Amid constantly changing information regarding coronavirus travel restrictions, it can be easy to lose trace of what is allowed and what is not. For those who would like to travel to the Czech Republic in the coming weeks and months, here is a general overview of current restrictions and likely future developments.
According to a Ministry of Health decree which came into force this Monday, if you are a foreigner and you are thinking of traveling to the Czech Republic you need to fulfil certain criteria in order to be eligible to bypass the general ban on all non-Czech citizens entering the country.
First of all, you are allowed to travel to the country if you had been issued a temporary residence permit for a period longer than 90 days or a permanent residency permit in the Czech Republic prior to March 12, 2020.
Entry into the country is also allowed to those foreigners who work in international transport, critical infrastructure, as well as diplomats and those members of international organisations accredited with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
These groups are EU citizens who enter the country for the purpose of economic activity or tertiary education, key scientists, seasonal, health care and social care workers. Furthermore, this option is also valid for spouses and children under 18 belonging to residency holders, as well as those who hold a long term visa and need to travel to the country in order to receive their residency permit.
It should further be noted that those who do cross the border into the country, whether Czechs or foreigners, need to limit their movements for a period of two weeks and wear protective gear to cover their nose and mouth.
Air travel to Prague Airport is thus far limited to the routes between Prague and Amsterdam, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt am Main, Paris, Minsk and Sofia. Air travel to and from Stockholm is set to be reinstated from May 21 and to Bucharest from May 25.
In other cases, travellers can arrive to the country by car. However, it should be noted that only certain border crossings are open. Bus and railway connections are also gradually being re-established with neighbouring countries. For example, the popular bus company RegioJet is currently operating connections with Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
As regards the future easing of restrictions, the strategy on the European macro-level was presented by EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson on Wednesday. She said a first phase of Europe wide free travel reopening should begin soon.
“In phase one, which we hope can start soon, member states should lift travel restrictions in a gradual way. Ideally, this should cover the whole union. But, where this is not possible, a start should be made by allowing travel between regions, between areas, between member states that assess their health situation is evolving in a positive way.
“Phase two will then see a general lifting of restrictions and controls at internal borders as the situation improves. Necessary health measures such as personal hygiene and social distancing will remain in place with ongoing information sharing required.”
The Czech government has announced several times over the past weeks that there are plans to establish travel agreements with select low infection risk EU states, which should enable family member visits and, possibly, even recreational travel.
In regards to the country’s immediate borders the creation of a sort of mini-Schengen free travel zone with Austria and Slovakia is being considered.
“Austria is certainly doing well. They managed to stabilize the growth in coronavirus cases they had. I see no reason why our borders with Austria should not be opened up, because the situation in our countries is similar. However, when it comes to other countries, there are slight problems.“
Interior Minister Jan Hamáček told Czech Television on Sunday that the government may consider easing border checks with Austria and Germany before the original deadline of June 13. According to Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, borders with Slovakia could also be opened either on June 8, or June 15.
As far as tourists are concerned, it is not yet completely clear when the Czech Republic will start opening up. Asked by Czech Radio two weeks ago, Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček said that this is likely to happen in July, provided that visitors show some sort of test. However, it is very much dependent on the development of the epidemiological situation.