People wearing face masks on Prague's Charles Bridge during the coronavirus pandemic via iStock / Madeleine_Steinbach

Czech government to debate easing face mask requirement to indoors spaces only today

The requirement to wear face masks in public could be made mandatory indoors only during a government meeting today

Prague, May 10 (CTK) – The requirement to wear face masks in public could be made mandatory indoors only, and only recommended outdoors; the Czech government will debate a possible earlier easing of this duty on Monday, PM Andrej Babiš (ANO) and Deputy PM Jan Hamáček (Social Democrats, CSSD) discussed during a debate on Prima TV.

Health Minister Adam Vojtěch (for ANO) would push for the experts’ recommendation that face masks remain obligatory even outdoors until June 15 at the government meeting, epidemiologist Rastislav Maďar said.

However, Babiš is of the view that face mask rules can be relaxed earlier in the case of favorable development in terms of the number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases.

“It must be debated what to do with face masks, whether they should not be worn indoors only […] we will discuss this in the government on Monday,” Babiš said, adding that the impact of easing this measure on the rate of coronavirus incidence would be naturally monitored.

Hamáček said the schedule of easing the government restrictions has allowed for some phases to be sped up, and the government had done so a few times already.

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“Consequently, face masks might be obligatory only in closed areas, such as shops, cinemas, public transport, while the government would let it up to inhabitants to wear them outdoors or not, Hamáček stated.

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However, Maďar does not share this view. He stated that washing hands, social distancing, and the wearing of face masks were the basic three measures to curb the epidemic during the lifting of restrictions in the TV debate.

Monday’s government debate about whether it is time to lift the requirement to wear face masks outdoors would only be political, Maďar noted.

Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček (ČSSD) supports the epidemiologists’ stance. However, common sense must be used, he added.

Deputy Health Minister Roman Prymula said the softening of the face mask duty must be logical and must rationally take into account the impact lifting previous restrictions has had on the COVID-19 epidemic development.

Vojtěch said the approximate date of June 15 is based on a recommendation of the epidemiological working team.

The duty to wear a face mask or other nose and mouth covering is one of the extraordinary measures the Health Ministry has taken based on the public health protection law, which will remain in effect after the national state of emergency ends on May 17.

Vojtěch said the measure has proven to be an effective prevention against the coronavirus spread.

The duty to wear a face mask or other covering in public was introduced on March 19. The groups exempted from the requirement include children in nurseries, public transport drivers in separated cabins, family members inside a car, autistic people, children under two, and performing artists under certain conditions.

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