“Like waking up into a sci-fi movie” - Moravian districts quarantined from the world thanks to coronavirus

Photo: ČTK/Luděk Peřina

Due to being one of the epicentres of the coronavirus outbreak in the Czech Republic, 21 districts in the Moravian region around Olomouc have been closed off to the outside world for at least two weeks. Many only found out about it when confronted by police checkpoints on their way to work. However, those who spoke to Czech Radio say the locals are handling the situation well.

Photo: ČTK/Luděk Peřina
While most COVID-19 infections have been recorded in Prague, there is one epicentre in the east of the country that has been registering a lot of cases in a relatively small area. These are the Moravian towns of Litovel, Uničov and their surrounding districts.

Here, 25 of the 32 cases in the entire Olomouc region (the second most affected region after Prague) were registered as of Sunday. As a result, hygienists decided to fully quarantine the area from Monday morning onwards. The local mayor of Litovel, Viktor Kohout, told Czech Radio that it was a big shock.

“I would compare it to waking up into a sci-fi movie…All the phones suddenly started ringing while our crisis team was meeting and we were discussing the impacts of the measures and related matters.

“The first ones who approached us with serious problems were companies, because their employees who do not live in Litovel could not get into the town and had no way of reaching work. That led to the paralysis of businesses that we have here.”

There were no directions from above on how to deal with the situation. Some companies had to close immediately, but the majority remain in operation.

Goods can still be brought into the town, but only when those carrying out the delivery are fitted out with special protective gear and the transfer takes place under strict hygienic rules. Due to the sudden delay, bread and pastry had disappeared from the towns shops by Monday afternoon.

The sudden, unexpected nature of the news, which local authorities apparently only received at around 2:50am, meant that many of those in professions that require early working hours were on their way out of town when they suddenly came across police checkpoints.

One of them was a Litovel resident named Pavel, who was stopped in his car as he headed to work on Monday and sent back.

He told Czech Radio’s Lenka Kabrhelová that residents have been handling the situation well, keeping the required distances, covering their faces and so on. For now, he has to use a scarf, as facemasks are unavailable except to those who purchased them privately ahead of the crisis.

Photo: ČTK/Luděk Peřina
“Those who don’t have a facemask, like me, walk with scarves over their mouth, or bury their mouth in high collars. Local officials have said that facemasks are unfortunately not available right now. Priority needs to be given to medical staff, police and those in vital services.

“However, they should be available eventually. The municipal authorities say they will let us know on their website and Facebook page.”

Litovel Mayor Viktor Kohout says that the regional governor has promised to deliver masks.

“We will see how it ends up. He said some masks should be delivered today, but nothing has arrived yet. We do not even know how many there will be.

“In any case, we would like to give these not only to workers in key sectors, but to all who come into contact with food, for example to shop assistants. That is important, because they have to deal with quite an onslaught right now, as do the police and firefighters.”

The one positive message from the regional governor is that no new cases have been registered, the mayor said.