Government Announces Further Support for the Self-Employed & SMEs and Plans To Raise Budget Deficit Limit
The cabinet will discuss an extension of the state of emergency at a meeting on Wednesday. The schedule for relaxing the quarantine measures will be tightened or relaxed depending on how the situation develops. Photo: Roman Prymula, Deputy Health Minister and epidemiologist. Credit: Vlada.cz.
Czech Rep., Apr 20 (BD) – Today, the government approved an extension of the “25” program for self-employed workers. If the draft amendment from the Ministry of Finance passes a parliamentary vote, self-employed workers affected by anti-coronavirus measures will be able to claim an additional CZK 500 (cca EUR 20) for each day in the extended bonus period from May 1st to June 8th. The self-employed were also entitled to CZK 25,000 for the period from March 12th to the end of April. Support will now be extended to June 8th, with the possibility of further extension as required, said Finance Minister Alena Schillerová (ANO) after the cabinet meeting on Monday afternoon.
Writing on Twitter, Regional Development Minister Klára Dostálová (ANO) and Minister of Industry and Trade Karel Havlíček announced a new plan to support small businesses with no employees, as many of them have been unable to access any of the government crisis programs: “Small businesses without employees are one of the last categories of company that have not yet received specifically targeted governmental support. On Wednesday, we will propose the same support as for the self-employed; CZK 500 per day, starting from March 12th.”
Schillerová also announced plans for further loans to be made available for SMEs, totalling CZK 600 billion.
The government also announced plans to raise the state budget deficit limit to CZK 300 billion. The Ministry of Finance had already raised the limit for this year to CZK 200 billion in March. “The crisis situation persists and the treasury will see another fall in revenues. To protect our economy from the worst, I came to today’s government meeting with another amendment to the state budget law. In this difficult time, we will continue to assist employees, business owners, and companies, as well as our healthcare system,” said Schillerová.
Interior Minister and Chairman of the Central Crisis Staff Jan Hamáček (ČSSD) said on Monday that he wants to relax controls at the border. In the future, cross-border commuters may not necessarily have to undergo 14 days of quarantine when reentering the country, if they can show evidence of a negative test for Covid-19 not older than three days. The proposal would mainly affect people traveling abroad for work or to visit their relatives. Within the Czech Republic, restrictions on free movement still apply. People can leave their houses only when there is a clear reason. Health Minister Adam Vojtěch said that the complete set of measures would be announced on Wednesday.
Interior Minister Jan Hamáček again called for an extension to the state of emergency, at a press conference following today’s meeting of the Central Crisis Staff. “If it is not extended, it will not be possible to regulate the entry of foreign citizens into the Czech Republic,” said Hamáček. The current state of emergency is valid until April 30th, but Hamáček said he would welcome an extension, especially to halt the spread of the virus and keep simpler rules for the acquisition of medical supplies. He did not propose a particular duration.
The opening of the Czech borders has been the subject of a lot of speculation and conflicting statements from leading political figures. Deputy Health Minister Roman Prymula said several weeks ago that he could imagine the borders to be closed for two years, and President Zeman yesterday recommended the closure to last for one year. On the other hand, Health Minister Adam Vojtěch said at today’s press conference that it certainly would not be a whole year. Last week Prime Minister Andrej Babiš announced that his government would negotiate a special arrangement with the Croatian government for Czechs to visit one of their favorite holiday destinations this summer. Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković published their intentions on Twitter on April 17th.
In an interview on TV Prima on Monday, Deputy Health Minister Roman Prymula said that hardware stores, which opened to people before Easter, are a risk in the spread of coronavirus, and will probably again become the subject of tighter rules, such as limits on the number of shoppers. He will propose the changes later this week. At the afternoon press conference, Health Minister Vojtěch added that it is still necessary to comply with hygiene rules, and the relaxing of the measures will be postponed if the public does not show discipline. Prymula said more information would become available in the coming days, when statistics will show the results of the public’s behaviour during Easter.
Responding to a question from journalists, Vojtěch explained that it is not permitted to order a hairdresser for an appointment at home: “The whole service of “hairdressing” has been banned,” said Vojtěch, admitting that it would be difficult to enforce. Prymula added that this activity is “epidemically serious and therefore cannot be conducted either at homes or hair salons.”
There were 6,838 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the Czech Republic by Monday evening, from over 170,000 tests. According to the Ministry of Health, 1,559 patients have recovered from Covid-19, and 194 people have died from the disease in hospital. There are 389 positive cases in South Moravia, a rate of 33 positive cases per 100,000 inhabitants.