Daily news summary

State of emergency declared, border restrictions from Friday night

The Czech government has declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus epidemic. Following a five hour government session on Thursday, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš announced extensive measures to fight the spread of the virus.

A special regime will be introduced on the country’s borders with Austria and Germany from midnight on Friday. Under those restrictions people will only be able to enter or leave Czech territory via 11 border crossings.

Foreigners from high-risk countries will be banned from entering the country and Czech nationals will be prohibited from travelling to high-risk destinations.

Foreigners will not be able to enter the Czech Republic from Germany and Austria.

The Interior Ministry will stop issuing all visas until further notice.

Czechs abroad will be able to return to the Czech Republic. Those returning from high-risk countries will be automatically quarantined.

Pubs and restaurants will have to close by 8pm. Gyms, swimming pools and other sports facilities, clubs, galleries and libraries will be closed as well as eateries in shopping malls.

In addition the Czech police are now being deployed to check whether people who have been ordered into quarantine are staying indoors. Among the more than 1,200 people quarantined are two Czech senators who recently undertook a working trip to Italy.

Number of coronavirus cases crosses 100, two patients in serious condition

The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Czech Republic has now reached 117, with over 1,200 people quarantined. Cases have now been recorded in all regions of the country. Prague has the highest number, with 50 cases.

Two patients are in serious condition, one is on life support.

Foreign Ministry advises Czechs visiting US to return home

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has advised Czech nationals currently visiting the United States to consider returning home as soon as possible in view of the US administration’s decision to ban EU nationals from entering the country for a period of 30 days.

The decision was announced on Thursday morning CET in connection with the coronavirus pandemic. The ministry advised Czech nationals to check their flight bookings since some flights to Europe could be restricted or cancelled.

Chief hygiene officer dismissed

The government has dismissed the country’s chief hygiene officer, Eva Gottvaldová, for failing in her duties.According to Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček the vote on the decision was unanimous.

There had been speculation surrounding Gottvaldová's possible dismissal since the Chamber of Deputies approved an amendment to the law on public health protection which states that the post must go to a specialist in the field of hygiene.

Gottvaldová, who is a nutrition specialist, is to be temporarily replaced by Jarmila Rážová, head of the Central Bohemian Hygiene Office.

Smartwings and Czech Airlines benevolent in rebooking flights

The air carriers Smartwings and Czech Airlines have announced that people flying with them can re-book their flights without any sanctions. The decision pertains to any flights between March 13 and June 30.

Other airlines have adopted a similarly benevolent approach in view of widespread measures and restrictions in fighting the coronavirus.

In the past few weeks airlines have cancelled hundreds of flights in connection with the coronavirus health emergency.

Health unions say coronavirus epidemic will worsen personnel crisis in hospitals

Czech health unions have warned that a coronavirus epidemic will worsen the personnel crisis in many hospitals which were suffering from a lack of doctors and nurses even before the ongoing health emergency broke out.

Doctors and nurses unions have pointed to a lack or shortage of respirators in many facilities and say that quarantine measures as well as the closure of schools will result in a further cutback in staff. Hospitals say that ideally every patient entering a medical facility should be handed a facemask in order to protect staff and other patients.

The health minister said in response to the call that 200,000 respirators would be available on Friday and tens of thousands more every coming week.

Schools communicating with pupils online

Many primary and secondary schools have started communicating with pupils online, offering on-line lessons, testing and homework.

Education Minister Robert Plaga has welcomed the initiative in view of the fact that schools are expected to remain closed for at least a month within measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

One Prague school has launched a campaign in support of online classes and is sharing ideas and offering advice on how this can best be handled.

Experts say this health crisis will test the schools preparedness for IT communication in education.

E-shops no longer taking cash payments

In view of the spread of the coronavirus, Czech e-shops are no longer taking payments in cash, the ctk news agency reported. Couriers leave the deliveries outside people’s doors so as to avoid coming into direct contact with clients.

Kosik, Rohlik, and Tesco have all posted the announcement on their web pages. Rohlik says it is preparing a solution for older clients who are used to paying in cash.

Weather forecast

Friday should be partly cloudy with scattered showers and day temperatures between 6 and 10 degrees Celsius.