Czech schools to partially re-open as epidemic slows down 

Photo: Michaela Danelová / Czech Radio

With the intensity of the coronavirus epidemic slowing down in the Czech Republic, the government has approved easing some of the restrictions, starting next Monday. These include the return of lower grades and kindergarten children to schools, as well as the reopening of selected shops and services, zoos and farmers’ markets.

Starting on Monday, April 12, children from the first to fifth grades of primary schools as well as pre-schoolers from kindergartens will be allowed to return to the classroom.  However, pupils will only go to school every second week, rotating between regular and distance education.

The re-opening of schools will also depend on the epidemiological situation in individual districts. It will be assessed based on the reproduction number, which will have to stay below 1.

Virologist Ruth Tachezy, a member of the Health Ministry’s team of experts, explained to Czech Radio why they recommended the re-opening of schools:

“Schools have been closed for a very long time and it has been one of the most expensive anti-coronavirus measures, so we recommended their opening under strict conditions.

“According to experts, rotating between regular and distance education is the most effective tool in preventing new hotspots from forming, together with other measures, which include the wearing of respirators and testing.”

Robert Plaga | Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

The requirement to wear facemasks will apply to all children, with the exception of pre-schoolers. Schools will also get over twelve million masks free of charge for children from socially disadvantaged families.

The children will also be regularly tested. According to Education Minister Robert Plaga, the distribution of tests to school has already been launched:

“The testing will take place twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, using non-invasive self-testing kits, using swabs from the frontal part of the nose.

“We have also allowed the presence of parents at the testing of pre-schoolers, first and second graders and also children with physical disabilities.”

Since March 1, schools in the Czech Republic have been open only to children of healthcare and other essential workers.  However, children from third grades and older last went to school before Christmas, having spent most of the school-year on-line.

Education Minister Robert Plaga has also proposed that final year university students should be allowed to attend practical courses and laboratory exercises as of April 19. The final decision on this should be taken next week.

Along with the re-opening of schools, the government also approved the reopening of shops with children's clothing and footwear, shops selling stationery, dry cleaners, laundries, and locksmiths and also allowed farmers markets and zoos to open.

At its session on Tuesday, the government said it will not ask the lower house to extend the state of emergency beyond April 11, which means that the night curfew and the ban on travel between districts will not apply after that date.

The Czech Republic registered 5,522 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, which is the lowest daily increase since mid-December. The number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 has dropped to 5,709.