Traditional New Year celebrations in Czechia muted by Covid

For the second time now, most Czechs will be seeing the New Year in quietly in the company of family and friends. New restrictions, in force over the next five days, have been imposed to prevent boisterous celebrations which could trigger an explosion of the more contagious Omicron variant in the New Year.  

No fireworks displays, no video mapping and no boisterous parties to welcome the arrival of 2022; although Covid numbers in the Czech Republic have been dropping steadily for over a month the threat of Omicron, which is now rampant in many European states, looms large and the government has imposed strict measures between December 29 and January 2 to try to prevent an explosion of infections that would overburden the Czech health system at the start of the year.

Illustrative photo: cottonbro,  Pexels

A maximum of 50 people are allowed at indoor events, parties and New Year celebrations. Only people with completed primary vaccination or those who have undergone Covid in the last 6 months can gain entry to restaurants, dance clubs and casinos with a maximum of four people at one table, unless they are from the same household. In the event of longer tables that can accommodate ten or more guests, they must still be placed in groups of four at least 1.5 metres apart. These institutions themselves are responsible for checking people’s QR codes before they order.

Concerts, cinemas and theatres can welcome visitors, albeit under strict hygiene conditions. Cultural events at which people are sitting are limited to 1,000 people, but events where people mingle must not exceed 100 participants. All participants must have primary vaccination or proof of having undergone Covid in the past 6 months. Negative tests can no longer serve as a pass to public events or restaurants.

Illustrative photo: Davey Gravy,  Unsplash

The rule that bars and restaurants must close by 10 pm no longer applies, nor does the ban on drinking in public places. However, restaurant owners say the tightened rules have thrown a damper on people’s mood and many are cancelling their reservations for the big night. While popular pubs like U Fleku say they will be full, others say the four-people-at-a-table rule will leave them half-empty as will the rule that negative Covid tests no longer suffice as a pass. Some have decided to close at 10pm, others will stay open past midnight but unlike other years they are not preparing special programs.

Photo: Dalibor Glück,  ČTK

Companies have scrapped the traditional end-of-year parties and many Czechs have opted to escape the city-blues by heading for one of the country’s winter resorts where they hope to experience a greater semblance of normality on the ski slopes. The Covid restrictions there are equally strict but ski resorts say they have no lack of clients, despite the fact that day temperatures are expected to reach 14 degrees Celsius on the last day of the year.