Coronavirus border closures could see Czechs locked in their country for years: health official

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Traveling abroad from the Czech Republic may not be possible for another year or even two years as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, Deputy Health Minister and Central Crisis Staff head Roman Prymula said.

The comments appear to be the longest any country has even considered closing its borders since the coronavirus spread worldwide.

According to Prymula, restrictions on Czech travel will greatly depend on how other countries cope with the pandemic.

The warning from the deputy health minister means that Czechs will now probably spend their summer holidays in their homeland.

Roman Prymula, an epidemiologist and head of the Czech Central Crisis Staff, said earlier that he believes that the situation in other European countries presents a poor outlook.

He added that the Czech Republic must prevent the possible return of further waves of coronavirus infection from abroad and could keep the borders closed for the next months to half a year. Later, he changed this assumption to years.

The deputy health minister’s proposal to potentially shut the borders for such an extended period of time highlights an issue facing all countries. Even for those nations that have been successful in reducing infections, the threat of the coronavirus could arise again once borders are reopened from other nations where infections are still rampant.

New bans being discussed at Czech border

Prymula considers it a success that the Czech Republic managed to initially reduce a very sharp increase in coronavirus cases. He hopes that the number of infected will not exceed 10,000 and adds that the Czech health system can contain 15,000 cases of coronavirus infection.

If there are fewer than 8,500 infected in the Czech Republic at the end of March, in the following days, the country will start loosening the current isolation measures in place, including opening closed shops and bars and easing restrictions on the free movement of people.

On Monday, the Czech government is to discuss the extension these measures until April 1. Initially, the restrictions were to apply only until tomorrow, March 24.

The government will also again discuss the situation at the Czech borders, including the ban on allowing citizens to cross. The exception to the ban on leaving the country is truck drivers, which the government plans to preserve.

As of now, it appears the country will tighten restrictions on other citizens, signalling it wants to limit the travel of people living in the Czech Republic but working in Germany or Austria.

According to Prymula, these workers are at risk because they come to and from countries that have a higher number of people infected. Prymula, therefore, believes that the government will approve the new ban.

There are currently 1,165 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Czech Republic, with six people cured of the virus. On Sunday, the first patient, a 95-year-old man from Prague who suffered from other health problems, succumbed to the disease.

The Czech Republic remains an exception in the crisis. Although it has a relatively high number of infected, the mortality rate is practically zero so far.

Title image: A woman rides a bicycle past a long line of trucks that wait to be checked at the border with Poland near Nachod, Czech Republic, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia renewed border checks after barring foreigners from entry but allowing cargo transports to continue. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

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