The Czech cabinet has lifted the ban on the free movement of people as of Friday, April 24, and decided that people can move outside in groups of up to ten members instead of current maximum two, Health Minister Adam Vojtěch (for ANO) told journalists at a surprising press conference this evening.
He added that current positive developments in the COVID-19 situation had enabled the government to lift the restrictions.
Traveling abroad will again be possible after the ban on the free movement of people is lifted as of Friday, Vojtěch confirmed, adding that those returning will have either to produce a negative test for coronavirus or immediately go into two-week quarantine.
This only applies to Czech citizens and residents who wish to leave the country; tourism into the country is still not permitted in accordance with the current state of emergency, though this is also likely to change in the coming days or weeks.
“The lifting of the ban also applies to travel across borders; upon return, travelers will either have to present confirmation of a negative test for coronavirus, or be forced to spend 14 days in quarantine,” Vojtěch said when asked how the regulations would apply to travelers.
“Commuters will be able to cross the borders every day if they present a negative test for coronavirus every 14 days,” he specified.
When asked by surprised journalists if he was genuinely confirming the reopening of the border, Vojtěch replied in the affirmative.
“According to the crisis measure, which will be in force from tomorrow, it is possible to travel abroad. Even on vacation.”
Vojtěch told journalists that the favorable development concerning COVID-19 cases made relaxing the restrictions possible.
The Health Minister stood alone while announcing the new measures, with Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who announced the earlier restrictions, conspicuously absent.
“As for the Prime Minister, you’ll have to ask him why he is not here,” Vojtěch said.
“He was present at the government teleconference and I can’t answer why he’s not here. But he instructed me to acquaint you with the conclusions, as they are primarily from my department.”
The Czech Republic has banned the free movement of people since March 16 with a few notable exceptions including going to and from work, necessary visits to family, buying essential items, and going to the doctor.
The measure was met with criticism since its inception, and a group of senators planned to challenge it within the Constitutional Court (US).
The cabinet decided to lift the free movement ban at its meeting today.
Earlier this evening, the Czech government announced that they were speeding up the reopening of shops and restaurants in the country, with all establishments set to open by May 25.
The Prague Municipal Court had previously annulled four anti-coronavirus measures established by the Czech Health Ministry relating to free movement and closure of retail shops this afternoon, giving the government until April 27 to re-implement them.
The Court’s decision likely played some role in both government announcements this evening.