Prague, April 1 (CTK) – The Czech cabinet wants to extend the national state of emergency over coronavirus by another 30 days until May 11, it agreed at a meeting today, Health Minister Adam Vojtech (for ANO) told media, adding that the Chamber of Deputies is to decide on the proposed prolongation next week.
The Chamber’s extraordinary session will take place on Tuesday, April 7, to vote on the prolongation of the state of emergency, which would otherwise end halfway through Easter, its chairman Radek Vondracek (ANO) has told CTK.
Another special session will follow to discuss government-proposed anti-crisis bills, he said.
Some parties in parliament previously voiced reservations about so large a prolongation.
The state of emergency has been in force in Czechia since March 12, 14:00 due to the coronavirus epidemic.
Reservations about the emergency’s prolongation were voiced by the senior opposition Civic Democrats (ODS), who said such a measure should not last more than a fortnight.
The opposition Pirates said they would support the government’s plan if the government first informed the public on when and on what conditions the current restrictions, such as the restriction of the free movement, the closure of schools, restaurants, most shops and other facilities, would be softened or lifted.
At its meeting today, the government added home appliances stores to the list of the shops that are exempted from the duty of closure. These shops are newly exempted on condition they sell medical protective means.
Another new exemption are the sales of foods in groceries which also offer clothes but can keep the clothes department closed.
Vojtech said the epidemiological situation in Czechia and abroad requires that the state of emergency be prolonged.
The prolongation is also necessary for the state to ensure enough medical protective equipment, he said.
Vojtech said he considers the 30-day extension adequate. If a series of smaller extensions were sought, the government would have to seek the Chamber of Deputies’ consent repeatedly.
There are many reasons for the emergency to be prolonged, he continued.
“We cannot be sure that we have coped with the epidemic already, though some positive signals do exist. There are still about two weeks ahead of us that will decide on the epidemic’s development,” he said, and mentioned some Asian countries where the epidemic started returning after a decline.
Vojtech said he considers the prolongation of the state of emergency important also in connection with the currently restricted free movement of people. “It would be rather inappropriate to restrict people’s movement without having the regime of emergency,” he said.
The proposal for the emergency’s extension was submitted by the Central Crisis Staff (UKS).
After the UKS meeting earlier today, its chairman and Deputy PM Jan Hamacek (Social Democrats, CSSD) said the state of emergency is a regime that is suitable for tackling epidemics.
If it is prolonged, it would have no influence on the possible softening of the current restrictive measures in case the epidemiological situation developed favourably, Hamacek asserted.