The Czech government has ordered the closure of all shops with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies, drugstores and petrol stations effective as of 6am March 14. This new measure to combat the spread of the coronavirus is scheduled to last until 06:00 on Tuesday, 24 March. The government has also closed restaurants and other food service establishments, with the exception of employee catering. Games and casinos will also be closed from 06:00 on Saturday.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen questioned the efectivity of the Czech Republic and some other EU countries closing their borders in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic.
Mrs von der Leyen said that such closures have a large societal and economic impact, interfering in public life and interstate trade. She pointed to the fact that the World Health Organisation does not view the closing of borders as an effective measure.
The European Commission head went on to say that steps taken by countries individually are not wise as they can lead to a domino effect.
Eva Pilarová, one of the biggest stars of old Czech pop music has died at the age of 80, her husband Jan Kolomazník told the Czech News Agency. No official fan tribute or goodbye ceremony will be organised due to the ongoing government measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, he went on to say.
Born in 1939, Mrs Pilarová won a total of four Golden Nightingale awards, most of them during the 1960s, when she was one of the dominant stars in Czech pop music. Her famous songs include Rquiem, Night and Day, and Oliver Twist. In 2009, she received the Medal of Merit from then President Václav Klaus for her accomplishments.
The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Czech Republic has now reached 189. Over 5,000 people have been quarantined. Cases have now been recorded in all regions of the country. The number of cases increased by 39 in the course of Saturday.
The Czech health sector is currently lacking up to 1 millon respirators, Health Minister Adam Vojtěch said in an interview on Czech Radio's Radiožurnál station on Saturday. The government has ordered more and 1.7 million will be delivered next week, according to Mr Vojtěch, but he later added that the delivery could be even higher.
Some 50,000 respirators were sent to key hospitals and ambulance stations during the night from Friday to Saturday.
The Czech government may transfer around CZK 4 billion from alocated EU operational programmes that are not seen as vital in order to help businesses impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 epidemic, Minister of Industry, Trade and Transport Karel Havlíček said on Saturday. These would be used in cooperation with commercial banks so as to increase the available funding to up to CZK 40 billion.
Negotiations with the European Commission are currently underway, he said.
Intrastate and public transport will continue to run in the Czech Republic, despite wide ranging measures in other aspects of Czech public life announced this week as part of the state emergency established with the aim of curbing the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said on Saturday that public transport is necessary in order to get people to work. While he said that it could be limited to some way in the future if the situation demanded it, Mr Babiš said that it will never be shut down completely.
The prime minister went on to say that the government will not be shutting off any parts of the country and that if the need for quarantining arises it will be countrywide.
Interior Minister Jan Hamáček said that the situation is developing dynamically and that this is why all of the preventative measures are being enacted in order to slow down the epidemic as much as possible.
The Czech Post announced on Saturday that it will offer to help the state by delivering food and other vital supplies to the public in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country. This as far as its capacity allows. As of now, post offices and deliveries continue to run as normal.
The company plans to outfit its offices and staff with necessary desinfectants. The current state of precautions has been described as "catastrophic" by Evžen Dvorský, the head of the postal service's trade union, with one office in Prague apparently even lacking soap and no floor cleaning taking place.