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 new coronavirus, first discovered in December 2019, quickly spread around the world.
This article is supposed to serve as a timeline of the events since the outbreak of the pandemic. There will be an update with each new development. We eagerly hope that everything will turn for the better and we can soon put an end to this disturbing time.
After news about a lethal pandemic went around the world, the Czech Republic reacted quickly by locking down the country. In the first two months of the lockdown, the city looked like a different place. Hotspots such as the old town, the Charles Bridge, the castle area were abandoned. It was almost spooky to stand on the famous old town square (Staroměstské náměstí) and to have the whole place to ourselves.
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.
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 not common here to hear birds instead of airplanes and traffic noise. Sitting on the balcony felt quiet and peaceful. 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.
Czech Republic was one of the leading countries to proclaim an obligation to wear a mask in public. 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.
Malls and metro stations provide free disinfectant. 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.
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.
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.
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 8 pm, there is now a little 3-hour window to go shopping for most people who work til 5 pm. Freedom of movement was almost completely forbidden after 9 pm. 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.
In January 2021 protests in Prague made international news. Up to 3000 people gathered on the Old Town Square to protest against the restrictions. Few wore masks, yet the event was not dissolved.
In March 2021 the government announced severe new measures due to the rising number of infections. It was decided that people are no longer allowed to leave the district they live in. The city of Prague is recognized as one district. Cloth masks and surgical masks don’t qualify any longer and need to be replaced with respirators when using public transport or entering a store. Also, antigen testing at your place of work is now compulsory with the test partly being subsidized.
Meanwhile, the parks in Prague were more crowded than ever. People were back to having picnics and beer in great numbers; ice hockey and other sports also just continued and nobody bothered to wear a mask anymore. Even though preventing social contact was initially the reason for the lockdowns, the government decided it wasn’t worth checking or fining people. Instead, a great number of police officers and even soldiers were sent out to check people traveling between districts. By their logic, a single person locked inside a car is a greater danger than groups of people ignoring all regulations. By the looks of it all, the virus not be leaving us very soon.
In March 2021 the Old Town Square was declared an unofficial memorial for the dead of the pandemic. 20000 crosses were drawn with chalk onto the cobbled ground. Each representing a victim of the Covid-19 virus. The real number, however, is higher. 25000 people have died so far.
Flowers and candles were placed all over the square like on a cemetery. It seems a noble gesture to commemorate the passed ones and send out a signal that they are not forgotten.