Government decides to re-introduce tougher coronavirus measures from Friday

Photo: ČTK / Vít Šimánek

The Czech government has decided to raise the country’s PES coronavirus emergency level up to four starting Friday. This means that restaurants, cafes and hotels will have to close again and the night curfew from 11pm to 5am will return. However, unlike previously, shops and some services will be allowed to remain open.

Photo: ČTK / Luboš Pavlíček

PES, roughly translated as the counter-epidemic system, is the government’s scale for the severity of the coronavirus epidemic in the country. It operates at five levels, which dictate the extent of economic and other measures that have to be taken to keep the epidemic manageable. Since November 30, it has been set at level three. However, for more than a week now, the actual PES score has been equivalent to level four.

For this reason, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš announced that the government will raise the PES level to four on Friday, introducing new restrictions.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: ČTK / Roman Vondrouš

“We realise that this is unpleasant news and apologize to those who were hoping to do business during the Christmas season. However, due to the rise in the severity of the pandemic this is not possible.”

This means that gastronomy businesses, such as restaurants and cafes, will have to close from Friday and so will hotels. However, it will be possible to order food via dispense windows and deliveries. Czechs will also be able to purchase carp, the traditional Christmas meal, at outdoor markets, provided that vendors keep to the current distancing measures.

The government has made some adjustments to the generic level four restrictions that will allow several businesses to operate during the Christmas season.

Shops will be allowed to remain open, even on Sundays, but under the condition that only one client for every 15 square meters of space is allowed in at a time and that social distancing of 2m is maintained within the store. The distancing rule does not apply to children under the age of 15, making it easier for families to shop together.

Photo: Lucie Hochmanová,  Czech Radio

Public gatherings will be allowed at a maximum of six people, with the exception of weddings, funerals and religious services, where up to 20 individuals will be able to congregate.

Those hoping to see their loved ones in pensioner homes or other social care institutions will continue to be able to do so under similar conditions as now. That means taking an antigenic coronavirus test ahead of the visit and wearing a respirator.

Photo: Lukáš Milota,  Czech Radio

Friday will also see swimming pools, wellness and fitness centres closed. With a ban on indoor sporting and a maximum cap of six individuals being allowed to sport outdoors. Group sports will be banned with the exception of professional sporting events.

Students will see their holidays prolonged by two days in order to ensure that they finish learning on Friday using level three of the PES system. Kindergartens and universities will operate next week, but under level four.

Photo: ČTK / Ondřej Deml

PES level four will also force museums, galeries, exhibits, zoos and monuments to close. Libraries will be able to serve only those customers who pre-order their books and pick them up via dispense windows.

The government is only allowed to impose such restrictions, because the country finds itself in a state of emergency that has to be approved by the Chamber of Deputies. The period for the current state of emergency runs out on December 23 and the government has already announced that it will ask the lower-house for an extension.