since July 25, facial protection is required for gatherings of more than 100 people.

On August 17, the MoH announced a mandatory facial protection starting September 1 for all indoor places, including shopping centres and schools’ hallways, throughout the country. Two days later, the MoH tightened the planned restrictions to apply also to hairdressers and restaurants. However, due to the unpopularity of these planned measures in public, the Prime Minister made the Minister of Health adjust most of the planned measures (ie. face masks in schools, shopping centres, restaurants, and hairdressers were called off).
Hence, on September 1, wearing face masks was obligatory only in public transport (including taxi), healthcare and social care facilities, public authorities’ offices, and election rooms.

In the first days of September, the government’s announcements on face masks changed almost every day. Though on August 28 the city of Prague has been marked “orange” on the traffic-light system of infection early warning levels, face masks are to be worn in Prague in stores, shopping centres, and post offices only since September 9. The measure was announced on September 4 together with Prague restaurants’ closure between 12pm and 6am (applicable since September 9) and facial mask protection at Prague schools’ common places starting on September 14.

On September 9, the government re-decided that face masks will be made obligatory in all indoor public places, including schools’ common places, and for all mass gatherings’ participants throughout the country on September 10. At first, this is an earlier date than previously announced for schools in Prague. Second, it applies to the whole country irrespective of districts’ colours in the “traffic-light” system. To the critique of many experts, this approach makes the systems of districts’ infection early warning levels that associate preventive measures with 4 different colours an irrelevant tool.  

From September 10 to October 18:

On September 10, facemasks were made obligatory in all indoor places, including school’s common places (but not classrooms). On September 18, facemasks are obligatory for students of high schools and grades 6th-9th of elementary schools also in classrooms during lectures. Restaurants and bars throughout the country must remain closed between midnight and 6am. Indoor gatherings are allowed only for seated guests; when standing, gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited.

On September 24, outdoor gatherings were limited to 2000 people, all must be seated. Indoor gatherings were limited to 1000 people, all must be seated; exemptions to this limit are possible if the sectors are separated. For gatherings were seats cannot be provided, outdoor gatherings were limited to 50 people and indoor gatherings banned for more than 10 people. Restaurants and bars must remain closed 10pm to 6am; this measure was originally announced to apply only for 2 weeks. In some regions, universities were ordered to close and visits to hospitals and social care facilities were prohibited (Brno, Ostrava, Central Bohemian region; in Prague applied already on September 21).

In the first half of October, even more preventive measures were announced. Originally, the MoH planned to allow few days before a measure would apply.  Later,  measures were announced only one day in advance, often replacing less restrictive measures announced  only few days prior. An illustrative example to the restriction of measures is the policy regarding  6th-9th grades of elementary schools, see below.

On September 30, the government declared the State of Emergency from October 5 for 30 days. By October 5, high schools in “risky” regions were ordered to switch to distant teaching. At the same time, outdoor gatherings were limited to 20 people and indoor gatherings to 10 people throughout the country, however exemptions applied: theatres and cinemas were allowed to perform with audience to be limited to 500 people, no consumption of food and beverages were allowed. Performance of operas and musicals were prohibited, as well as  singing at schools during art lessons prohibited. Professional sport events could take place with up to 130 participants, but without  audience. In restaurants, only 6 people at a table were allowed. All announced measurements were originally meant to apply only for 14 days.

On October 8, the government announced new measures as of October 9 and 12.

Starting October 9, fitness centres, pools, and all indoor sport facilities were ordered to close. No professional sports events allowed (except for selected international events). The opening hours of restaurants and bars was shortened again, requiring they remained closed between 8pm and 6am. In addition, a maximum of 4 people at a table was allowed, for food courts in shopping centres there are only 2 people allowed at one table. Visits to hospitals, long-term care facilities, and senior homes were prohibited throughout the country ( to apply from October 25 onwards; with exemptions for terminally ill, minors, births).

From October 12, theatres, cinemas, Zoos, museums, galleries, historical sights, and high schools were closed. The 5th-9th grades of elementary schools were to switch to  distance teaching. However,  school holidays originally  scheduled for October 29 and 30 to startearlier (October 26). University students are not allowed anew to enter university premises except for specific training (i.e. medical students training). Most universities were, however, closed for students’ attendance by Regional Public Health Authorities already earlier. Public authorities’ opening hours are limited to twice a week.
On October 12, the government announced further restrictive measures: As of October 14, restaurants and bars were ordered to close (except for take-away food), gatherings limited to max 6 people, and alcohol drinking on public places prohibited; measures supposed applicable till November 3 (end of the State of Emergency). Facemasks newly required on public transportation stops (the only outdoor place with mandatory face covering). All schools closed from October 14; the 1st-5th elementary school students are expected to return to school on November 2. University students must leave student dormitories, with exemptions (foreigners, quarantine, work obligation for selected students).

On October 14, a curfew was imposed on LTC facilities and senior homes. On October 21, facemasks are newly obligatory also outside in all urban areas.

Physical distancing - spring

The first three COVID-19 cases were detected in the Czech Republic on March 1, 2020. On March 2, the government issued a recommendation that the public should limit visits to long-term care facilities, senior houses and other similar facilities. The government also decided that a Biathlon World Cup event in Nové Město nad Moravou would take place without spectators [1]. On March 4, the National Security Council (a standing body of the government responsible for coordinating the Czech Republic’s security issues) decided that organizers of mass gatherings with over 5000 attendees have to report participants’ information to the public health authority in order to evaluate risk of disease transmission. No other limits on large events were deemed necessary at that time [2].

Starting on March 9, 2020, the Ministry of Health prohibited visits to hospitals and social care homes, with exemptions for accompanying young patients and new-born departments. From April 10 staff at long-term care facilities and senior homes were supposed to be tested every 14 days [16]; this measure was withdrawn in early June.

Starting on March 11, the government ordered the cancellation of all public events with an expected attendance of 100 or more people and closed schools (primary, secondary,and tertiary, including universities), both public and private [3]. Preschool facilities were not included, as to enable parents to continue working. Also, recommendations were issued on limiting physical contact among people and keeping safe distance [4]. Visits to inpatient facilities were prohibited with a few exceptions (terminally-ill, minors, etc.) [5].

On March 12, the State of Emergency was declared and regulations were further tightened. The ban on public events was broadened to all events with 30 or more expected visitors. Other public places such as fitness centres and indoor swimming pools were closed, including catering facilities in large shopping centres. Other restaurants, bars or buffets were ordered to remain closed between 8 pm and 6 am [6].

On March 14, all non-essential businesses and stores were ordered to close [7]. The government resolution also included catering facilities except for takeaway food. Exceptions included grocery stores, drugstores, pharmacies and gas stations, newsagents, florists, electronics, animals, animal food, cigarettes and tobacco, internet sales, and fancy goods stores selling textiles– reopened as of March 16, in reaction to high demand for materials for home-made face masks). On April 9, 2020, exceptions were expanded to include bike services and hobby markets. Further relaxations took place on April 20 and then according to the release plan announced on April 23 and later updated again on April 30 (for details, see section 5. Governance).

As of March 16, the government restricted free movement, with exceptions for travel to work, necessary visits with family members, securing basic needs, health care facilities, etc. People were ordered to only go to public places if necessary and to limit their contact with other people. Other recommendations from the government included using contactless payment in stores and ensuring 2 meters physical distancing. Employers were encouraged to allow their employees to work from home if possible, to support taking regular leaves and to limit business non-essential work [8]. Since April 6, store owners are responsible for ensuring strict sanitary measures in stores, including a 2 meter distance between customers [15].
On March 16, the government recommended that people aged 70+ years should not leave their homes, except for necessary visits to health care facilities [9]. The government also imposed a curfew on selected social service facilities [10]. Since March 19, seniors (65+ years) have had a special time reserved to go grocery shopping. This time interval was changed several times before it was finally established between 8 am and 10 am and applied only to large grocery stores (more than 500m2), and also included disabled people over 50 years of age [11]. The special shopping hours were called off by the government by May 26.

Starting on March 19, people were obliged to cover their mouth and nose when outside [12]. Wearing masks was not limited to professional face masks, and people started to make their own cotton masks at home. Any kind of protection that prevented the spread of airborne droplets was sufficient [13]. On May 1, a few exceptions for wearing masks in public were introduced. It was no longer mandatory for people with serious respiratory diseases, children under age 7 in kindergartens and children’s groups, and television and radio presenters of shows without guests [20].    
On March 24, freedom of movement was further restricted. The new regulation allowed for a maximum of two people together in public places (exceptions include household members, working outside, etc) and made the 2 meter distance an obligation [14]. On April 23, the Municipal Court in Prague declared the restriction of free movement and the ban on retail sales issued by the Ministry of Health to be unlawful. Within 4 days the government had to issue the Extraordinary Measures in a lawful form, which in case of a ban on retail sales happened on the very same day. The measure regarding the strict limitation on free movement was not renewed, although a new, more relaxed directive regarding movement in public was approved allowing maximum 10 people staying together at public places [19].  

On April 14, a plan for easing restrictive measures was announced. It consisted of 5 stages, the first one went into effect on April 20 [17]. On April 23, due to the improving epidemiological situation, a new version of the plan was announced in order to ease measures more quickly. On April 30, further changes in the plan were made, which, among others, provided more detailed instructions for reopening of several types of establishments (for details, see Section 5, Governance) [18]. On the same day, the State of Emergency was extended, for the final time, to May 17 [21].

1 https://www.vlada.cz/cz/media-centrum/tiskove-konference/tiskova-konference-po-jednani-bezpecnostni-rady-statu--2--brezna-2020-179979/
2 https://www.vlada.cz/cz/media-centrum/aktualne/bezpecnostni-rada-statu-projednala-dalsi-opatreni-v-souvislosti-se-sirenim-koronaviru-180044/
3 Ministry of Health, Extraordinary Measure MZDR 10676/2020-1/MIN/KAN based on Act on Public Health Protection, issued March 10. Replaced by Government resolution issued on March 12.
4 https://www.vlada.cz/cz/media-centrum/tiskove-konference/tiskova-konference-po-jednani-rozsireneho-predsednictva-bezpecnostni-rady-statu--10--brezna-2020-180194/
5 https://www.vlada.cz/cz/media-centrum/tiskove-konference/tiskova-konference-po-jednani-bezpecnostni-rady-statu--9--brezna-2020-180168/
6 https://www.vlada.cz/cz/media-centrum/tiskove-konference/tiskova-konference-po-mimoradnem-jednani-vlady--12--brezna-2020-180249/
7 Government Resolution No. 211, issued on March 14, 2020.
8 Government Resolution No. 215, issued on March 15, 2020. https://www.vlada.cz/assets/media-centrum/aktualne/Omezeni-pohybu-osob.pdf
9 https://www.vlada.cz/cz/media-centrum/aktualne/vlada-se-zabyvala-opatrenimi-v-peci-o-seniory-a-schvalila-zaruku-covid-na-podporu-podnikatelu-a-zivnostniku--180386/
10 https://www.mpsv.cz/documents/20142/1248138/TZ+opatreni+pro+soc.+sluzby.pdf/6e13408d-9ddd-c23f-7215-1074a8ef91f9
11 https://koronavirus.mzcr.cz/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Mimo%C5%99%C3%A1dn%C3%A9-opat%C5%99en%C3%AD-vy%C4%8Dlen%C4%9Bn%C3%AD-prodejn%C3%AD-doby-pro-seniory.pdf
12 Government Resolution No. 247, issued on March 18, 2020. https://www.vlada.cz/cz/epidemie-koronaviru/dulezite-informace/prehled-vladnich-usneseni-od-vyhlaseni-nouzoveho-stavu-180608/
13 https://www.vlada.cz/cz/media-centrum/aktualne/vlada-rozhodla-o-povinnosti-nosit-mimo-domov-ochranne-prostredky-a-vyclenila-seniorum-cas-pro-nakupovani-potravin-180451/
14 Ministry of Health Extraordinary Measure, issued on March 23, 2020. https://koronavirus.mzcr.cz/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Mimo%C5%99%C3%A1dn%C3%A9-opat%C5%99en%C3%AD-voln%C3%BD-pohyb-osob-na-%C3%BAzem%C3%AD-%C4%8CR.pdf
15 Ministry of Health Extraordinary Measure, issued on April 6, 2020. https://koronavirus.mzcr.cz/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Mimo%C5%99%C3%A1dn%C3%A9-opat%C5%99en%C3%AD-maloobchodn%C3%AD-prodej-a-prodej-slu%C5%BEeb-v-provozovn%C3%A1ch-1.pdf
16 https://www.mzcr.cz/dokumenty/ministerstvo-zdravotnictvi-spousti-plosne-testovani-pracovniku-domovu-senioru-a-_18972_1.html
17 https://www.vlada.cz/cz/media-centrum/aktualne/vlada-projednala-navrh-postupneho-uvolnovani-mimoradnych-opatreni-180974/
18 https://www.vlada.cz/cz/harmonogram-uvolnovani-opatreni-ve-skolach-podnikatelskych-a-dalsich-cinnosti-180969/
19 Government Resolution No. 452, issued April 23, 2020. https://apps.odok.cz/attachment/-/down/IHOABNYHLTOJ
20 Ministry of Health Extraordinary Measure, issued on April 30, 2020. http://www.mzcr.cz/dokumenty/mimoradne-opatreni-noseni-ochrannych-prostredku-dychacich-cests-vyjimkami_19121_4135_1.html
21 https://www.denik.cz/z_domova/dph-ubytovani-babis-eet-koronavirus-20200503.html