The European Union paid the Czech Republic 76.5 million korunas (€2.9 million) for repatriation flights carried out in the spring during the first wave of the coronavirus epidemic. Between mid-March and April, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ensured the return of 5,082 Czechs and about a thousand foreigners. The European Commission reimbursed about three-quarters of the costs, as the total expenditure on the repatriation flights amounted to 108 million korunas (€4.1 million). “It may have taken longer than we expected, but it must be admitted that it was an operation unparalleled in modern European history. Like us, other European countries have been waiting for the promised 75 percent of the costs to be reimbursed. The important thing is that we succeeded in reimbursing all the flights we requested, despite the thorough inspections required by the European Commission,” commented Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček. His deputy, Martin Smolek, added that Czechia received money for all flights that did not only help the Czechs, but also the citizens of other EU countries. Therefore, the contribution of the European Commission is not exactly three quarters, because, for example, two planes flew from the Canary Islands only with Czech citizens. The Ministry organized the first repatriation flights on March 18 from the Canary Islands, followed by flights to more than two dozen places, such as Vietnam, Egypt, the USA, Iceland, Peru, and the Philippines. On the last flight, people from Australia and New Zealand were returning home, which was the only trip to which passengers contributed about 18,000 korunas (€685).
In the spring, buses from the surrounding international airports also helped Czechs, which are not covered by EU contributions. A total of 69 of them set out with 2,487 people using them. In connection with the situation in Britain, according to Petříček’s statement, the ministry has not yet planned repatriation flights. The Czech Republic has stopped flights from the country since Monday. However, in a statement on social media, Tomáš Petříček stated that from Wednesday, it will be possible to return home from Britain. Before boarding the plane, people must present a negative test for COVID-19. The flights have been also canceled by other European countries due to a new coronavirus mutation , which was detected in the south of England and which, according to experts, may spread faster than other strains. Title image: Passengers wearing protective masks and gloves arrive at Miami International Airport for a charter flight on South African Airways (SAA) to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, during the new coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday, April 14, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)