Czech Republic coronavirus updates, Dec. 14: Return to partial lockdown, expedited testing date on the table today

On Monday, the Czech government will discuss a return to the fourth-degree risk level and a re-closure of restaurants and hotels

ČTK

Written by ČTK
Published on 14.12.2020 08:32 (updated on 14.12.2020)

The coronavirus epidemic in the Czech Republic is intensifying again, with the risk score rising to 71 points over the weekend. Late last week, Health Minister Jan Blatný said that he would propose a return to the fourth degree of the anti-epidemic PES system at Monday's government meeting.

A move to the fourth level would mean that restaurants and hotels would once again be forced to close their doors, though officials said they are discussing a compensation scheme for the affected sectors.

"If there is a closure [the affected industries] must receive 100% compensation," Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said. "This year is scary, it is an incredibly bad year for all of us and we simply have to help them as a state," he added. 

According to PM Babiš, Minister of Industry and Trade, Karel Havlíček, has been negotiating compensations with those sectors throughout the weekend.

Babiš also said through the weekend that he would demand that the ban on sales of to-go drinks be reconsidered. "I apologized for this and I will insist on changing it," he said, adding that it is "absolute nonsense" that people cannot buy a cup of coffee for take away.

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Depending on the outcome of today's meeting, the change in risk level and tightened measures could take place by mid-week, though officials are still debating which day the changes and closures will go into effect either from Wednesday or the end of the week. 

Last week PM Babiš also proposed that schools should close early for Christmas holiday, on Dec. 18, and that shops should remain open on the last Sunday before advent.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Babiš announced that due to great interest the government may start free and voluntary antigen testing for the public from Wednesday, Dec.16. Blatný will propose the expedited testing date to the government at Monday's meeting.

The country reported 1,999 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, according to the latest data from the Health Ministry, almost double the cases than the previous Sunday. Since March, the Czech Republic has reported a total of 9,609 deaths and 581,079 confirmed cases with 4,203 currently hospitalized.