UPDATED: COVID-19 curbs eased further in Czech Republic

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Czech restaurants, bars, night clubs and other hospitality venues can serve customers indoors from Monday, Health Minister Adam Vojtech said on Friday, announcing a quicker-than-planned easing of COVID-19 restrictions following a court ruling.

The Czech government, which has been battling one of the world’s most severe second waves of the pandemic, had planned to open indoor facilities from mid-June, as the situation has been steadily improving and vaccinations increasing.

But last week the country’s Supreme Administrative Court ruled that blanket restrictions on restaurants were illegal, acting upon a complaint filed by a customer.

“I am not entirely happy that we have to make such a radical easing at one moment. If it were not for the court ruling, then I would suggest sticking to the June 14 date (planned for reopening),” Vojtech told a televised news conference.

Restaurants in the Czech Republic have been allowed to serve customers outdoors since May 17. Schools have also reopened.

From Monday, swimming pools, saunas and casinos will also be allowed to reopen, while the numbers of participants allowed at culture and sports events will rise.

For restaurants self-tests for COVID-19 will suffice, while for all other venues that are allowed to reopen people will have to get tested professionally, Vojtech said.

The Czech Republic will also open up to tourists from seven countries – Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Croatia, Austria and Germany – under reciprocal agreements.

As of Friday morning, the seven-day number of reported cases per 100,000 dropped to 34. Earlier this year the Czech Republic had one of the highest per capita COVID-19 infection and death rates in the world.

Now the number of daily vaccinations has reached around 100,000. The country of 10.7 million has distributed 5 million doses of vaccines in total so far, and 1.37 million people have now received two doses.

Photo: A man wearing a mask walks past a souvenirs shop in Prague, Czech Republic. EPA-EFE/MARTIN DIVISEK