momenten

Living in Prague for the past 3 years, barely a day passed without seeing crowds of tourists occupying the city’s main places and attractions.

However, times have changed. The city has become unrecognizable in the last two months. Hotspots such as the old town, the Charles Bridge, the castle area are abandoned. It’s almost spooky to stand on the famous old town square (Staroměstské náměstí) and have the whole place to ourselves.

View over Prague from Petřín during coronavirus quarantine

The reason for this sudden mass absence of visitors and locals alike is the coronavirus pandemic which evolved around December last year. Several countries were put under a lockdown. Czech Republic is one of them. In order to stop the virus from spreading, the borders were closed and air travel was put on hold. As in other countries, a state of emergency was declared. Quarantine became one of the most used words and worldometer one of the most visited websites for live updates.

Over time, more and more restrictions were put in place. Within a short period of time, home office and home schooling were widely practiced. Before the virus, things looked differently. Only a few companies offered home office as a restricted employee benefit. It needed a deadly virus to prove that someone can get the work done from home as well as in the office. The biggest benefit is the travel time which can be saved and used for leisure activities.

Hemmo wearing mask during corona virus pandemic in Prague

Despite all the negative aspects of the pandemic, getting the opportunity to work from home is a valuable experience which hopefully will gain more popularity in the future.

While our whole life as we know it came to a standstill, nature began to flourish. It’s still weird to hear birds instead of airplanes and traffic noise. Sitting on the balcony felt peaceful for a long time. Watching the sun set in front of a clear blue sky became our most favorite evening ritual. Now is a good time to ask ourselves if our life before the crisis was really that great.

Is economical growth still the right strategy to follow on a planet with finite resources? We don’t only work anymore to cover our essential needs but to increase our already high living standard. There is less and less time for family, friends, social gatherings and volunteering. We rely on supermarkets instead of growing our own food. We put our youngest ones in child care. There are too many people who fly around the world for a 2-week vacation, ignoring the devastating carbon footprints they leave behind. Personally, we avoid flying when other options are available.

Wouldn’t it be better to work less, spend more time with your dear ones, promote sustainability and green tourism? Often, what makes you happy, is not what cost you the most.

Rouškomat, the Czech mask vending machine

Czech Republic was one of the leading countries to proclaim an obligation to wear a mask in public. With the Czech people being law-keeping citizens, there was barely anyone who didn’t cover his mouth and nose.

While medical masks are sold out worldwide, Czech people started to sew their own. We also made an attempt, but were not very successful. Perhaps it’s easier for those who have a babuška with a sewing machine. In general, the Czechs are handy with needle and thread.

For those whose fingers are all thumbs, websites were established where masks were partially provided for free. One of them is damerousky.cz

Volunteers offer to sew masks for others or provide their sewing machines and materials. Some services are free, others paid.

The platform’s name could be adapted from the CZ food delivery company damejidlo being one of the most used platforms to order food online. Especially in these days, you can spot many cars wearing the logo of a food delivery brand. While damejidlo delivers freshly prepared meals from the surrounding restaurants, rohlik.cz and kosik.cz are online supermarkets. We observed that online shopping is very much used it here, even before the crisis.

A third option of where to get a mask is a mask vending machine, another great idea from the Czechs. Instead of drinks and snacks, vending machines are supplied with hand made masks. The price is a little high, varying between 100 and 200 Kč. Handmade cotton masks are a cheap and sustainable alternative to surgical masks. It is recommended to wash them daily and dry them properly afterwards.

Albert reduced opening hours for the pandemic

Another measure taken by supermarkets was to close earlier. While they normally open until 10 or 11 pm, they are now closing at 8 pm, leading to greater crowds as people have to shop at the same time.

Malls and metro stations provide free disinfection. It looks like they quickly ran out of disinfectant because the pleasant-smelling liquid was soon replaced by something that smelled like bad slivovice. Nevertheless, we consider it a great effort of the city to provide free disinfectant in several public places.Anděl metro station disinfection

With fresh air, low traffic and less work to do, it seems like the best time to go outside and enjoy the nature. However, people were being warned to stay inside, as you are risking lives by spreading the virus when you’re outside “for no good reason”.

The “Second Wave”

Thanks to Czechia’s fast response, the infection rate quickly dropped. There was no need to wait for the virus to be exterminated – a lower-than-before infection rate was good enough to declare an end to the pandemic. A “goodbye corona” party was held on the Charles Bridge and restrictions were mostly lifted.

Nearly empty Charles Bridge during COVID-19
Charles Bridge nearly empty during COVID-19 restrictions.

Obviously, people were quickly getting infected again. In August, the government decided we needed new restrictions but thought it would be a good idea to wait for nearly a month (until September 1st) before actually putting them into effect. Masks were now mandatory again.

Despite the Czech’s obedience to rules and regulations during the “first wave”, this time people no longer cared. Nobody checked whether people followed the rules and there weren’t any consequences. It began to look as if certain people just went around coughing loudly without a mask on purpose.

I love Prague masked statue

Czechia went from a country with a very low infection rate to one of the world’s fastest-growing daily infections. Over time, the government implemented new restrictions, such as closing restaurants, schools and eventually all shops except for the essential ones, such as supermarkets and flower shops (yes, Czechs cannot go without their flowers). This seemingly made little difference, so the government decided the virus is probably nocturnal and introduced a curfew. With supermarkets closing at 8pm, there is now a little 3-hour window to go shopping for most people who work til 5pm. Freedom of movement was almost completely forbidden after 9pm. Whatever you would normally do in the evening, now has to be done during the day. Forcing people into crowds seems less bad than exposing people to virus at night, according to this government.

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