Czechia: Hotels and restaurants will soon be open to all, mass testing to end on February 18

As more and more countries in Europe prepare to return to a normal life, pressure has been mounting on the Czech government to follow suit. Thousands have rallied in the streets of Prague in the past weeks, demanding an end to the restrictions, and a decision by the Supreme Administrative Court on Wednesday speeded up the government’s plans for a gradual return to normal.

Protesters against the government-imposed Covid measures who have been filling the streets of Prague and other big cities in recent days had reason to cheer on Wednesday. The Supreme Administrative Court ruled that the measure allowing only people who have been vaccinated or have successfully recovered from Covid-19 into restaurants, sporting venues and hotels is invalid since it is not permissible for the state to force people to choose between a vaccine that is voluntary and a normal life. It ruled that the verdict would come into force in seven days, giving the cabinet time to settle the matter as it sees fit.

Moreover, in the lower house the opposition Freedom and Direct Democracy party was obstructing a debate on a government proposed pandemic law which would give the cabinet broader powers in enforcing restrictions without the need for a state of emergency.

In the midst of this turbulent atmosphere, the government approved the first stage in the process of phasing out the Covid restrictions in place. Prime Minister Petr Fiala said the move had been planned and was made on the basis of the current epidemiological situation.

Petr Fiala | Photo: Office of Czech Government

“Mandatory blanket testing in schools, companies and institutions will end on February 18. There is no doubt at all that the measure introduced in January helped to prevent a massive spread of the infection to high risk groups, helped to prevent the health system from collapsing and contributed to the fact that we handled the crisis well.”

The prime minister also confirmed that as of February 9 restaurants, sporting events, hotels and cultural institutions would open to all, saying that the ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court had only speeded up a move that was already in the pipeline.

The announcement has eased the mounting tensions but among the many opponents of the restrictions imposed patience is running short and tempers are running high as they blame the government of ruining their livelihood, damaging their businesses and robbing their children of the chance to get a proper education.

The Fiala administration has promised to compensate business people for their losses, not across the board as the former cabinet had intended, but selectively in view of the state of public finances.

“We want to focus on supporting the hardest hit businesses, the small entrepreneurs without reserves. Compensation will go to Christmas market salespeople, restaurants, music clubs, hotels, travel agencies, and organizers of cultural events. The aid will be selective, with a minimum of red tape and easy to access.”

The government plans to help around eleven thousand business entities, for which the state will to release up to three billion crowns. Applications will be collected in February and the compensation will be paid in the course of March.