Petr Dubinsky

Czechia Mandates Face Masks Indoors Again

In a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19 this fall, Czechs will be required to wear face masks in indoor public spaces such as shops, post offices, public transport, and schools.

The measure is intended to prevent the spread of a new type of coronavirus after the beginning of the school year, which brings more frequent contacts between people and travel, Health Minister Adam Vojtěch announced today. From next week, the rules for quarantine and isolation will change. The government has approved the introduction of distance education in the Education Act and voting methods in elections for quarantined people. The number of cases of COVID-19 in the Czech Republic exceeded 20,000.

Vojtech said that face masks would have to be worn by people on all means of public transport, including long-distance connections. “Also in indoor spaces such as shops, malls, and post offices and at indoor mass events, regardless of the number of participants,” he said. Schoolchildren will have to wear face masks in the common areas of the school. “These are corridors and the like, not within individual classes,” the minister added.

The measure will not apply to offices or establishments with employees, nor does it apply to restaurants. “We want to put it where it makes the most sense,” Vojtech said. According to him, it should apply to places where different groups of people meet, not repeatedly similar to, for example, at work. “We take face masks as one of the three main preventive measures besides disinfection and social distancing,” he said.

According to Vojtěch, the Ministry of Health will issue a measure mandating face masks Wednesday and will include exceptions. As in the spring, they should apply to people with mental illness or small children. People can be fined up to CZK 10,000 for violating government measures against the spread of COVID-19. From May, police and police officers can punish offenses on the spot.

Some opposition politicians have criticized the widespread introduction of face masks. They pointed out, among other things, that wearing face masks was supposed to replace the so-called clever quarantine to search for people with whom COVID-19 infected them in contact.

“The government is once again coming up with weaving face masks. It’s probably the only solution it knows,” Pirates chief Ivan Bartoš said on Twitter. The wearing of face masks in the spring was ordered by the government from 19 March, due to their lack, the Czechs sewed them on their own. Outside, the obligation fell on the observance of spacings from 25 May, indoors, and public transport ended on 1 July for most residents.

Czechs are already preparing for a change. From mid-July to mid-August, domestic manufacturers sold more than a million nanofiber drapes, respirators and other protective equipment, which is up to 360 percent more month-on-month. Producers should be able to cope with the increased demand. For example, Batist Medical from Červený Kostelec in the Náchod region will double the production to about ten million pieces per month from September.

Restrictions on the participation of people in public events per 1,000 will continue to apply, Vojtěch also said after the Government Council for Health Risks meeting. “But sectors can be divided into 1,000 people, which is a basic principle that we hold,” he said. The inside events include 500 people and a maximum of five sectors, he added. In theaters and other auditoriums with permanent seats, it will not be necessary to leave every second seat vacant from September, the minister added. But viewers will have to wear face masks.

From Monday, 24 August, the rules for quarantine and isolation, will change. Both measures will be reduced from two weeks to ten days. No test will be needed to end quarantine or isolation, except for health and social workers and people with impaired immunity. Infections will be isolated for ten days from the last positive test if they have symptoms. Contacts of infected persons who have not developed the virus will be quarantined for ten days since contact with an infected person.

An amendment to the Education Act, approved by the government today, responds to the spring closure of schools due to Covid-19. It introduces the obligation for children to participate in distance learning as part of compulsory school attendance. The amendment does not stipulate the form of distance learning. The school has to adapt it to the conditions of the pupil. At the same time, the Cabinet agreed that primary schools would receive CZK 1.2 billion by mid-October to purchase computers and licenses for distance learning.

On Tuesday, Education Minister Robert Plaga will present a manual for schools to protect against coronavirus in the new school year. Today, the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Jana Maláčová wanted to negotiate with government colleagues about the length of the nursing allowance for parents of pupils who will be quarantined due to coronavirus, but failed to open the debate “in the coalition window.”

The government also approved a law today to allow quarantined people to vote by car or in the special district and exit commissions in the October senate and regional elections. The Chamber of Deputies will discuss the norm on Wednesday, 19 August, said Interior Minister Jan Hamáček (CSSD).

According to the traffic light published today by the Ministry of Health, Prague and Frýdek-Místek remain in the green first degree of the risk of spreading the virus. In other regions, the risk is zero or negligible.