Daily news summary
Coronavirus: Czech govt outlines 5-stage plan to reopen businesses, schools
The Czech government on Wednesday presented its plan to gradually lift anti-coronavirus restrictions on some businesses and open educational facilities in five stages, from April 20 to June 8.
In the first phase, farmers’ markets, hardware stores and similar small businesses will be among the first allowed to reopen, with other types to follow suit from week to week.
The last phase concerns stores in shopping malls, as well as restaurants, cafés, wine bars, hotels and other accommodation establishments, theatres and castles.
Regarding schools, initially students in the final year of university should be able to access libraries in small groups and consult their teachers at their faculties.
By mid-May, secondary school students nearing graduation should be able to meet teachers to prepare for exams. Entrance exams to secondary schools and universities, and baccalaureate exams, should take place in early June.
As for primary schools, the number of students could be limited to 15 per class (with a return from May 25 only). For now, opening nursery schools has been left to the discretion of local authorities.
Association of Trade and Tourism says government’s reopening timetable “unreasonably slow”
The phased-out reopening of shops and services as planned by the government is "unreasonably slow" and the timetable was not consulted with those concerned, according to the President of the Czech Association of Trade and Tourism Tomáš Prouza.
Prouza said that the Czech government’s approach was “strange” when compared to the steps taken by neighbour states. The association is to release a more detailed stand on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Association of shopping malls has also protested against the time plan, saying the government was discriminating shopping centres which could easily meet the strict hygiene norms required.
The government on Tuesday unveiled a timetable for easing the coronavirus restrictions in the coming weeks. The gradual reopening of shops and services will take place in five stages between April 20 and June 8.
Farmers markets, craftsmen and used car sales will be able to open as of April 20th under strict hygiene conditions.
Shops of up to 1,000 square metres, driving schools and gyms can reopen as of May 12; restaurants and cafes serving in outdoor gardens, museums, galleries and hairdressers as of May 25.
The reopening of large shopping centres and indoor cafes and restaurants has been left till last, as of June 8.
The plan moreover depends of the course of the epidemic and may be frozen or reviewed depending on circumstances.
EC approves up to CZK 1 bn in support for Czech SMEs making medical, protective gear
The European Commission has approved support for Czech SMEs producing medical and protective equipment used to combat the spread of coronavirus. The total amount of aid can reach up to CZK 1 billion.
The Czech Republic will allocate CZK 300 million to companies in the first phase of the program. Support under a Ministry of Industry and Trade program should finance up to half of the production costs in direct grants to SMEs.
The EC has relaxed state aid rules under a series of coronavirus measures in mid-March to help finance the health sector and companies most affected by the crisis.
Since then, states can help the private sector financially in ways not normally allowed. Brussels has already approved over 60 applications received from most EU Member States.
Coronavirus: Czech cases projected to rise to 10,000 by end-April
The number of coronavirus cases in the Czech Republic will likely rise to 10,000 by the end of April, according to a cumulative model developed by the Institute of Health Information and Statistics (ÚZIS).
As of Wednesday morning, the number of confirmed cases stood at 6,151, according to the Ministry of Health. The ÚZIS projection, which is revised regularly, takes into account estimates of previously undiscovered cases.
To date, 163 deaths from Covid-19 have been reported, while 676 people have recovered from the disease.
EC lifts ban on subsidies to Agrofert, Czechs withdraw ECJ complaint
The Czech government will withdraw a complaint lodged with the European Court of Justice over subsidies for Agrofert, a conglomerate founded by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš central to an EU investigation into his possible conflict of interest.
A Ministry of Agriculture spokesman said the February complaint is moot since the European Commission annulled its decision to suspend payments to Agrofert. However, the EC has made a new related decision, so the ministry will likely suggest the cabinet file a new suit in response.
Rare Czech-bred black rhino dies in Rwanda national park
One of five rare eastern black rhinos that the Dvůr Králové Zoo sent to Rwanda last summer has died. The rhino, a male named Manny born in 2011, may have had a digestive tract disorder, said the zoo’s head of international projects.
The five rhinos were relocated to in Akagera National Park in eastern Rwanda as part of an international effort to restore the critically endangered subspecies. The local population was wiped out during a civil war in the 1990s.
Dvůr Králové Zoo is also spearheading an international effort to save the Northern White Rhino, which is on the brink of extinction.
Prague starts work on lower part of Wenceslas Square
Prague city representatives and contractors laid a ceremonial foundation stone at the lower part of Wenceslas Square on Wednesday, as part of a CZK 330 million reconstruction due for completion by December 2021.
Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib (Pirates) says the project aims to expand the pedestrian space and install more greenery and benches. On Thursday, the lower part of Wenceslas Square will be fenced off, with work set to fully begin on April 20.
Thursday should be cloudy and fairly cool, with daytime highs ranging from 13 to 19 degrees Celsius.