Coronavirus update, May 17, 2021: Here's what is changing in the Czech Republic today

The next wave of relaxations are here but in most cases visitors to restaurants, gyms, or events will need to be tested, vaccinated, or recovered. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 17.05.2021 09:43:00 (updated on 17.05.2021) Reading time: 5 minutes

Outdoor seating at restaurants can reopen

Restaurant gardens can open as of today. Patrons will need to be tested, fully vaccinated, or have already had Covid-19 to be able to visit outdoor seating areas. The responsibility for following those rules falls on the patron, and there may be spot inspections by police to see if patrons have the required certificates (fines of up to 10,000 CZK can be issued for non-compliance). A maximum of four people may sit at a table unless they are members of the same household, and tables must be 1.5 meters apart. WiFi will be allowed in the gardens. No date has been set for reopening restaurant interiors, but that step would be part of the fifth package of relaxation measures expected to take effect when the number of newly infected people reaches fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 over seven days.  

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Theater or music can be performed outside for 700 people

From today, cultural events can take place in the Czech Republic in the open air with maximum participation of up to 700 people. The government should also decide today if it will be possible to increase the capacity of outdoor events by 1,000 people and at the same time allow indoor events, including cinema, from May 24. The condition for participation in the events will be either a negative test, a completed vaccination, or recovery from Covid-19. Theater groups have asked the government to set the same rules as restaurants now follow, with the responsibility for having a Covid test, vaccination, or recovery falling on the patron. The National Theater will start performances in June, offering premieres, a selection from the repertoire, and concerts. Half of the auditorium capacity will be available in each of the theater buildings, with a maximum of 500 tickets.

Schools returning to regular attendance

The first five grades of elementary schools are switching to a regular school attendance regime across the Czech Republic as of today, as are sixth to ninth graders in Prague and the Hradec Králové, Karlovy Vary, Plzeň, Central Bohemia, Liberec, and Pardubice regions. They will no longer have one week at home and one week at school. The rotation attendance system will end for sixth to ninth-graders in the remaining seven regions as of May 24 if the pandemic improves. The frequency of testing pupils with PCR tests has been reduced from each week to once every 14 days, and when using state antigen tests, schoolchildren will be tested once a week. An exception is the second stage of primary schools in seven regions with a worse epidemic situation, where there will be antigen testing as before twice a week. Masks or respirators must still be worn inside, except for children in kindergartens or the mentally handicapped.

Sports grounds and fitness centers reopen

Indoor sports grounds, fitness centers and gyms can reopen, but with a limit of one visitor per 15 square meters, a maximum of two people in groups, and a maximum of 10 people in total. It will be necessary to keep the spacing of at least two meters if they are not members of one household. People will have to have a negative coronavirus test, a vaccination certificate, or proof of recovery from Covid-19 in the last 90 days. Patrons will not be allowed to use changing rooms or showers.

More people can visit zoos, botanical gardens

More people can go to zoos, botanical gardens or arboretums as of today. The government has allowed the occupancy of their outdoor spaces to be increased to 50 percent from the previous 20 percent, but the indoor pavilions remain closed to the public. Many zoos had been reaching capacity during peak hours. Zoos have been encouraging people to plan visits for limited times so that more people will have the opportunity to enter on a single day.

Visits to hospitals now allowed

Visits to hospitals will be allowed again as of today, after being forbidden since January with some exceptions, such as labor, visits of children, and those in a terminal stage of a disease. Visitors still have to observe certain sanitary rules. Visitors have to wear respirators and show a negative test for Covid-19, be fully vaccinated or recently recovered.

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100,000 people 40+ registered for vaccination despite outage

The registration system for Covid vaccination has had an outage of about 50 minutes after midnight. The system did not allow people to register, and later there were problems with SMS messages with a PIN code. From midnight, people over the age of 40 have the opportunity to register for vaccination. The Smart Quarantine (Chytrá karanténa) team, which manages vaccination registrations, said the problems coincided with system maintenance.

We've resolved the issue, but we apologize to anyone who made it difficult to sign in. Now everything is going," Smart Quarantine said on Twitter.

After four o'clock in the morning, the registration worked without any problems. At 6:40 a.m. Smart Quarantine tweeted that 34,000 people had registered; by 8:50 a.m they updated that to 100,000 people. There are more than 923,000 people between 40 and 44 in the Czech Republic, and 59,000 of them have completed vaccination due to being in special categories.

Shops shouldn’t close again

Deputy Prime Minister Karel Havlíček said that the government no longer wants to close facilities and shops, not even if the epidemiological situation deteriorated. The situation should improve mainly thanks to the continuing vaccination and a planned introduction of Covid vaccination cards and of effective rules for the operation of retailers and services.

MeSES: Corporate testing should continue in summer

MeSES, the Health Ministry expert team for epidemiological situations, is for the Czech cabinet to leave the corporate Covid testing to continue beyond June 30, its currently planned termination date, epidemiologist Petr Smejkal and virologist Ruth Tachezy said. As of the September beginning of the new school year, children should start being tested in schools again, said Smejkal and Tachezy. They told Czech Television that the viral load in the population is still too high to put an end to the preventive testing during the summer. MeSES is going to recommend that the corporate testing continue, applying to all those returning to work from holidays, no matter whether they spent the holidays at home or abroad.  

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Fewest new Covid cases since the end of August

Tests on Sunday confirmed 257 new Covid cases, which is the smallest Sunday increase since the end of the summer holidays. There were 598 cases on Saturday. The reproduction number rose by five hundredths to 0.81 today compared to Sunday, according to Health Ministry data. The reproduction number had been over one continuously until March 8 and then for two days in mid-April. It has been under one ever since, meaning the pandemic is receding. There were 1,310 patients with Covid in Czech hospitals on Sunday, the lowest number of hospitalizations in almost seven and a half months.

Latest Covid-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (May 17, 2021)

  • New cases 257
  • Deaths 29 913
  • Currently hospitalized 1,310
  • PCR tests performed 7 005 859
  • Antigen tests performed 14,383,494
  • Total vaccinations 4,139,123
  • Daily increase in vaccinations 25,466
  • People with both doses 1,105,203
  • New cases per 100,000 in seven days 71
  • PES index 47
  • R number 0.81
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