Czechs living in the UK petition Health Ministry to ease travel restrictions

An online petition urging the Czech Health Ministry to lower the risk status of the UK has collected hundreds of signatures from Czechs living abroad

Jason Pirodsky

Written by Jason Pirodsky
Published on 09.05.2021 14:42 (updated on 09.05.2021)

Since January, the United Kingdom has been listed among the most risky areas on the Czech Health Ministry's Covid-19 travel map, which details entry requirements for travelers. The UK is among the dark red areas of "very high risk", which carry the strictest requirements including a Covid-19 test before travel.

For both British expats living in the Czech Republic and Czechs in the UK, this complicates travel between the countries to visit family or for other reasons.

But this shouldn't be the case, say hundreds of Czechs living in the UK who have signed an online petition asking for more reasonable travel requirements.

The current epidemic situation in the UK is better than many EU states, they say, and the country is only listed as "very high risk" because it has been lumped in with other non-EU countries following Brexit.

In the most recent Czech travel map, most EU countries (with the exception of France, Sweden, and the Netherlands, all considered 'very high risk') are listed as high risk (red) or medium risk (orange).

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According to the petition, which cites recent numbers from Our World in Data, the UK has a similar number of new Covid-19 cases (per million people, over the past week) as Finland and Portugal, both listed as medium-risk in the Czech travel map.

The number of new cases in the UK is also significantly less than in Czech neighbors Germany, Austria, and Poland, which are listed as high risk (red) in the map.

via Our World in Data
via Our World in Data

And yet despite having considerably fewer new Covid-19 cases than these countries, the United Kingdom has a higher risk rating in the Czech map, resulting in more restrictive travel requirements.

The Czech Health Ministry evaluates EU and non-EU countries on using a different scale, and non-EU countries only carry ratings of green (low risk) and dark red (very high risk). Only a handful of non-EU countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and (from Monday) Israel are currently low risk.

And since the UK officially left the EU earlier this year, the country carries a very high risk rating while states with similar Covid-19 levels within the EU are evaluated at medium risk.

"Assessing the spread of Covid-19 in EU and EEA (European Economic Area) countries for public health protection and travel regulation is an arbitrary, bureaucratic decision that completely ignores a significant number of citizens (approximately 50,000 Czechs) living in the UK," the petition reads.

The British mutation of Covid-19 is also no reason for the UK to carry a higher risk rating, says the petition, as this strain is already dominant within most EU states including the Czech Republic.

While the risk rating for the UK is likely to be upgraded to low in the coming weeks or months should epidemiological trends continue, many living abroad have gone extended periods of time without seeing family.

"I'm busy here and I don't have enough time off work to afford to be quarantined on both sides," reads one signature on the petition.

"I would like to see my family and friends after a year and a few months," says another.

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