Schools to open in Czech Republic amid surge in coronavirus cases

Photo: ČTK/Luděk Peřina

Despite the recent surge in the number of new Covid-19 cases, the new school year is due to begin in the Czech Republic on the usual date, September 1. Schools around the country will be reopening on Tuesday after several months of distance learning following the first coronavirus outbreak in March.

Tuesday will be the first day of school for about 1.4 million children attending elementary and secondary schools around the Czech Republic. Schools will reopen for all pupils under standard operation.

However, special hygienic provisions will be in place to counter the spread of Covid-19, including increased hand sanitation and frequent airing of classrooms.

The wearing of face masks will be based on the national ‘traffic light’ system under which the coronavirus risk is assessed in different parts of the country.

Photo: ČTK/Luděk Peřina

School principals will have to make face masks mandatory when their respective district is highlighted orange, which means a state of alert.

In case of an outbreak of Covid-19 at a school, the principals will proceed on the basis of instructions from local hygiene officials, who will also rule on whether face masks should be worn.

The sole region which is now rated “orange” -or medium-risk -is Prague.

However, the director of Prague’s Hygienic Office, Zdeňka Jágrová, described the Czech capital as being on the border between green and orange and said there was no need yet for a blanket introduction of face masks in the city’s schools:

“The decision on face masks will be left to individual school principals based on local conditions. We feel there is no reason to introduce mandatory face masks at the moment since the infection rate among children is very low and it doesn’t affect the incidence of the disease in the population in any way.”

Prior to the start of school year, Parliament also approved an amendment to the Education Act introducing distance learning standards and making students’ participation in it a part of the existing compulsory school attendance law.

Robert Plaga,  photo: Michaela Danelová / Czech Radio

Education Minister Robert Plaga:

“Distance learning will only be introduced in case a majority of the class has to go into quarantine. Such situations are likely to happen throughout the school year.

“If the quarantine measures affect the entire teaching staff, the only solution is to close the whole school.”

Several schools in the Czech Republic, including a primary school in Prague’s district of Holešovice and a grammar school in Kladno were already forced to postpone the beginning of the school year, since all their teachers are in quarantine.

Coinciding with the start of the new school year, updated coronavirus measures will come into effect in the Czech Republic.

As of September 1, masks will be mandatory at healthcare and social service facilities, on public transport, at Václav Havel Airport as well as in public institutions and polling stations. Face masks will also be mandatory at indoor events attended by more than 100 people.