With the Czech Republic beginning the careful rollback of its lockdown today a number of EU countries are watching closely including the UK where, so far, there are more than 130,000 active cases and more than 20,000 fatalities.
In an article from The Guardian, sources indicate that the British government is “under increasing pressure to lift parts of the UK’s lockdown and limit the damage to the economy,” adding that the UK “chancellor, Rishi Sunak, I understood to be studying the Czech Republic’s approach to lifting the tight restrictions it imposed earlier than most countries further west.”
With only 7,404 active cases, more than 2,500 recovered cases and a considerably lower fatality rate than many EU countries (220 as of this posting), the Czech Republic can be looked at as a model for how to handle the pandemic in the right way.
While other countries (including the US) were still trying to understand and decide what they ought to advise to their citizenry (masks for all? Masks for just healthcare workers and the infected? Close down everything? Close down only some businesses?), the Czech’s locked things down quickly and made masks mandatory before the country had even seen a single death from the virus.
The US, meanwhile, has soared past 55,000 fatal cases and have seen the infection rate skyrocket due to an essential lack of leadership under Donald Trump. Left without proper instruction or seeming concern by the Federal government back in January and February, state governors were left to come up with their own set of guidelines to deal with the virus with some managing far better than others.
Having previously released a plan for re-opening the country (we reported on that here: https://cz.cityspy.network/prague/features/czech-ministry-announces-potential-dates-for-re-opening-the-country-low-infection-rates-lead-to-optimism/ ), the government was careful to state at the time that the dates could be pushed further down the line while also specifying that the slow re-opening would not include borders and international travel, but in recent days those in the health ministry have grown more confident. Either that or they simply were unable to push back when Prague’s Municipal Court ruled that the previously mandated restrictions were unlawful.
So where are we now?
As of last week, the government moved their calendar forward nearly two weeks, which was particularly interesting given that President Zeman noted only days before that he believed the country should remain closed for the next year!
Certain businesses and events began welcoming customers again on April 20th (car dealerships, farmers markets, and certain service-related companies like shoe repair or locksmith’s) as scheduled, and as of today, businesses with a footprint smaller than 2500 square meters are allowed to re-open. The original plan was to keep any business with a footprint up to 1000 square meters closed until May 11th with larger businesses set to follow into late May and early June and those included restaurants, pubs, and shopping malls. Additionally, events like weddings with groups of 10 or less are now allowed.
The government has again stressed that these dates may change if there’s a spike, but essentially, what was once a five tiered plan now has only four tiers and the government has even opened its borders for outbound foreign travel with the caveat that anyone returning will need to prove they are uninfected (by displaying the results of a Covid test) or spend 14 days in quarantine. Health Minister Adam Vojtěch also noted that those who travel out of the country on a daily basis would be allowed re-entry if they present a negative test every 14 days.
The final phase of the re-opening (indoor service in restaurants, pubs, cafes, hotels, taxis, theaters, and tattoo shops) will now rollout on May 25th which is one month earlier than originally planned.
Interestingly, the wearing of face masks will be mandatory until late June. How people will be expected to eat in restaurants in relatively close proximity to others with masks on remains to be seen.
We’d love to know what you think. Do you agree with the government’s decision? Will you be venturing out to restaurants and theaters again right away or will you wait to see if there’s a spike in infections and fatalities? Let us know in the comments.