The Czech government has approved a ban on going out anywhere in public while not wearing a surgical mask or covering one’s nose and mouth with a scarf, the news site iRozhlas.cz reported, citing the minister of foreign affairs, Tomáš Petříček. The measure is due to come into effect from midnight on Wednesday.
The minister of health, Adam Vojtěch, confirmed the move on Twitter, writing that all citizens had to protect themselves and their surroundings.
A number of Czech regions, including Prague, had already brought in compulsory mouth and nose covering on public transport and in other places.
Many Czechs have been producing homemade masks due to a shortage in shops. The government says that they should become available to the public following a large shipment next weekend.
The government has also ordered that all shops only serve customers aged 65 and over between 10 am and noon. That provision comes into effect on Thursday.
As of Wednesday at 2 pm there were 464 registered cases of Covid-19 in the Czech Republic. Three people are in a serious condition and three have recovered.
A Czech Army plane carrying 150,000 rapid test kits for the new coronavirus arrived at Prague’s Kbely airfield in the early hours of Wednesday. Some of the test kits are intended for residents of places that have been cut off due to a high incidence of Covid-19, the minister of health, Adam Vojtěch, said. Others will be supplied to large hospitals or will be used to screen police officers, soldiers and fire fighters.
The Czech authorities are expecting deliveries of further medical supplies from China in the coming days, primarily respirators, surgical masks and protective clothing.
The minister of the interior, Jan Hamáček, says 30 million face masks should be delivered on Sunday. These will also be available to the public.
The Czech government could support Czech businesses hit by the effects of the coronavirus crisis to the tune of up to CZK 1 trillion, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said on Wednesday. Speaking after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Babiš told journalists that figure could include CZK 100 billion in direct aid and CZK 900 in guarantees.
The minister of industry and trade, Karel Havlíček, said the government was conducting analyses and that the planned direct aid could go toward compensation for wage payments, remission of levies, financial injections and short-time working.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Finance expects to raise the projected state budget deficit for this year, Minister Alena Schillerová said. A deficit of CZK 40 billion had been envisaged but that will now increase by tens of billions, the Czech News Agency reported.
Hundreds of Czech citizens who are currently abroad have sought help from the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic missions as they attempt to get home, the Czech News Agency reported. On Tuesday ministry officials said they were discussing cooperation on returning citizens with other European Union states.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is organising buses to help Czechs stuck in Europe due to coronavirus measures to get back. However, it recommends they first try to return via commercial channels.
A ministry representative said around 300 Czechs in South America were seeking help. Around 200 in Morocco and 100 in the US have also been in contact. There are also some cases in the Philippines and Vietnam. Meanwhile two planes flew especially to the Canary Islands to pick up stranded Czechs.
Scientists in Brno have developed a diagnostic kit for the new coronavirus, Czech Television reported on Wednesday. The firm Elisabeth Pharmacon is the first official Czech medical supplies manufacturer to produce such a test. It says it is now ready to deliver the kits to laboratories in the Czech Republic.
The head of the Central Crisis Staff, Roman Prymula, says the National Institute of Public Health will test out the new kits. As soon as they get the green light, they can be produced and used.
Long lines of trucks have been forming on the open border crossings with Poland and Slovakia since the two countries introduced strict border controls in connection with the coronavirus pandemic at the start of this week.
The lines on the Nachod- Kudowa Slone crossing with Poland – the only crossing which the Polish authorities have left open -are reported to be 25 to 30 km long, with no rest and hygiene facilities for truck drivers on the way in the form of refreshment stalls or toilets.
Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček said at Tuesday’s press briefing that he was aware of the problem and would talk to his Polish counterpart about possible ways of alleviating it.
The head of the Czech League Football Association, Dušan Svoboda, says he welcomes the decision to postpone the next European Football Championship. Mr. Svoboda said the move meant more maneuvering space to conclude the current domestic league season, which has been suspended. He said it was a signal that the competition could be concluded on the pitch, not around a table.
Football’s governing body in Europe, UEFA, has delayed the competition, which had been due to take place this summer in several European countries, until 2021.
Thursday is expected be overcast in the Czech Republic, with temperatures of up to 15 degrees Celsius. Daytime highs should fall considerably at the weekend, when several days of clear skies should begin.