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Coronavirus Chronicles 2020: How The Czech Republic Fought COVID-19

Czech Republic

The situation in 2023: The Czech Republic has made significant progress in handling the pandemic. Out of a population of just over 10.7 million, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports more than 4.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases. However, the number of new infections has significantly decreased. This positive trend can be attributed to successful restriction measures and vaccination efforts.

As of today, all travel restrictions are lifted. You can come there without a vaccination certificate, PCR test, or quarantine time upon entry. All establishments are welcoming visitors, and the best part is, you don't have to wear a mask in public places.

The Czech Republic continues to shine as a top choice for relocation. Once again, this year has proven that the country excels in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. With effective measures and a resilient approach, Czechia stands out as one of the best countries for successfully managing the epidemic.

May 2020 proved to be a turning point as we witnessed a significant surge in interest in Czech vacancies and relocation requests. Curious to uncover what made the country's response to the virus stand out, we delved into the unique aspects that showcased it from a fresh perspective. In our article, we highlight the measures taken by the country and how they paved the way for a return to normal life. Most importantly, we explore what this signifies for those seeking a new place to call home.

March Curtain

The Czech Republic witnessed its first three confirmed cases of COVID-19 on March 1. Within just 11 days, the number of cases skyrocketed to over 100, prompting the authorities to declare a state of emergency. This led to the implementation of quarantine measures, officially termed a "ban on the free movement of citizens". This swift response demonstrated the government's commitment to taking decisive action to safeguard public health and control the spread of the virus.

On March 12, the country adopted a total ban on free movement, except for work travel, shopping for groceries, walking pets, and visiting family members or medical facilities. Wearing a medical mask/respirator and other protective equipment outside the home became mandatory.

Starting on March 16, entry into the Czech Republic was restricted to individuals without residency rights, whether permanent or temporary. Notably, the Czech Republic took the lead among Schengen countries by being the first to close its borders. To ensure compliance with quarantine measures, a hefty fine of 3 million CZK (approximately 110 thousand EUR) was imposed for violating mandatory quarantine upon returning from "high-risk countries".

March 27 marked a significant surge in COVID-19 cases, with a record increase of 375 cases. In response to this alarming development, the government took swift action by implementing stricter measures.

Beginning on April 1, residents were prohibited from gathering in groups of more than two people, emphasizing the need for social distancing. Furthermore, special store hours were introduced to protect the elderly, allowing only residents aged 65+ to visit groceries and household stores.

The emergency regime, initially intended to be in effect for 30 days, was extended until May 25.

April Thaw

One noteworthy aspect during this period was the high level of compliance among the country's residents. The citizens exhibited a strong sense of law-abiding behavior, also thanks to a fine of 20,000 CZK (equivalent to 740 EUR) for not wearing a mask. As a result of this collective effort and adherence to the guidelines, positive changes began to emerge within a week of the tightened quarantine measures. The situation began to show signs of improvement, indicating the effectiveness of the measures and the cooperation of the people in navigating through such challenging times.

On April 8, the Czech Ministry of Health stated that the worst was over. The number of new cases per day almost halved (195 vs. 375). Some stores in the country (previously only those selling necessities were working) opened, and people were also allowed to train outside without a mask/respirator.

Grooming salons were reopened on April 20, allowing pet owners to provide their beloved furry friends with quality care. It's interesting to note that Czechia holds the title of being the leading European country in terms of the number of dogs per capita. Astonishingly, statistics reveal that every fifth person has at least one dog as a part of their family. Adding a touch of humor, it's amusing to mention that people's barbershops were permitted to open three weeks later, emphasizing the importance and affection the Czechs have for their four-legged companions.

April 24 marked a significant milestone as the "ban on the free movement of citizens" (national quarantine) was officially lifted. From that day forward, Czech citizens were permitted to travel abroad. However, it's important to note that most countries were not yet ready to accept foreign visitors. For those who wished to travel during this time, the available choices were Sweden and the Republic of Belarus.

Upon returning to the Czech Republic, individuals had two options: either undergo a two-week quarantine or provide a certificate confirming that they were not infected.

Starting from April 27, groups of up to 10 people were permitted to gather together.

May Opportunities

Beginning on May 11, theaters and cinemas opened, high school students also resumed their classes, weddings and church services were permitted (provided they had fewer than 100 participants). Verandas and summer terraces of cafes and restaurants were allowed to open, giving people the chance to enjoy outdoor dining experiences.

Starting from May 18, the Czech Republic had plans to resume international flights to major European destinations such as Amsterdam, Frankfurt am Main, Paris, and Stockholm. Kyiv was scheduled to be added to the list on May 24, followed by Bucharest and Odesa on May 25.

Starting from May 25, the Czech Republic warmly welcomed the reopening of restaurants and cafes that invited people to sit inside and indulge in the beloved Prague tradition of enjoying a beer.

E-medicine feat. COVID

Czech solutions have taken the forefront with the integration of modern technology.

One key figure in driving the development and implementation of restrictive measures in the Czech Republic was Zdeněk Hřib, the mayor of Prague. With a background as a trained doctor, Hříb played a crucial role in the creation of the country's electronic prescription system, which successfully replaced paper equivalents. Drawing upon his expertise in electronic medicine, Hříb recognizes the immense potential of smart digital solutions in effectively combating the virus. Embracing these technologies is seen as a pivotal factor in achieving success in the battle against the pandemic.

On April 20, an innovative program called "Smart Quarantine" was implemented. Its first phase focuses on conducting extensive testing to assess the presence of collective immunity within the population. Approximately 27,000 individuals were invited to participate in voluntary testing for COVID-19 antibodies. The study was conducted in several cities, including Prague, Brno, Olomouc, Litovel, and Uničov.

As part of the testing process, participants were required to fill out a questionnaire that collected information such as recent travel history and whether they had been working since March 1. By analyzing the collected samples, the study aimed to determine the percentage of the population that had been previously infected and assess the presence of collective immunity against COVID-19 in the country.

Starting from May 11, the Czech Republic was set to enter the second stage of the "Smart Quarantine" program. It aimed to track not only individuals showing visible symptoms of illness but also asymptomatic individuals who had come into contact with the infected.

To facilitate this tracking process, the geolocation of citizens was monitored using various means, including cell phone data, bank card transactions, and the mobile application "eRouška".

Once installed, the app assigns a personal number to the smartphone and asks for permission to turn on Bluetooth. In public spaces, it "scans" nearby phones with the same app installed, recording information about close contacts. If someone using the app becomes infected, healthcare professionals can access the memory of their smartphone, retrieve a list of users they came into close contact with, and reach out to them.

And that wraps up our overview of the measures that have contributed to the Czech Republic's successful efforts in curbing the spread of the virus.

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