Coronavirus: Life in Prague in the shadow of the virus

    Saturday, 21 March 2020
    This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.
    Prague castle, credit: Denise Özdemir

    On Friday, the number of infected persons in the Czech Republic increased to 833 cases, with no fatalities yet. Globally, WHO reported that the number of confirmed cases worldwide had exceeded 200 000. It took over three months to reach the first 100 00 confirmed cases, and only 12 days to reach the next 100 000.

    In the Czech Republic, about 10,000 tests have been carried out so far and statistics show that 44 percent of the infected persons got the virus abroad. The country has during the past week decided on extra measures almost every day to stop the virus from spreading.

    President Milos Zeman calls on the citizens to comply with the measures and to stay calm: “Together we will overcome this crisis. I have all of you in my heart.” Prime Minister Andrej Babis has assured that the preventive measures put into place are among the strictest in Europe.

    The first preventive measure was taken by Prague Public Transport (ROPID) to ensure that all metro and tram doors are opened automatically on each stop so that the passengers will not be touching the stop button and risk becoming infected.

    The Czech Republic closed its borders on Monday (16.3), prohibiting residents leaving and foreign citizens entering the country. As of Wednesday (18.3), everyone in the country has to wear face-masks when leaving their place. Acting united and strong during an epidemic will increase the awareness about the situation whilst protection is the key to prevention.

    Additional measurements are applied to protect the elderly and other risk groups. Between 10.00 AM and 12.00 PM, groceries, supermarkets, drugstores, and pharmacies are serving only citizens who are over 65 years old. Moreover, the government advised people over the age of 70 not to leave their apartments.

    Staying alert and aware of the situation, this immediate action is immensely promising and the Czech Republic sets an example for other EU countries.

    A month-long state of emergency was declared last week (12.3), when the number of infected persons came close to 100. Following up on that, the government banned foreign citizens from a number of high-risk countries, both EU member states and third countries, from entering the country countries.

    At the same time, bus, train, shipping connections with neighbouring countries were suspended. Inside the country, the operation of numerous services such as restaurants, bars and shops (except grocery stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, drugstores, and petrol stations) were closed.

    The whole country will be in lockdown until next week. Residents will only be able to leave their homes under specific conditions such as traveling to work, shopping for food and necessary supplies. Accommodation services are prohibited during this period, as well as taxi services like Uber.

    In Prague, face masks are obligatory in public transports and at all shops and anyone who does not obey the regulation is subject to a fine of 20,000 Czech crowns (€733). As of next week (23.3), Prague public transport will operate upon “holiday” hours with longer intervals between the routes.

    On the other hand, heart-warming actions do happen. A newly launched website, “DameRousky.cz” (We Give Masks), is gathering crowds of ambitious volunteers who are sewing face masks and coming up with unique solutions to help people in need. During times like these, a kind appreciation from a stranger goes a long way.

    For those who are under quarantine and bored at home, the National Library in Prague offers temporary online access to its collections, making more than 206.000 books and periodicals in several languages accessible for anyone interested.

    While staying at home, Czech people can use the time to explore the world of books which will help them to keep the emotional balance at bay.

    The preventive measures in the Czech Republic is an example of how a country tries to contain the spread of the coronavirus. What is sure is that a pro-active approach is necessary to prevent the new virus from pushing society to a breaking point.

    After being overwhelmed by the outbreak of the coronavirus and the ever-increasing number of infected patients across the globe, we feel that we are in the middle of a battlefield, worrying for ourselves and our loved ones. By effective measures to flatten the curve, self-reflection and volunteering, the Czech people will overcome the crisis.

    Sources: seznam.cz , expats.cz

    Denise Özdemir