BREAKING: Czech Republic to close borders from March 16, barring residents from leaving and tourists from entering

From Monday, March 16, Czech citizens and holders of residence permits won’t be allowed to leave the country, while non-residents will be barred from entering

Jason Pirodsky

Written by Jason Pirodsky Published on 13.03.2020 12:26:33 (updated on 13.03.2020) Reading time: 3 minutes

At a press briefing on Friday, March 13 at 12:00, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has announced that all international travel to and from the Czech Republic will be essentially prohibited from March 16.

All foreign nationals without residence in the Czech Republic, including tourists and other travelers, will be barred from entering the country as of March 16.

Additionally, all Czech citizens and holders of Czech residence permits will be barred from leaving the country as of March 16.

One exception to the travel ban will be Czech citizens and residents returning to the country, who will still be able to do so. Likewise, tourists and other non-residents currently in the country on short-term stays will be able to leave.

Incoming citizens and residents may face quarantine measures upon arrival if coming from one of the 15 countries deemed to be at risk of coronavirus spread.

Another exception applies to those who live within 50 kilometers of the Czech border with Austria and Germany and work in the neighboring countries. They will be allowed to continue to drive to work by car, but international travel by bus and train has been suspended.

Those who work in Germany or Austria and live more than 50 kilometers from the border, however, will be forbidden from from travelling to their work. Some exceptions will apply, for example to pilots, drivers, and emergency service workers.

Because Justice Minister Marie Benešová has placed coronavirus on the list of infectious diseases subject to qualification as a crime, the spread of coronavirus could be considered a criminal offense, the Prime Minister said.

Babiš also stated that university and secondary school students in related fields will be obliged to assist during the state of emergency if needed.

The Prime Minister said that the actions of the Czech Republic in preventing the spread of coronavirus are the strictest in all of Europe.

Babiš refuted a rumor that the city of Prague itself would be quarantined.

“If a quarantine were announced, it would be for the whole Czech Republic,” he stated. “To make it just for Prague would be nonsense, this option is not on the table.”

Czech President Miloš Zeman urged all citizens to comply with the new measures.

“This is no time for selfishness, bargaining and squabbling,” he stated. “Together we will overcome this crisis. I have all of you in my heart.”

How long these measures will last is not yet known, and largely dependent on how the situation surrounding the spread of coronavirus unfolds in Europe and the rest of the world. A state of emergency is in effect for the Czech Republic over the next 30 days.

As of this morning, there were 117 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Czech Republic from a total of 2353 tests conducted. The Czech Ministry of Health will update that number at 2 p.m. today.

Additional info via Czech News Agency

Air transport via the Prague airport keeps operating. In the risky countries, only Czech citizens will be able to fly to the Czech Republic, while foreigners will not be admitted aboard. Foreigners, nevertheless, can depart from the Czech Republic, says Transport Minister Karel Havlicek.

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek called the new measure very tough.

“Nevertheless, this measure can crucially contribute to stemming the coronavirus infection,” he said.

On Thursday, the government declared the state of emergency over coronavirus. It reintroduced checks on the borders with Germany and Austria as of the midnight today. It will be possible to cross these borders at 11 selected crossings only.

At its meeting today, the cabinet decided, among others, on the above-mentioned duty for Czechs returning from the 15 risk countries to quarantine themselves.

The cabinet today closed swimming pools and tourist information centres as of Saturday 06:00, and also banned outdoor sport events with more than 30 participants, in addition to the ban imposed on indoor sports, culture and other events on Thursday.

Big market places will also remain closed as of Saturday morning, the cabinet decided.

As of Monday, the operation of all day-care facilities will be suspended.

The government has also banned visits to prisons and detention facilities as of the midnight today. Prison inmates will be increasingly enabled to be in phone contact with their families.

This a quickly developing story and we will post more information as it becomes available.

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