Yesterday, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš tweeted at Donald Trump, urging the US President to make face masks obligatory across the USA, which has now become an epicenter for the spread of coronavirus. As of this morning, there were nearly 150,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus across the states, and 2,500 deaths.
The Czech Republic, meanwhile, introduced strict quarantine measures nearly two weeks ago, including the obligation to wear a face mask in public spaces that now comes with a threat of a 20,000 crown fine.
According to many, these swift measures have successfully curbed the spread of coronavirus in the Czech Republic, which has skyrocketed in numbers across neighbors such as Germany and Austria.
Trump has yet to respond to Babiš, but the measures taken by the Czech PM’s government seem to have some fans in Washington.
“I have heard suggestions that widespread usage of masks in the West will be culturally impossible. The story of the Czech Republic debunks this notion,” writes Jeremy Howard for the Washington Post.
“The most important message shared in the Czech Republic has been this: ‘My mask protects you; your mask protects me.’ Wearing a mask there is now considered a prosocial behavior. Going outside without one is frowned on as an antisocial action that puts your community at risk. In fact, the community reaction has been so strong that the government has responded by making it illegal to go out in public without a mask.”
Babiš shared this video by Petr Ludwig in his tweet to Trump, and told the filmmakers he had sent it to most prime ministers and presidents in Europe:
As Howard notes, the obligation to wear a mask has come from the government, but has been widely and quickly adopted by its citizens – despite the fact that the country doesn’t have enough face masks to provide its people.
Instead, grassroots campaigns have brought volunteers sewing masks together with the people who need them through social media. Online instructional videos have taught others how to make their own masks at home.
While the measures taken by the Czech government have been strict and unprecedented – as they would be in any Western country – they have been largely approved by its citizens. A whopping 91% of residents expressed approval of the government actions in a recent poll, and widespread adoption of requirements such as wearing a face mask in public took place almost overnight with little pushback.
“Social media influencers campaigning to encourage DIY mask creation catalyzed an extraordinary mobilization by nearly the whole population. Within three days, there were enough masks for everyone in the country, and most people were wearing them. This was an entirely grass-roots community effort,” writes Howard.
“When social distancing requirements forced a small bar in Prague to close, its owner, Štefan Olejár, converted Bar Behind the Curtain into a mask manufacturing facility. He procured sewing machines from the community and makes about 400 cotton masks per day. The bar employs 10 people, including a driver who distributes the masks directly to people who are not able to leave their homes.”
While it may still be too early to tell how large the impact of the measures taken by the Czech Republic have had on the spread of coronavirus in the country, early signs are especially encouraging.
While the overall number of cases has gone up, the ratio of positive results to tests performed continues to drop, suggesting that the anti-coronavirus measures implemented by the Czech government two weeks ago and quickly adopted by its residents is successfully curbing the spread of the virus in the country.