Czech gov’t weighs opening ski resorts, other venues if Covid-19 risk drops to level 4

Photo: ČTK/Igor Zehl

Over the past week, fresh snowfall led to Czechs to take to the mountains in droves, despite ski resorts and trails being closed due to anti-coronavirus restrictions. Against that backdrop, the government is looking at opening the slopes – and other sporting and cultural venues – after the current 30-day state of emergency expires on 22 January, depending on the risk level.

Suffering from cabin fever after months of anti-coronavirus restrictions, Czech tourists over the past week have in some cases literally blazed their own trails on the mountains, skiing, snowboarding, sledding or simply going for a hike.

Photo: ČTK/David Taneček

In some cases, resorts are welcoming tourists within the confines of current restrictions or perhaps just outside of them. Among them is a south Bohemian resort in Lipno, spokesperson Olga Kneiflová admitted in an interview with Czech Radio.

“It’s sad for us. We try, of course, to offer at least something for everyone who enjoys winter sports and getting out in the countryside. So, it’s true that we have cut out some cross-country trails. There are still two here, some 3.5 to 5.5 kilometres long. It is possible to access them from here, in the central car park.”

As measured by the government’s PES index, the risk of contracting Covid-19 has been at the 5th and highest level, off and on, since before Christmas. The cabinet is looking at revising rules to allow sports facilities and cultural venues to reopen if the PES drops to the 4th level. For example, hotels could open to guests who present a negative test.

Minister of Industry and Trade Karel Havlíček told Czech Television, ahead of a cabinet meeting on Monday, they government could approve up to 1 billion crowns in compensation for the country’s 450 ski resorts along with setting new, slightly more relaxed restrictions for other sports and cultural venues – but not restaurants and the like.

Karel Havlíček,  photo: archive of the Office of Czech Government

“There will be compensation, but not full support. Of course, the amount will vary from resort to resort. But the funds should cover much of the costs for affected operators. … We hope restaurants can soon be opened to 50 percent capacity. But we have not yet discussed opening them at level 4, even assuming patrons produce a negative antigen test result.”

Currently, food and drinks cannot be served indoors anywhere unless the PES index is at level 3. Even then there must be at most four people per table, and the venue must be at maximum 50 percent capacity. The current proposal is to cap it at 30 percent.

As for sporting events and cultural venues, at the moment none are permitted until the PES index is at level 2. The proposal is to allow them to open at 20 percent capacity at level four and 30 percent at level three, with participants required to show negative test results.