Czech Republic moves to highest anti-COVID alert level; tighter measures from Sunday

Only stores offering essentials will remain open and schools will switch to distance learning.

Tom Lane

Written by Tom Lane Published on 23.12.2020 12:03:00 (updated on 23.12.2020) Reading time: 2 minutes

The government has announced the Czech Republic will be moving to the fifth, strictest level of anti-COVID measures from Sunday, Dec. 27.

This means the closure of all non-essential shops, and services, with the only exceptions being food and drugstores, pharmacies, opticians, newsagents, florists. locksmiths and car washes. Minister of Health Jan Blatný granted an exemption for the opening hours of shops on Christmas Day, when they can be open until 12pm.

Shops that do not offer necessities deemed essential will remain closed, while large supermarkets will only be allowed to sell food or drugstore goods. Restaurants will also remain closed for sit-in customers.

Schools will again close and students will return to remote learning. With the exception of schools for disabled children, kindergartens, and the first and second grades of primary schools, every other school year will do distance learning from Jan. 4. Hotels, swimming pools, and fitness facilities will also remain closed. 

Night curfew will be extended; currently it is from 11 pm-5 am, but from Sunday it will be 9 pm-5 am. There will no exception for New Year's Eve.

Exhibitions at museums and galleries that had an exception under the fourth level of the PES system will be closed as of Sunday as well.

Church services will only be allowed one-tenth of the church capacity, while only fifteen people will be allowed to attend marriages and funerals. The operation of ski lifts will be stopped, too.

The PES system rose to 81 points today following a rise in positive COVID tests, it has been at the fifth level for six days in a row, and just over a week after moving to the fourth level, even stricter measures are set to come into force.

"From December 27, level 5 PES will apply throughout the Czech Republic. This applies to both retail and services, as well as the change of curfew from 21:00 to 05:00. There were no exceptions and we ask citizens to celebrate New Year's Eve together in a family circle. I do not expect any changes until January 10. We want to make it clear that NOW we want to pull the brake and NOW do everything to make it fall," Health Minister Jan Blatný told reporters.

According to the latest Ministry of Health data, 10,821 new cases were reported in the Czech Republic on Tuesday, 2,900 more than the day before, the biggest number since Nov. 9. The death toll is currently at 10,664.

Models say if it were not for the new measures, there would be some 15,000 new cases of coronavirus infection a day and 7,000 hospitalized by the end of the year.

The Czech government has also agreed a 30-day extension of the state of emergency. The current state of emergency was due to run out today but the extension has been granted until Jan. 22.

Meanwhile, Blatný confirmed the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine will cross the Czech border on Dec. 26. They will be available for four Prague and two Brno hospitals the next day. Another delivery is expected before the end of the year, then every other week.

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