All Czechs will have to stay at home under the quarantine, which comes into force on Sunday, March 15 at midnight.
The decision was made to protect the most vulnerable people in the country, PM Babis said, and the measures will take effect from midnight March 16 to 6 am March 24, adding the government recommended that those who can work from home or take holidays.
“In the present situation, we see the gathering of people in shopping centres and in restaurants as too great a risk,” Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said. “By no means do we want to restrict the sale of food, pharmaceuticals, druggist goods, and fuel and other essentials. People do not need to worry: food supplies remain unrestricted and it really is not necessary for people to empty store-shelves of goods.”
In practical terms, people will be allowed to leave their homes only to buy food and medicine, commute to work, go to hospitals and banks, or take trips related to the care of the young and the elderly.
People throughout the country should not leave their homes other than for work or emergencies, Babis said.
The prohibition the free movement won’t apply to the necessary journeys to family or loved ones, to the provision of essential necessities of life, such as the purchase of food, medicines or sanitary goods, animal feed, the provision of necessary banking or postal services or refueling.
The government encourages employers to outsource their employees if they can do it at their place of residence. Furthermore, they should limit the performance of work that is not strictly necessary for the operation of the company.
The announcement marks the most extensive efforts taken by the government to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Czech police will be assisted by 2,096 soldiers and 400 customs officers, Prime Minister said.
“Only fundamental restrictions like this can help stop the spread of the infection in our country,” said Adam Vojtěch, Minister of Health. “Even though it is not pleasant for any of us, this is about protecting our health.”
“We don’t forbid anyone to take a walk. It is possible to go to the park, for example” said Interior Minister Jan Hamáček. At the same time, he criticized citizens who crowded in front of the restaurants’ entrance and consumed alcohol outside. “That seems irresponsible to me,” he said.
After Italy, Spain, and Austria, the Czech Republic is the fourth European country to order restrictions on population movements.
The restrictions come a day after the government closed most shops and restaurants for at least 10 days. Other measures include a ban on nearly all international travel from March 16 and closing schools.
The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Czech Republic has now reached 253. Over 5,000 people have been quarantined.
Two-thirds of those diagnosed were infected abroad, one third within the Czech Republic.
The most common source of infection is Italy, with 74.5 percent of people who tested positive in the Czech Republic having contracted the disease there.
Governments around the world have stepped up restrictions on the movement of their citizens to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed nearly 5,800 people with over 153,000 infected globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
— Chris Lettner (@ChrisLettner) March 15, 2020