Where We Are Now: An Update on The Czech Republic in the Age of Covid-19

Image courtesy of @jerrykavan via unsplash.com

With the Czech Republic having now nearly completed the process of re-opening and recently making the wearing of masks no longer mandatory in public (except when on public transit with a social distance of 2m between riders is not possible), we thought it might be time to look at where we are now.

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As of yesterday (Wednesday, 27.05.20) there were no new Covid-19 related deaths reported in the country for the second straight day and, while the number of active cases did increase to a total of 2,409 (as of this morning), to date there have been a total of only 317 fatal cases in this Czech Republic and most of those have been attributed to underlying health issues in the affected people. 

Prague has been, by far, the region with the highest number of cases and, in fact, the highest number of fatalities (currently at 94) but this is due to the population density of the city, so one can say that the government’s decision to quickly shut down the country and its borders seems to have worked. More than two thirds of those affected have recovered making the story of the Coronavirus in the Czech Republic largely a success. In fact, other EU member states were looking to the Czech government and their handling of not only the virus itself but of the phased re-opening as a model… a model many of those countries have followed (see our article on that here: https://cz.cityspy.network/prague/features/the-czech-republic-moves-its-re-opening-schedule-forward-while-other-countries-watch-closely/).

The country is doing so well that Institute of Health Information and Statistics (ÚZIS) Director Ladislav Dušek told journalists yesterday that he “no longer considers the overall COVID-19 statistics in the Czech Republic completely relevant,” adding that “it makes more sense to focus on localized outbreaks.”

That’s pretty impressive, and while we’re not out of the woods like, say, New Zealand which has all but eradicated the spread of the disease, the government has done far better than countries like the US (100,000 plus dead), the UK (37,000 plus dead), or even Italy (33,000 plus dead). 

Borders Opening

On Monday, the Czech government announced they would be easing restrictions at the borders, stating, “All crossings between the Czech Republic and Germany and Austria will be opened, and police will only conduct spot-checks on passing vehicles,” adding however that “anyone stopped would need to provide a negative Covid-19 test.”

Then on Tuesday, the government announced that EU citizens would be allowed to remain in the country for up to 72 hours for business, family visitation or study purposes if, again, they present a Covid-19 test with a negative result. On Wednesday the government released a new statement regarding the border with Slovakia in which they stated that the border would now be open to all travelers for up to 48 hours without requiring and providing a negative test

A tweet from PM Babiš in which he announces the opening of borders with the Slovak Republic.

There has been no word about tourism from abroad, a major source of income for many Czech businesses, but domestic tourism is already increasing. Some 22 million tourists visited the Czech Republic in 2019 according to data compiled by CzechTourism, and many in the country are eager for international tourism to resume… but as of now, expectations are tempered. Czech Crisis Staff head Roman Prymula suggested in March that international tourism would likely be affected for “up to two years,” though it remains to be seen if that thinking is still valid.

The Last Wave

As of May 25th, the last wave of re-opening went into effect with indoor areas of local restaurants, pubs, cafes, wineries and restaurants and buffets in any facility over 2500m (malls). There are still some restrictions in effect though. For example, restaurants, pubs, and cafes must close by 11pm (2300) and are not permitted to reopen into 6am. In addition, they are to provide hand sanitizers or disinfectant at the entry and staff are required to disinfect common areas regularly, wear face masks, and encourage contactless payment.

Social distancing in a Prague restaurant pre-virus. Facemasks will be required now.
Image courtesy of @rainrainbowchou via unsplash.com

For eating within an establishment, groups of people (in different parties) must be spaced 2m apart, and customers are expected to wear face coverings when not eating or drinking. 

For seating in outdoor gardens, tables must be 1.5m apart (outdoor seating at restaurants has been permitted since May 11).

Crowds may assemble as long as no more than 300 people are present and this number is likely to be increased as of June 8th if the downward trend of infection continues. 

The final wave of re-opening also included the Prague Castle and from tomorrow through Monday, you may visit the Castle free of charge and, surprisingly, will not need to go through formal security checks (though random checks are still in place). Other theaters and castles throughout the country were opened as of May 11th.

The interior of the Old Royal Palace with Vladislav Hall.
Image courtesy of hrad.cz

If you’ve been considering a stay-cation, hotels, hostels, campsites and other accommodation providers are also allowed to open now with increased sanitizing measures to be followed.

If it hasn’t been mentioned above, it was probably already opened prior to the writing of this article. 

What’s Next?

All in all, things are looking good for the Czech Republic at the moment but don’t let any of this lull you into a false sense of security. If you’ve walked around Prague at all in the last few days or weeks, you might be lead to believe that people think the virus is “over.” This line of thinking would be a mistake. It is certainly not over and there is still no vaccine – yet. In fact, experts suggest that a second wave of the virus could come in the fall – or sooner – if people are lax in their personal responsibility (frequent hand-washing, wearing of masks, etc.).

Image courtesy of @heymikefrancis via unsplash.com

If you’re a US expat living in the country, don’t expect to be able to go home (or receive visitors from home) anytime soon. The numbers in the US continue to rise with currently over 1.2 million active cases and no end in sight. 

Image courtesy of @jordanell via unsplash.com

On the upside, it’s summer… and travel to certain areas beyond the Czech borders (aside from Germany, Slovakia, or Austria) will re-open soon. 

Fancy a trip to Paris? Air France will begin flights from Prague to the City of Love on June 3rd. Maybe you’ve been dreaming of a dip in the sea on a visit to Croatia? SmartWings announced service to Split will resume on June 10th. Finnair will take you to Helsinki beginning in July where you can shop in their famous Design District. 

You can find an updated list of other resumed routes by visiting https://www.prg.aero/en/list-of-resumed-routes

Ultimately, it is up to each of us to be responsible and look out for one another. Wash your hands, wear your masks in public and remember, it may be cheesy but “kindness is contagious.” Hopefully, we’ll all be living normally again soon… 

Let us know in the comments what your plans are in the coming weeks. Will you return to movie theaters and restaurants? Are you eager to take a trip? How has the virus affected you?  We’d love to know. 

Shaun O'Banion

Shaun O'Banion

Shaun O'Banion is a Gotham Award-winning independent film producer, writer, and teacher who has been living and working in Prague since 2015.
Shaun O'Banion
About Shaun O'Banion 62 Articles
Shaun O'Banion is a Gotham Award-winning independent film producer, writer, and teacher who has been living and working in Prague since 2015.