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AFP
October 1, 2020

Boris Johnson dodges internal rebellion on virus rules: Czechs, Slovaks declare state of emergency to combat virus

World

AFP
October 1, 2020

Prague: The Czech and Slovak governments on Wednesday declared a state of emergency to combat the coronavirus with infections growing in both countries.

Prague declared a state of emergency as of October 5 and said it would ban fans from stadiums and slap strict attendance limits on indoor and outdoor events for two weeks. Bratislava declared a state of emergency as of Thursday when the duty to wear face masks outside unless a safe distance can be observed will be imposed.

“The Czech Republic ranks among countries with one of the sharpest increases (in infections),” Health Minister Roman Prymula told reporters in Prague. “We have to introduce measures that will curb the growth,” added the epidemiologist, who took over the ministry earlier this month.

Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic said restrictions would be in place until November and “then we will decide whether to continue or get back to normal”. The Czech government will allow a maximum of 10 people at indoor events and 20 people outdoors, with the exception of family events, workplaces, cinemas and theatres, for two weeks starting October 5.

Prymula said however that operas and musicals would be banned for those two weeks as “singing is one of the riskiest activities”. Matovic in turn announced a 50-person limit on mass events.

The Czech government will also close secondary schools and switch to distance learning in regions with a rapid growth in infections. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was spared a rebellion by his own MPs over coronavirus regulations on Wednesday but the House of Commons speaker accused him of treating lawmakers with “contempt”.

More than 50 MPs in Johnson’s Conservative party had threatened to support a motion demanding more say over future rules to stop the spread of the virus, accusing ministers of governing “by decree”. But they were denied a chance to vote on the proposal after Speaker Lindsay Hoyle ruled there was not enough time for a proper debate.

However, in a rare statement delivered as Johnson prepared to take questions in the Commons, Hoyle launched a stinging attack on the way restrictions have been brought in so far.

“I am looking to the government to remedy a situation I regard as completely unsatisfactory,” he said.

“I now look to the government to rebuild trust with this House and not treat it with the contempt that it has shown.” Hoyle has repeatedly admonished ministers for announcing virus restrictions to the media before parliament and for allowing insufficient time for them to be debated before they come into force.

Many lawmakers also accuse Johnson of having no respect for parliament after he shut it down last year at a crucial point in Britain’s tortuous exit from the European Union – a move later quashed and declared unlawful by the Supreme Court. A nationwide stay at home order imposed in March in response to the coronavirus outbreak was lifted in June but new restrictions are being introduced as infection rates rise again.

Some 16 million people are now subject to some kind of localised rules across the UK, including bans on meeting other families. The devolved governments in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also imposed national limits, including on social gatherings and pub opening times.

Yet there is widespread public confusion about what is allowed – even Johnson himself has got it wrong – while many Tory MPs are angry at the erosion of personal freedom.