Breaking: Czech Republic returning to fourth risk level, restaurants closing, shops will stay open

The new restrictions take effect from Friday; schools will close for Christmas break early and free antigen testing begins Wednesday.

Samantha Tatro

Written by Samantha Tatro Published on 14.12.2020 18:36:00 (updated on 14.12.2020) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Czech Republic will impose stricter anti-COVID measures as the country moves into the fourth level of PES, officials announced on Monday evening. The new restrictions will take effect on Friday.

"The numbers are rising and we have to act, we are very sorry," said Prime Minister Andrej Babiš following Monday evening's government meeting.

The return to the fourth degree of the anti-epidemic PES system means that restaurants and pubs will be closed from Friday. Hotels, swimming pools, and fitness centers must close as well. Shops, services, and salons, however, may remain open.

In addition, alcohol cannot be consumed outdoors and there will be a nightly curfew imposed from 11 pm to 5 am; gatherings of six people are permitted under rules of the fourth level and churches must adhere to a 20 percent capacity.

School winter holidays have also been extended. The government announced that children will go to school for the last time on Friday, Dec. 18. Initially, classes were set to take place on Dec. 21 and 22.

Schools will remain in the third level of the PES system until the end of the week. From Dec. 21 and 22, kindergartens and universities will start operating according to the fourth level, said Aneta Lednová, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education. 

The government has also announced that voluntary, free antigen testing will start from Dec 16. two days earlier than planned, according to deputy health minister and chief public health officer Jarmila Razova who approved the change.

As the country moves into the fourth degree of PES, officials also agreed that the government will compensate those businesses that are forced to close. 

“100% rent for three months, 100% salaries and levies, special compensation for rooms for accommodation facilities and a gastro bonus for all restaurant owners in relation to the number of employees. We have just approved CZK 10 billion in support for the affected sectors in the government," said Karel Havlíček, Deputy Prime Minister.

In addition, Czech ski resorts will be able to open, though will not be able to offer accommodation, from Friday. Refreshments will be available through a window only and equipment rentals can operate.

The tightened restrictions come amid news that the country will receive the first 9,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of December. The Czech Republic is still waiting for EU approval of the vaccine this month before distributing it.

"The next procedure and the main and most important solution is vaccination. Tomorrow morning we will continue with the experts to prepare a professional plan," said Andrej Babiš following Monday's government meeting.

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