Czech Republic certain to be on EU’s “dark red” zone, with tighter travel restrictions

Illustrative photo: Anna Shvets/Pexels

Assessing measures to counter the spread of coronavirus on Thursday, European Union leaders agreed to introduce a new category of “dark red” zones, indicating areas of exceptionally high Covid-19 risk to which all non-essential travel should be discouraged. The Czech Republic, which has the second-highest rate of new coronavirus infections and deaths per capita in the European Union, is  certain to be on the list.

“Dark red” zones are areas where new mutations are spreading, particularly the more contagious so-called “British” variant, and where the virus is circulating at a very high level. The Czech Republic, with its 1,362 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, high number of coronavirus-related deaths and the recently confirmed presence of the British mutation on its territory, is certain to be on the “dark red” zones list and will need to adhere to the travel restrictions imposed.

While EU leaders agreed that borders should remain open, they have stressed the need to halt all non-essential travel especially to and from the “dark red” zones. According to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen travellers from those areas will be required to take a test before departure as well as to undergo quarantine after arrival. And the citizens of those areas will be advised to postpone all non-essential trips abroad in order to help stave off a new wave of hospitalizations and deaths across the block. Details of the new counter-epidemic plan will be ready on Monday, but individual states are already preparing for the change.

Tomáš Kafka,  photo: archive of Czech Foreign Ministry

Germany has already said it will tighten its travel requirements for Czechs as of this Sunday. This will affect primarily people who cross the border daily for work and study reasons.

Individual member states of the federation can fine-tune the conditions to a certain extent, Czech Ambassador to Germany, Tomáš Kafka told Czech Radio.

“Bavaria has taken a fairly strict approach –based on the recommendations of the federal government and will demand a new test every 48 hours from cross border workers. This means that people communing to work there will have to take three tests a week.”

On the other hand Saxony will require two tests a week for cross-border workers; one of which is to be covered by Saxony, the other by the Czech side. Anyone else making a trip to Germany will have to produce a negative test on the border and will have to go into quarantine after entering the country.

The Czech Republic continues to operate in lockdown mode and Parliament on Thursday extended the state of emergency until February 14. The government is currently debating whether to further tighten the already very tight restrictions in light of the confirmed presence of the more contagious “British” mutation in the country. The light at the end of the tunnel is the coronavirus vaccine, but the inoculation process is proceeding more slowly than planned, not least because of a cut in deliveries from Pfizer. Vaccinations are also proceeding with the Moderna  vaccine, the country is waiting for approval of the AstraZeneca and the government is debating the possibility of acquiring Russian and Chinese vaccines as well.