Government suspends VAT in bid to encourage use of respirators

Photo: ČTK/AP/Ronald Zak

In a bid to encourage Czechs to wear respirators, which are safer than other types of facemasks, the government is temporarily suspending VAT on such products. However, it has not followed the lead of some neighbouring states by making respirators compulsory in designated places.

Last spring the Czech Republic was a pioneer among European sates when it came to employing facemasks to combat Covid-19. Covering one’s face on public transport and elsewhere was compulsory and homemade masks helped fill a massive shortage.

Almost a year on the government is now trying to encourage the public to use respirators – considerably safer than cloth masks – to combat the virus, which is now appearing in more dangerous variants.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting, the minister of health, Jan Blatný, outlined where respirators can play an important role.

“Ideally during any kind of contact with other people, particularly during risky situations, such as on public transport or in shops.”

In specific terms, the government is waiving VAT on respirators of FFP2 or higher quality for a period set to run from Wednesday until at least the start of April.

Alena Schillerová,  photo: ČTK/Vít Šimánek

However, while the cabinet can drop VAT on respirators, it is unable to force retailers to pass on this price advantage to customers at pharmacies and other outlets. This has led the minister of finance, Alena Schillerová, to make the following call.

“I appeal to all producers, and in particular retailers, not to keep the advantage stemming from the dropping of value-added tax in their own profit margins, but to project it into the price for consumers.”

Minister Schillerová said the government had been unwilling to place a price ceiling on respirators, saying this could lead to such masks being exported from the country and imports drying up. Any kind of fixed price would also breach competition rules, she said.

A number of producers contacted by Czech Television said that they were planning to pass the 21-percent VAT cut on to customers.

Meanwhile, the Czech government is at present only recommending that citizens wear respirators.

Though the idea was considered, they have not for now followed the lead of states such as Germany and Austria by making them compulsory on public transport and in stores and some other places.

One exception is in connection with driving lessons, where all involved must don them.

Another exception is for people entering the Czech Republic from a newly created category of “very high risk” countries, including the UK and Spain, that comes into effect on Friday.

Incomers from such states will need to wear a respirator for at least the first 10 days of their stay on Czech territory.

They will also be required to undergo a PCR test before arriving and then spend at least five days in isolation before confirming they are Covid-free with a second test.