All people will need to wear a protective face covering when outside their residences, in both interior and exterior public spaces, effective midnight March 18. This was decided at an extraordinary government meeting and applies nationwide. The measure is meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
This means that people will need a face mask or similar covering on the street and in parks, as well as in shops, government offices, and other public places.
The government also reserved the hours between 10 am and noon for people over 65 years of age to shop in stores. The age group is most susceptible to health risks from the virus. Setting aside a special time makes it less likely that the elderly will come in contact with younger people who have been in contact with large groups at work and other places.
There is an acute shortage of hospital masks and respirators. Home made masks, scarfs, bandanas, or any other mask that covers the nose and mouth will satisfy the requirement. Cotton is recommended. T-shirts, for example, can be cut and folded into a mask.
This follows quickly after Prague City Hall announced that face coverings would be required in all indoor spaces such as shops and offices, and set a fine of up to 20,000 CZK for violations. That fine remains in effect in Prague. The Czech government did not specify a fine for violating the new national requirement.
Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Jan Hamáček (ČSSD) previously said that people would be obliged to wear face masks as soon as large shipments arrived and were distributed.
A large Ukrainian An-124 Ruslan aircraft with 30 million face masks, 6 million respirators, and 250,000 pieces of protective gear from China is expected March 22. The government is also expecting 10 million face masks from Vietnam, with the first 1 million arriving March 23. Hamáček added that 2.5 million respirators should be delivered to the Czech Republic by March 20.
Czech-based airlines Smartwings and Czech Airlines have also signed contracts to transport protective gear and all the permits have been processed, according to Health Minister Adam Vojtěch (for ANO) and Interior Minister Hamáček.
Musíme bez výjimky chránit sebe a své okolí! Vláda právě schválila povinnost mít od dnešní půlnoci na veřejných místech zakrytá ústa a nos. Zvládneme to!
— Adam Vojtěch (@adamvojtechano) March 18, 2020
“Without exception, we must protect ourselves and our surroundings! The government has just approved the duty to have the mouth and nose covered at public places as of midnight,” Vojtěch said over Twitter.
Prague is also acquiring respirators, masks and protective outfits from China and has already received 150,000 rapid coronavirus testers from Shenzhen.