Some Covid-19 measures imposed by the Czech government are expected to be lifted after the country’s parliament refused to extend a state of emergency that provided a legal framework for the restrictions.
Lawmakers from the lower house of parliament voted on Thursday against extending the emergency powers after February 14, meaning that a nationwide curfew, ban on public gatherings and the closure of non-essential businesses will no longer be enforceable starting next week. Restaurants are likely to remain shuttered and other measures could stay in place under different legislation.
The emergency provisions were shot down after Prime Minister Andrej Babis’ minority government rejected calls for a review of all current Covid-19 measures, as well as better compensation for people affected by the rules, including business owners and those forced to self-isolate. The Communist Party, which supported extending the state of emergency last month, withheld its support for the government this time around, saying that its demands to reopen schools and ski lifts were not met.
Hours earlier, Health Minister Jan Blatny announced tighter restrictions on movement in three districts that have seen a surge in new cases. However, the order depended on the extension of the national state of emergency.
Babis had argued that the emergency powers were needed in order to prevent hospitals from being overrun. The country of 10.7 million has reported 17,902 deaths, according to official figures, giving it one of the EU’s highest per-capita rates.
Several regions responded to the vote by saying that they would institute lower-level emergency powers. The country has been in varying states of lockdown since October. Initially hailed for its strict lockdown and mandatory mask policy, the Czech Republic has seen a surge of new cases in recent months.