PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech Republic will take major steps to relax its coronavirus lockdown measures from May 25, opening restaurants, hotels and pools and allowing gatherings of hundreds of people, health officials said on Friday.
Czechs will also be able to ditch face masks outdoors as the government seeks to jump-start an economy hard hit by the outbreak.
The central European country of 10.7 million has reported less than 100 new cases a day throughout May.
As of Friday morning, it had recorded a total of 8,352 cases of which 5,249 have recovered. It has reported 293 deaths, a small fraction of the toll seen in western Europe.
Health Minister Adam Vojtech said indoor dining and hotel stays could resume on May 25 under strict hygiene rules.
In restaurants, which were allowed to open outdoor dining areas on Monday, groups of customers should remain 2 metres (6 feet) apart and tables will be disinfected after each use. Hotels can provide buffet breakfasts served by staff, while plexiglas is recommended at reception desks.
Pools and saunas will reopen but not steam rooms.
Shop and border closures in March helped the country contain the outbreak. While incoming foreign travellers still face restrictions, with some exceptions like business travel from European Union states, the government has reopened shops in phases, with shopping malls returning this week.
“After May 25, there won’t be establishments in retail which would be generally closed,” Vojtech said.
From that date, gatherings of up to 300 will be allowed, rising from the current limit of 100. The number will rise to 500 and then to 1,000 in June, when kids’ summer camps are also set to start.
The Czech soccer league will be among the first in Europe to kick off again, starting on May 23 – a week after Germany – but without spectators at first.
Masks will still be required in closed spaces like public transport or cultural venues.
(For an interactive graphic on new coronavirus cases in the Czech Republic, click https://tmsnrt.rs/2S2oJ8A?eikon=true)
(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Jason Hovet and Giles Elgood)