Shops prepare to reopen under strict hygiene conditions

Photo: Eva Turečková

Shops and shopping centres around the country are preparing to reopen on February 22 within an easing of the lockdown agreed on by the government and opposition. The vast majority of them have been closed since October, with a brief exception in the run up to Christmas and are scrambling to stock up and prepare to meet the stated safety norms. 

It has been a while since Czechs could shop for anything but basic products other than over the Internet, and despite the still grave epidemiological situation plans are taking shape for an easing of this particular restriction. Under pressure from the opposition and regional governors, the Cabinet has been forced to review which restrictions are working and which less so and one of the biggest demands has been to allow shops to reopen under strict hygiene conditions.

Although an official stamp of approval from the government is expected on Thursday, the prime minister, health minister and the government’s Council for Health Matters have nodded to the plan, indicating that it is serious.

Salespeople will be required to wear FFP2 respirators and will be expected to enforce the stated hygiene norms – safe distancing, only one customer per 15 square metres, hand sanitation and facemasks. Although customers can cover their nose and mouth with a regular facemask, Industry and Trade Minister Karek Havlíček says that particularly shopping malls should motivate customers to wear respirators as well – by making them widely available, and handing them out for free at the cash desk or even upon entry.

Fast foods will only be able to sell take-away and Wi-Fi will not be available, so as to discourage people from loitering on the premises.

Trade and Industry Minister Karel Havlíček said that in addition to easing livelihood concerns which have been plaguing retailers, he is hoping that the psychological effect of seeing a light at the end of the tunnel will make Czechs more disciplined in adhering to the recommended safety precautions. It will depend on shoppers themselves, whether this move will be sustainable, Havlíček told the media.

Government critics say the real motive behind the decision was that the Constitutional Court is due to rule on Monday on a complaint against the closure of shops and the government’s move was merely pre-emptive.