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Prime Minister overrides plan for required face masks in schools and shops

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Face masks will not be mandatory at schools as of September 1 unless the epidemiological situation worsens and they will not be required in shops and other services for clients, such as hairdressers, either, in Czechia, Health Minister Adam Vojtech (for ANO) told reporters today.

Face masks duty would be re-introduced if the situation with the coronavirus infection spread worsened, that is with the yellow risk level on the “traffic lights,” that is the epidemiological map that colours districts in white (zero risk), green, yellow and red depending on the rising risk level.

The epidemiological situation in the country will be reassessed again at the end of September, said Vojtech only a day after he presented the new tightened measures for wearing face masks.

Consequently, the wearing of face masks or another nose and mouth cover will be mandatory in public transport means, at offices and in health and social care facilities as of September 1, the beginning of new school year. People will also have to wear them in polling stations during the October Senate and regional elections.

Another change is that face masks will be necessary for indoor events with the attendance of over 100 persons only. Originally, they were obligatory regardless of the number of participants.

Vojtech discussed the measures that his ministry issued on Wednesday with PM Andrej Babis (ANO) today. Babis challenged the measures as chaotic, with too many exceptions.

Vojtech said he did not consider the fast changes to the measures his defeat. Babis, too, attended the Monday meeting of the Government Council for Health Risk where all generally agreed on the measures, Vojtech told reporters.

“We have followed the epidemiologists’ opinions, now I perceive opposite opinions. This is a certain compromise and the final solution based on the team of the smart quarantine assuring us that the system is able to react promptly if the situation worsens,” Vojtech said.

Since the Monday announcement on the re-introduction of the face mask duty, his office has received a number of comments and several meetings with various associations have taken place, he added.

Today’s meeting was also attended by Education Minister Robert Plaga (for ANO), representatives of the military, public health offices and the Institute of Health Information and Statistics (UZIS).

Plaga told reporters today that he was prepared to quickly implement the changes in the manual his office had sent to schools on Monday. Originally, it did not reckon with wearing of face masks, this was added to it additionally.

The duty to wear masks will be imposed on the districts marked with yellow or red colours on the epidemiological map.

“We will release it on Friday, August 28, for schools to be able to prepare for this if need be. Then we will be releasing it in two-week intervals,” Chief Public Health Officer Jarmila Razova said.

The opposition has criticised the measures concerning face masks, saying the government was changing them in an amateur and populist manner. However, the opposition parties appreciated that face mask duty was lifted at schools.

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