Policy responses for Czech Republic - HSRM

Czech Republic

Policy responses for Czech Republic

1.2 Physical distancing

On December 27, the highest level 5 of the PES antipandemic system was declared, and stricter preventive measures were imposed: only gatherings of two people allowed; night curfew 9pm until 5am; all nonessential businesses and services ordered to close (including, for the first time, closing parts of supermarkets selling nonessential items); customer capacity in open stores limited to one person per 15m2; weddings and funerals limited to 15 persons; churches open for just 10% of normal seating capacity; ski resorts closed. Only elementary schools’ 1st and 2nd graders allowed to attend in-person schooling after Christmas holidays (starting January 4), all other students on remote schooling again. Visits to hospitals were once again prohibited and visits to senior homes continued to be allowed with a negative test and a face covering. 

Fines for violating the preventive transmission measures increased to CZK 50,000 for individuals and up to CZK 3 million for legal persons (the term legal persons refers to those liable, include companies and NGOs).

In January, the PES level 5 continued to apply. Strict measures on gatherings did not change. Visits to hospitals have only been allowed since January 11 and only with at least an FFP2 face covering, a negative test result and under strict conditions. Later in January, stores selling young children shoes, clothes and stationery were allowed to reopen. Except for 1st and 2nd graders in elementary schools, all other students will continue on remote schooling past February 1 (students in the final grades of elementary and high schools were planned to re-attend in-person schooling from February 1, but the government cancelled this plan on Jan 27). Starting January 30, visits to hospitals were once again prohibited.

Restrictions were further implemented in mid-February due to the worsening epidemiological situation.

Three districts (Trutnov, Chomutov and Sokolov) were locked down on February 12, with people only permitted to enter or exit in predefined cases (going to/from work, school, or healthcare provider). Additionally, FFP2 or medical masks became obligatory in all public spaces in these districts and the police administered checkpoints on all access roads to these districts.

On February 25, FFP2 masks or 2 medical masks (doubled up over one another) became obligatory in all public places throughout the country, including shops, physician offices, public transport, etc. The requirement to double up two medical masks, which ordered by the MoH, was falsely reasoned by a study from the American CDC that in fact did not even assess the effectiveness of two masks at all. That order was later corrected to just FFP2 masks in all places with high concentrations of people (shops, health and social care facilities, public transport, etc.) for all adults and at least a medical mask for children aged 3-15 years, and al least a medical mask for all people in all outdoor urban areas and other indoor public places. Fines for noncompliance range up to CZK 10 000 (or EUR 380) (5).      

On March 1, 2021, a nationwide lockdown was imposed for the first time, with extensive limitations on freedom of movement. People were only able to exit their districts of residence in strictly defined cases and with valid certificates (such as a certificate of work or an affidavit when going to a physician or to access public services). Czechia has 76 districts and in addition the capital of Prague counting as its own district for the purposes of restrictions on freedom of movement. For sport and recreation, people were limited to their residence village territory only, with this being relaxed to the whole district of residence on March 22. Night curfew continued to apply (9pm-5am). Visits among families were prohibited with exceptions for essential services and care. Police checkpoints were built on district borders on most roads and a total of 30 000 policemen, soldiers, and customs officers were in charge of monitoring adherence to new rules. The restrictions were in effect initially until March 21, then were prolonged until March 28 (the current end of state of emergency), and then till April 11 (further extensions being conditional upon the extension of the state of emergency).

In mid-March the Minister of Health declared that the lockdown measures could be loosened when there were less than 2000 new daily cases and the test positivity rate fell below 8 %. The daily averages on weekdays in mid-March were well above 10 000 newly detected cases per day and the test positivity rate was above 30 % for diagnostic testing and 18 % for epidemiological testing.     

(1) MoH Extraordinary Measure No. MZDR 15757/2020-36/MIN/KAN
(2) Government resolution on adoption of crises measures, No. 1112
(3) MoH Extraordinary Measure No. MZDR 15757/2020-37/MIN/KAN
(4) Government resolutions on adoption of crises measures, No. 1079, No. 1103, No. 1113, and No. 1116
(5) https://covid.gov.cz/situace/rousky-respiratory/sankce-za-nenoseni-rousky

Level 3 of the PES antipandemic system was applied on December 3 and restrictions on physical distancing were loosened: gatherings outdoors up to 50 people and indoors up to 10 persons were permitted; restaurants reopened (but had to stay closed 10pm-6am) for max 4 people at a table; hotels also reopened for non-business trips, as did stores and shopping centres under a strict regime (1 customer per 15m2, 2m distance, queues’ management indoors and outdoors); funerals and weddings could have up to 30 people; no restrictions of free movement and no night curfew. Schooling was not touched upon by the changes on Dec 3.

Officially, the Czech Republic moved to level 4 of its PES antipandemic system on Friday, December 18 (though the PES risk score indicated the shift should have been done earlier). At this point, the PES score was already starting to indicate the 5th level, though the government did not put all restrictions prescribed for the 4th level in place. The actions then taken included a night curfew imposed from 11pm to 5am and limiting gatherings to only six people. Furthermore, visits to senior care homes were only allowed with a negative test and restaurants, hotels and fitness centres had to close, though all stores and services remained open. For the full specific list of measures put in place on December 18, see section 5.

(1) MoH Extraordinary Measure No. MZDR 15757/2020-36/MIN/KAN
(2) Government resolution on adoption of crises measures, No. 1112
(3) MoH Extraordinary Measure No. MZDR 15757/2020-37/MIN/KAN
(4) Government resolutions on adoption of crises measures, No. 1079, No. 1103, No. 1113, and No. 1116

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; the State of Emergency was prolonged to November 20 and then four more times until February 14, 2021. It was than renewed and prolonged again, currently until April 11 (for more information, see Governance section). 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. School holidays originally scheduled for October 29 and 30 were declared to start earlier, on 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 (1): As of October 14, restaurants and bars were ordered to close (except for take-away food between 6am and 8pm), gatherings limited to max 6 people, and alcohol drinking on public places prohibited; measures are applicable till November 3 (original end of the State of Emergency), but prolonged to the end of the prolonged State of Emergency. Facemasks newly required on public transportation stops (the only outdoor place with mandatory face covering at that time). All schools closed from October 14 (2); the 1st-5th elementary school students were expected to return to school on November 2, which did not happen, however. 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 if closer than 2 metres to other people (3).

On October 22, free movement of people was banned (exemptions apply for travels to/from a job, basic grocery shopping, visits to close relatives, and stays in parcs and nature and travel to/from it); gatherings were limited to two persons, except for families/members of the same household, and workers; weddings and funerals limited to 10 people.

Simultaneously, retail and services were ordered to close (except for groceries, pharmacies, gas stations, certain services such as car mechanics, etc.); hotel accommodation is allowed only for business trips or for quarantine/isolation reasons; and since Oct 28 spas can provide services only for stays reimbursed from the statutory health insurance. All measures should apply at least till November 20, i.e. till the at-that-time approved end of the State of Emergency. (4)

On October 28, it was ordered to stay-at-home. A curfew was imposed from 9pm till 5am (exemptions apply for travels to/from the job, for instance) and groceries must remain closed on Sundays and between 8pm and 5am on all other days. At the same time, professional sportsmen were newly allowed to train indoor and professional sports competitions reopened, but without any audience.

Starting November 18, the 1st and 2nd graders of elementary schools returned to in-person learning at schools. Groceries and other stores selling daily necessities have prolonged opening hours till 9pm, but have to limit number of customers to 1 per 15m2.

On November 23, level 4 of the PES antipandemic system (see section 5) was declared, resulting in shorter night curfew (11pm – 5am), prolonged opening hours of basic grocery stores (till 11pm), outdoor gatherings allowed for up to 6 people (instead of 2), weddings and funerals allowed for max 20 participants (instead of 10). 3rd-5th graders of elementary school returned to in-person schooling on November 30 and 6th-9th grades rotated between remote and in-person learning (by weeks).

(1) MoH Extraordinary Measure No. MZDR 15757/2020-36/MIN/KAN
(2) Government resolution on adoption of crises measures, No. 1112
(3) MoH Extraordinary Measure No. MZDR 15757/2020-37/MIN/KAN
(4) Government resolutions on adoption of crises measures, No. 1079, No. 1103, No. 1113, and No. 1116

Since June 15, physical distancing is no more an obligation, but recommended. Country-wide mass gathering regulation 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 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 to 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, government’s announcements on facial masks changed almost every day. Though on August 28 the city of Prague has been marked “orange” on the Czech Government official traffic-light map of the country (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 system of districts’ infection early warning levels that associate preventive measures with 4 different colours an irrelevant tool.   

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).

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