The agreed date is a compromise between the government’s proposal to extend the state of emergency for another month, and opposition suggestions that it should be shorter. The initial state of emergency was due to expire on April 11th. Photo credit: Psp.cz.

Czech Rep., Apr 7 (BD) – In a seven-hour emergency session today, Czech parliamentarians approved an extension of the state of emergency until the end of April, instead of the government’s proposed date of May 11th. The measure was finally approved by 90 deputies of 101 present, with five voting against. 

The state of emergency allows the current measures imposed to address the coronavirus outbreak to remain in place, giving the government the right to restrict travel and freedom of movement, and to close businesses. It also allows the government to procure equipment required for the health crisis more quickly and easily, avoiding the normal procedures such as tendering contracts.

The state of emergency gives the government the right to restrict travel and freedom of movement, and to close businesses. Photo: Prime Minister Andrej Babis speaking at March 30 press conference. Credit: Vlada.cz.

Speaking in support of the extension in parliament, Prime Minister Andrej Babis emphasised that there remains a serious risk to public health: “I know that this will not be easy for citizens. The government declared a state of emergency because of the risk to the health of our country from coronavirus. At the moment, we are convinced that all the conditions required for a state of emergency are still met.”

The government’s new proposed date for the end of the state of emergency was May 11th, but this met with disagreement within the Chamber of Deputies. TOP 09, the Christian Democrats, and the Mayors and Independents group proposed an extension of just two weeks, while the Pirate Party, the Communist, and the far-right SPD suggested the end of the month, on the grounds that it was easier for the public to understand. 

The 101 deputies present then voted on each of the proposals separately; 36 voted in favour of the 14-day extension, 48 in favour of the government’s 30-day extension, and 84 in favour of the April 30th deadline. In a final vote on the most popular option, the extension until April 30th passed by 90 votes to 5.

Despite the extension of the state of emergency, Babis commented that, in light of the positive downward trend in the number of new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Czech Republic, the government will eventually be in a position to loosen some of the strict quarantine measures currently in place. He said the state of emergency would not be a return to “an all-powerful state”, and that measures would be lifted as soon as possible, while warning that: “First we have to survive the next few months, which will be difficult.”

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek speculated that by the end of April the Czech Republic would see 15,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19.

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