Illustrative image via iStock photo (Panuwat Sikham)

BREAKING: Czech Republic declares state of emergency over coronavirus

Government officials have just announced further measures for containing the coronavirus at a press conference in Prague

This article was updated on March 12, 14:20 to reflect the latest information.

The Czech government declared a 30-day state of emergency over coronavirus across the country as of 14:00 today, citing a threat to the health of population, PM Andrej Babis (ANO) said after the cabinet’s extraordinary meeting today.

The state of emergency is a crisis measure the state adopts in serious situations that considerably endanger people’s lives, health or property, or the country’s internal order and security

It has also issued additional restrictions on social gatherings and other types of public activity.

Announced by PM Babis at a press conference this afternoon, the new measures require pubs, restaurants, and other food-service establishments to close from 8pm to 6am, effective Friday.

From Friday 6:00 am onwards, the public is banned from sport areas, wellness centers, swimming pools, galleries, and libraries.

As of 06:00 Friday, events with over 30 participants are banned, which applies to cultural, sports, religious events, festivals, pilgrimages, pageants, markets and other events, Babis said.

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The ban does not apply to the meetings of constitutional bodies, public administration bodies and courts, and to funerals.

Up until now, a similar restriction has applied to events with attendance of over a hundred people. That decision was announced on Tuesday, following a meeting of the Security Council.  The decision to suspend teaching at elementary and secondary schools as well as universities was also made during the same council meeting.

The State has also banned foreigners from 13 high-risk countries from entering the country, including neighbouring Germany and Austria, while Czechs are banned from visiting these countries, except for rescuers and drivers of delivery services.

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Those countries include China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, Spain, Austria , Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Holland, Belgium, Great Britain, Denmark, and France.

People will be allowed to cross the Czech borders with Germany and Austria only at selected crossings as of Friday midnight, with border checks being reintroduced, Interior Minister Jan Hamacek (Social Democrats, CSSD) said.

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The government has also stopped the issuance of Czech visas and acceptance of visa applications. No permits for Czech stay over 90 days will be issued, he said.

There are currently now 96 people confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the Czech Republic, from 1,816 tested. Forty-eight of which are in Prague.

The virus has gradually hit all 14 Czech regions, most cases being registered in Prague.

An emergency state was previously declared in the Czech Republic during the floods of 2002, 2006, 2013, and as well as during a 2007 windstorm. The state of emergency can last up to 30 days and even longer with the Chamber of Deputies’ consent.

Hamacek said the state of emergency will enable the government to react more flexibly to the situation around coronavirus.

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