Policy responses for Czech Republic - HSRM

Czech Republic


Policy responses for Czech Republic

6. Measures in other sectors

6.1 Measures in other sectors

Many MEASURES IN OTHER SECTORS beyond the immediate scope of the health system are being taken to prevent further spread of the virus. This section contains information on many of these areas, including border and travel restrictions and economic and fiscal measures, among others.

New measures July – September 17:

With the surge of new infections, bordering countries imposed travel restrictions on travellers from the Czech Republic. As of September 17, this was all neighbouring countries except for Austria.

Since August, employers (and universities) must provide their foreign-national employees returning from foreign countries with valid tests performed in the Czech Republic prior to allowing them on their premises. This concerns people from the “higher-than-small health risk” countries according to the traffic light map of Europe and most third countries.

New state aid programs for cultural events organizers and facilities were introduced.

A new state subsidy program for hotels was introduced to compensate for spring losses per empty bed.

6.1 Borders

Cross-border movement

The Czech government limited cross-border travels starting on March 16, 2020 [1] with general border closures on March 31. Czech citizens were not allowed to leave the country and foreigners were not allowed to enter, with the exception of permanent residents and holders of temporary residence permits of 90+ days. Everyone entering the Czech Republic had to quarantine for 14 days after entering. Foreigners were allowed to leave. Still, foreigners with residence permits could not re-enter the Czech Republic until the end of the State of Emergency (May 17). Movement restrictions were partially eased on April 27, (see ‘Mobility (transport)- external travel’ below).

During the border closure, a different set of conditions applied to commuters going to neighbouring countries for work, if their commute was up to 100 km from Czech borders [2]. These commuters could cross borders only at designated crossings, with an employment acknowledgement or an affidavit (if they began their employment after March 16, 2020) [3]. Between March 26 and April 13, commuters to Germany and Austria had to stay abroad for at least 21 days before they were allowed to enter the Czech Republic again, and were obliged to 14-day quarantine following their return to the Czech Republic. The measure was introduced to prevent commuters from crossing borders on a daily basis. On April 14, the requirement changed to requiring at least 14 days abroad with an obligatory 14-day quarantine upon return and it applied to all commuters to Germany, Austria, Poland, and Slovakia, as well as incoming commuters [4].

There has not been any restriction for healthcare, social services and integrated rescue system cross-border workers [5].The restrictions did not apply to international truck drivers.

Restrictions for crossing borders for non-commuters was first partially eased on April 14, 2020 (see ‘Mobility (transport) – external travel’  below).

A substantial relaxation of restrictions occurred on May 18 which also introduced exceptions to the restrictions:

• Czech residents were generally allowed to re-enter the country from abroad without a valid test or a quarantine period when only a short stay abroad occurred and if they belonged to one of the groups granted      an exception (including almost all economic activity abroad). The “short period” varied for different groups: for international transport, critical infrastructure employees and regularly commuting workers it was 14 days;      for economically active (irregular commuters) it was 72 hours; for farmers it was 24 hours.
• Citizens without granted exceptions are allowed to re-enter the county without the obligation to quarantine if they have a valid (not older than 4 days) negative PCR test.
• Non-residents are not allowed to enter. Exceptions include economic activities of various kinds, with negative PCR tests necessary. Up to 14 days entry without a valid PCR is allowed for international transit, critical infrastructure and international organizations’ employees. 24 hour transit is allowed without additional requirements for EU residents.

On June 4 and 5, all restrictions for international movement were removed for Germany, Austria and Slovakia. A negative test was required until June 15 for travellers from Poland and until June 30 for citizens of the Silesian Voivodeship (Poland) due to the occurrence of COVID-19 in that region’s mines.

A “traffic light system” was introduced by the MoH for Czech travellers to EU countries. A green colour indicates a safe country to travel, whereas red  marks  countries with unfavourable infection rates. A test is required when returning from a red coloured country. A colour map of countries is updated regularly and displayed on an MoH webpage, together with a list of ‘safe’ countries from the rest of the world [31]. On June 30, only Sweden was the only European country marked red.
      
Area lockdowns

There was a lockdown in one area of the Olomoucký region, including the towns Litovel and Uničov, inhabited by approx. 24 000 citizens from March 16 - March 29, 2020.

Sources
[1] Resolution of the government of the Czech Republic no. 203/2020, March 13, 2020 https://apps.odok.cz/attachment/-/down/IHOABMNLVUVR
[2] Resolution of the government of the Czech Republic no. 221/2020, March 15, 2020 https://apps.odok.cz/attachment/-/down/IHOABMQVWRW7
[3] Czech Government, Overview of State of Emergency measures, accessed April 10, 2020 https://www.vlada.cz/cz/media-centrum/aktualne/vyhlaseni-nouzoveho-stavu-180234/#statni_hranice
[4] Ministry of Interior, accessed April 22, 2020 https://www.mvcr.cz/clanek/preshranicni-pracovnici-tzv-pendleri.aspx
[5] Resolution of the government of the Czech Republic no. 221/2020, March 15, 2020 https://apps.odok.cz/attachment/-/down/IHOABMQVWRW7
[30] Ministry of Internal Affairs website, accessed May 19,2020 https://www.mvcr.cz/docDetail.aspx?docid=22239079&doctype=ART&#Cestovani
[31]  Ministry of Healthcare website, accessed July 3,2020, traffic lights system https://koronavirus.mzcr.cz/seznam-evropskych-zemi-podle-miry-rizika-nakazy/
     

Mobility (transport) - External travel

Goods: formally there were no limitation to their free movement. However this was significantly complicated by border controls (medical checks) and a limited number of open border crossings.

People: Restrictions on external travel gradually increased early on. Since March 15, 2020, 15 countries were identified as COVID-19 high-risk countries and travellers from these countries required to undergo a 14-day quarantine [6]. Starting on March 31, 2020, at 00:00, the government prohibited entry to the Czech Republic for all foreigners, with defined exceptions, and exit from the Czech Republic, with defined exceptions (for example a one-off country exit for foreigners and for Czech citizens residing in a foreign country). For cross-border movement exceptions see section 6.1. The general border closure was designed to be valid until the end of the State of Emergency (originally April 12, 2020, prolonged until April 30, 2020, then finally until May, 17,2020) [7].

Starting on April 14, 2020, external travel restrictions were partially relaxed: in urgent and exceptional matters people were allowed to leave the country for less than 24 hours, the 14-day quarantine did not apply, and travel reasons had to be proved. Subject to 14-day quarantine, people could leave the country for more than 24 hours due to necessary and justified matters such as business travel (based on employment contract) or family reasons [8].

As of April 27, 2020, restrictions were further relaxed. Entering the Czech Republic was possible only for special groups, such as workers (up to 72 hours within the Czech borders), students and commuters. Czech residents could freely leave the Czech Republic, but had to be quarantined for 14 days, if they were not members of one of the above mentioned groups. [29] ]. For later development (after May 18), see above in ‘Cross-border movement’.

Link to country’s official travel advice: https://www.mzv.cz/jnp/cz/cestujeme/aktualni_doporuceni_a_varovani/index.html  
https://www.mzv.cz/jnp/cz/udalosti_a_media/tiskove_zpravy/x2020_04_25_rozcestnik_informaci_k_cestovani.html

Sources:
[6] CZ MoH, List of Covid-19 high-risk countries, accessed April 9, 2020. https://koronavirus.mzcr.cz/staty-sveta-s-vysokym-rizikem-prenosu-nakazy/
[7] Czech Government, Overview of State of Emergency measures, accessed April 9, 2020. https://www.vlada.cz/cz/media-centrum/aktualne/vyhlaseni-nouzoveho-stavu-180234/#Cesty_zahranici
[8] CZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Interior, websites accessed April 22, 2020. https://www.mzv.cz/jnp/cz/cestujeme/aktualni_doporuceni_a_varovani/omezeni_dopravy_koronavirus.html https://www.mvcr.cz/clanek/upravujeme-rezim-na-hranicich-po-velikonocich-se-mj-rozsiri-moznosti-vycestovat-do-zahranici.aspx 
[29] Ministry of Internal Affairs website, accessed April 29,2020 https://www.mvcr.cz/docDetail.aspx?docid=22239079&doctype=ART&#Cestovani

Mobility (transport) - Internal travel

Following the State of Emergency declaration (March 12, 2020), free movement of people was prohibited beginning on March 16, 2020.

There were various exceptions:

(a) travel to work and the pursuit of a business or other similar activity,
(b) necessary journeys to family members or close persons,
(c) necessary journeys due to the provision of daily living necessities (eg. purchase of food, medicines and medical devices, sanitary goods, cosmetics and other dry goods, animal feed and other supplies), also due to securing such needs of relatives and close persons; provision of animal care, use of necessary financial and postal services, refuelling,
(d) necessary journeys to meet the needs and services referred to in point (c) for another person (e.g. volunteering, neighbourhood assistance);
(e) travel to health and social care facilities, including to accompany relatives and close ones, and to veterinary care facilities;
(f) journeys to deal with urgent official matters, including the necessary escort of relatives and close persons,
(g) pursuit of profession or other activities providing for security, internal order and crisis management, health protection, health or social care provision, including volunteering, individual spiritual care and services, public transport and other infrastructures, services to the population, including supply and distribution services, veterinary care,
h) visit nature or parks,
(i) travel back to place of residence,
(j) funerals [9].

There were no formal restrictions on means of transportation. However, city public transport operations were generally limited to school or public holiday timetables. Restrictions on long-distance public transportation were subject to individual decisions of private transport operators who limited the number of their connections significantly, often due to decreased individual and state demand.

On April 24, 2020 the restrictions were partially eased. The general ban on free movement was revoked. In public spaces, only gatherings of more than 10 people were banned and a minimal distance of 2 meters was still required. Church attendance was allowed up to 15 people at once with 2 meters distance between attendees [28]. For more details, see section 5.

For details on further restriction release regarding gathering and face masks, see section 5.

Sources:
[9] Resolution of the government of the Czech Republic no. 215/2020, March 15, 2020  https://apps.odok.cz/attachment/-/down/IHOABMQVW63P
[28] Government of the Czech Republic website, accessed April 29, 2020 https://www.vlada.cz/cz/media-centrum/aktualne/vyhlaseni-nouzoveho-stavu-180234/#Omezeni_volneho_pohybu

Economy and State aid - government measures [31]

On March 14, 2020, all stores and services (incl. hairdressers etc.) were closed by a government resolution [10]. Exceptions included grocery stores, drugstores, pharmacies and gas stations, newsagents, and florists. The ban did not apply to stores selling electronics, animals, animal food, cigarettes and tobacco or any online sales. On April 9, 2020, exceptions were expanded to include bike shops and hobby markets [11]. Further exceptions began April 20 and continued later, see “Transition measures: Governance” in section 5.

The supply chains for food and goods were uninterrupted, and no extraordinary state measures were introduced.

Payment deadlines of many taxes were shifted to the second half of the year.

The Ministry of Finance expected the 2020 state budget deficit to exceed CZK 200 bill (state budget balances of 2015-2019 for reference: -63, +62,-6,+3,-29 billion) [12]. This was later updated to CZK 300 billion, and then in June to CZK 500 billion.

Care allowances for parents were broadened to cover children up to 13 years of age (normally, the limit is 9 years of age) as well as disabled children. This was intended  to cover the whole period of schools’ closures (up until June 30), and also extended to the self-employed. The allowances equalled approx. 54% of the net earnings of employed parents (with a cap and only one care allowance per household) and CZK 424  per day for the self-employed (increased to CZK 500 per day as of April 1, 2020) [13; 14].

Other Financial Assistance Programmes:

• The Liberation Package, which proposes, inter alia, to allow entrepreneurs not to pay the advance payments for corporate and corporate income tax in June, introduces the institute of retroactive effect of tax loss and proposes to postpone the deadline for filing a real estate tax return until 31 August 2020.
• Antivirus programme: aims to prevent increases in unemployment. Employer get state subsidies – 80% of wage (gross) for their employees if they had to close due to government order, 60% if they had to close for other COVID-19 - -related reasons (lack of customers, for example) [15].
• Subsidies for the self-employed: if they did not apply for unemployment compensation, the amount of CZK 500 per day  starting on March 12, 2020, up to June 8, 2020, i.e. CZK 44 500 in total [16,32]. To assist the self-employed the government also introduced remissions on minimal monthly social and health insurance prepayments for 6 months (March – August). These prepayments will be counted as paid in the 2020 annual settlement [17]. Later, these subsidies were extended to include all formal forms of self-employment (1-person company, etc.)
• COVID I programme: proposes zero-interest loans between the amounts of CZK 500 000 - 15 000 000 with 12 months deferral for small and medium sized enterprises (SME) as well as self-employed. This measure was not intended for investments [18].
• COVID II programme: proposes zero-interest loans between the amounts of CZK 10 000 – 15 000 000 with 12 months deferral of instalments for SME as well as self-employed. This measure was not intended for investments [19]. These are provided by commercial banks with guarantees and subsidies for interest provided by ČMRZB (The Czech-Moravian Guarantee and Development Bank). The project is funded by the EU Operational Program Enterprise and Innovation for Competitiveness. Thus, it is not available for Prague-located enterprises (Prague is classified as a high-income region and is not eligible for EU structural funding).
• Technology COVID 19 and Czech Rise Up: these programmes for SMEs support the production of medical devices and development and deployment of new technologies to combat coronavirus infections.

The Czech economic diplomacy offers free assistance to exporters in tackling administrative barriers arisen due to COVID-19.

Among others, a moratorium on repayment of loans and mortgages that would be binding for all banks and non-banking companies allows both natural and corporate debtors to suspend repayment for three or six months, depending on their choice [22] .

Extraordinary legislation prohibits rent termination notice for tenants in financial distress caused by anti-epidemic measures. Rent payments for up to 6 months can be postponed without penalty and all overdue rents have to be paid by April 2021 [23].    

The government announced that private business profit loss due to governmental measures will NOT be refunded.   
 
The government is often criticized for financial aid being processed slowly, which impaired itss effectiveness of measures.

Economic and State aid  - Czech National Bank (CNB) measures [20,33]

The CNB cut all key interest rates in several steps. On March 16, 2020, rates were cut by 0.5 percentage points, then on March 26, 2020, by another 0.75 percentage points. On May 7, 2020 it was dropped to 0,25%  The Lombard Rate was decreased to 1.00% and the discount rate to 0.05%. The CNB remains ready to further reduce interest rates and take measures to address potential liquidity problems in the Czech financial sector if necessary.

The CNB declared it is ready to respond to any excessive fluctuations in the CZK exchange rate with its instruments, in accordance with the regime of its managed float.

The CNB called on banks to refrain from paying dividends or other steps that could jeopardize their capital resilience.

The CNB amended the rules for monetary operations to supply liquidity to banks.

Measures concerning education

Primary and secondary education facilities were closed on March 11, 2020.

There is no centralized home education support, so each institution proceeded on its own. Czech TV broadcasted daily educational programmes for 1st through 5th grade elementary school students until the end of the school year (June 30).

Selected education facilities provided day care for children (aged 3-10) of parents employed by policy, health service providers, public health authorities and the army [21].

For the plan to relax restrictions  for schools and educational centers please see  “Transition measures: Governance” in section 5.

The Restrictions Release Plan was first announced on April 14, with further changes to it announced on April 23, and then again  in early May  (for details see section 5 “Transition measures: Governance”) [27].

Sources:
[10] Resolution of the government of the Czech Republic no. 211/2020, March 14, 2020  https://apps.odok.cz/attachment/-/down/IHOABMPBJNVK
[11] Czech Government, Overview of State of Emergency measures, accessed April 10, 2020. https://www.vlada.cz/cz/media-centrum/aktualne/vyhlaseni-nouzoveho-stavu-180234/#Cesty_zahranici
[12] Ministry of Finance website, accessed April 11, 2020 https://www.mfcr.cz/cs/aktualne/tiskove-zpravy/2020/vlada-schvalila-novelu-zakona-o-statnim-37959
[13] Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs webpage, accessed April 11, 2020 https://www.mpsv.cz/web/cz/osetrovne
[14] Ministry of Industry and Trade webpage, accessed April 11, 2020 https://www.mpo.cz/cz/podnikani/zivnostenske-podnikani/osetrovne-pro-osvc---vyzva-i--253750/
[15] Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs webpage concerning „Antivirus“ programme, accessed April 11, 2020 https://www.mpsv.cz/antivirus
[16] Ministry of Finance webpage, accessed April 11, 2020 https://www.mfcr.cz/cs/aktualne/tiskove-zpravy/2020/mf-spousti-primou-podporu-pro-zasazene-o-38055
[17] Ministry of Healthcare website, accessed April 11, 2020 https://koronavirus.mzcr.cz/parlament-schvalil-opatreni-na-podporu-platcu-pojistneho/
[18] ČMZRB website concerning COVID I, accessed April 11, 2020 https://www.cmzrb.cz/podnikatele/uvery/uver-covid/
[19] ČMZRB website concerning COVID II, accessed April 11, 2020 https://www.cmzrb.cz/podnikatele/zaruky/zaruka-covid-ii/
[20] CNB website, review of coronavirus-related measures, accessed April 11, 2020 https://www.cnb.cz/cs/o_cnb/koronavirus/
[21] Resolution of the government of the Czech Republic no. 219/2020, March 15, 2020  https://apps.odok.cz/attachment/-/down/IHOABMQVWEU1
[22] Ministry of Finance website, accessed April 11,2020 https://www.mfcr.cz/cs/aktualne/tiskove-zpravy/2020/vlada-schvalila-moratorium-na-splatky-uv-38077
[23] Ministry for Regional Development website, accessed April 11, 2020 http://mmr.cz/cs/ostatni/web/novinky/najemnikum-je-treba-v-nouzovem-stavu-rozhodne-pom
[27]  https://koronavirus.mzcr.cz/aktualni-opatreni/  , and https://koronavirus.mzcr.cz/uvolnovani-opatreni-archiv
[31] Ministry of Industry and Trade website, accessed May 22, 2020 https://www.mpo.cz/cz/rozcestnik/pro-media/tiskove-zpravy/prehled-pomoci-podnikatelum-a-zivnostnikum--253649/
[32]MoF website, accessed May 22, 2020 https://www.mfcr.cz/cs/aktualne/tiskove-zpravy/2020/snemovna-rozhodla-o-pokracovani-petadvac-38228
[33]Czech Nation Bank Website, accessed May 22, 2020 https://www.cnb.cz/cs/menova-politika/br-zapisy-z-jednani/Rozhodnuti-bankovni-rady-CNB-1588863600000/?tab=statement

Civil protection - State of emergency

The Government declared the State of Emergency on March 12, 2020 at 14:00 for 30 days. Any further extensions had to be approved by the Parliament. The State of emergency ended on May 17.

Army deployment

On March 15, 2020, the government ordered a deployment of up to 2 096 army soldiers and a deployment of up to 432 customs officers to support the police corps [25]. The army deployment was increased to 4 096 on April 9, 2020 [26]. These reinforcements were intended to be mainly used at the borders. The army got also engaged in the „smart quarantine“ project in Jihomoravský region (helping in fieldwork testing of suspected cases).

Sources:
[25] Czech Government Decision No. 83/2020 Coll. https://www.mvcr.cz/soubor/sbirka-zakonu-ceske-republiky-c-34-z-roku-2020-narizeni-vlady-o-povolani-vojaku-a-celniku-k-plneni-ukolu-policie-cr.aspx 
[26] Czech Government Decision No. 155/2020 Coll. https://www.mvcr.cz/soubor/sbirka-zakonu-ceske-republiky-c-57-z-roku-2020-narizeni-vlady-povolani-vojaku-kriteria-pro-urceni-ki.aspx