Czech government to seek an extension of the current state of emergency

PM Babiš expressed apprehension over the loosening of restrictions; the request to prolong should be voted on Dec. 9

ČTK

Written by ČTK
Published on 02.12.2020 14:10 (updated on 02.12.2020)

Prague, Dec 2 (CTK) -- The Czech cabinet will ask the Chamber of Deputies to extend the state of national emergency by another 30 days, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) said on TV Nova Wednesday, adding that he is not satisfied with the current development of the coronavirus epidemic.

On the day before restrictions are set to be eased, Babiš urged people to exercise caution.

"Unfortunately, the virus is still here and I feel far from pleased with the Tuesday number [of 5,176 new infections]," Babiš said.

The current state of emergency, declared by the cabinet amid the re-surging coronavirus wave in early October, and prolonged in November with parliament's consent, is still in force until Dec. 12.

The rise in COVID-19 infections has seen a recent slowing in the Czech Republic. The daily increase in new cases, however, still remains high.

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The PM said a vaccine, which should be available for distribution in the Czech Republic from January, is the best weapon against COVID-19 and reiterated that the vaccination will be voluntary and free of charge. Free and voluntary coronavirus antigen testing is slated to begin here from Dec. 18.

On Thursday, the Czech Republic will switch from the fourth to the third coronavirus alert level with fewers restrictions. Restaurants, shops, and services will reopen after several weeks, and the night curfew will be lifted.

Later today, Central Crisis Staff head and Deputy PM Jan Hamáček (Social Democrats, CSSD) said he expects the country to stay at the third coronavirus alert level until Christmas, so it makes sense for the cabinet to ask parliament for the maximum 30-day extension.

"We will stay at the third level for some time, probably also at Christmas. That is why the state of emergency will be necessary during the Christmas holidays, since many government restrictions cannot be valid otherwise unless under the state of emergency," he said.

Hamáček called the epidemiological development satisfactory, but added, "the number of those infected has not been declining as fast as we may like."

Hamáček warned that if the state of emergency is not prolonged, all measures leaning on the crisis law would end, and the country would enter the next phase of an uncontrolled lifting of restrictions.

He said it is improbable for the Czech Republic to switch to the second alert level anytime soon.

On Sunday, Deputy PM Karel Havlíček (for ANO) said the cabinet would ask parliament to approve the extension of the national emergency until the end of the year.

But Babiš said today that a farther deadline should be set. "We will apply for an extension by 30 days," he told Nova TV, and added that nobody knows whether an even further prolongation will be sought in January.

On Tuesday, Babiš told the Czech media that the government would discuss proposing the extension at its meeting on Monday, and the Chamber of Deputies should vote on it on Wednesday, Dec. 9.

Babiš called on people to be cautious. "People need not immediately use all opportunities the [Thursday] restriction relaxation will offer," he said.

"It would be fine to be cautious, since I, too, am a little bit nervous at the development [of the epidemic in general]," he said.