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Public Gatherings of Over 100 People Banned Throughout the Czech Republic

From 6pm on March 10th, all theatre performances, film screenings, and sporting events of more than 100 people are banned due to the risk of spread of Covid-19, Prime Minister Andrej Babis announced after this morning’s meeting of the National Security Council. All elementary and high schools and universities will also be closed. Photo credit: Freepik / For illustrative purposes.

Brno, Mar 10 (BD) [UPDATE: 11:20 AM] – Prime Minister Andrej Babis said that the severity of the measures was the right decision, based on expert advice. According to Health Minister Adam Vojtech, speaking at a press conference: “It is better to act in advance than to deal with everything from a distance and often too late, as happened in Italy.” All measures announced apply indefinitely, subject to continuous evaluation by the government.

Primary, secondary and higher vocational schools will be closed from Wednesday, as will universities. However, kindergartens will remain open, as class sizes are relatively small. According to Vojtech, employed parents of young schoolchildren will be entitled to childcare support.

Tuition at higher education institutions may continue, as teaching can take place via video conferencing. This is left to individual universities to decide; however, Brno Technical University, Mendel University and the Brno Veterinary University have already announced that lectures will be suspended. 

The ban on public events applies to theatres, cinemas, museums, major sporting events, and other cultural events. Vojtech explained the reason for the decision: “The problem is when people concentrate in one place, such as balls, or dance, social, or sporting events. It is not such a problem where people are moving.” Some cinemas have reported that they are seeking guidance from the authorities as to whether they can remain open if the capacity is reduced to below 100. The government intends to let organizers decide whether sports events will take place behind closed doors.

According to Vojtech, it is not yet necessary to close restaurants or shopping centers, but he added advice about precautions that should be taken: “We recommend that people avoid personal contact, shaking hands, kissing, hugging. We have mapped that the disease is spreading like that.”

Deputy Minister of Health Roman Prymula told Czech Television on Monday that one of the most recently infected people was a Prague taxi driver with no clear source of infection. He added that the case was a turning point, as the infection now seems to be spreading in the community. He described the first confirmed case with no links to “red zone” areas as “the tip of the iceberg”, with other similar cases to follow. 

Visits to hospital wards and homes for the elderly have been banned in the Czech Republic since Monday, with the exception of children’s wards and hospices. Spot checks continue at ten border crossing points in the south and west of the country, where firefighters are measuring the temperature of drivers and passengers.

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