It was on April 14, 2020 that new entry and exit rules, especially for commuters, came into force. Now, after less than two weeks, new rules came into force, which were replaced already twice; the last version is valid as of May 11, 2020. The quantity of the rules contrasts sharply with their quality.
As of May 11, 2020, the new Government Resolution of the Czech Government No 511 of May 4, 2020 is valid. It has repealed the former Government Resolutions No 387 of April 6, 2020, No 443 of April 23, 2020 and No. 495 of 30. April 2020. For more details on the old one see our article „Rules for Czech cross-border commuters during the coronavirus pandemic„. The new rules are relevant for commuters, but they also provide for some new opportunities both for Czech, EU citizens and third-country nationals to enter and leave the Czech Republic or vice versa. It is said that the procedure should be a “simplified” one. The rules apply for the period of the state of emergency. The Czech Parliament has extended the state of emergency up to May 17, 2020. It will be interesting to see, whether upon May 18, 2020, new rules will limit the entry to and the exit from the Czech Republic. One week earlier, as of May 11, 2020, the international train service to Austria and Germany was resumed, and new border crossings were opened again (decision No 509 of May 4, 2020).
Corona test and electronic notification of entry into the Czech Republic
Again, Government Resolution No 511 is a very complicated one. However, as of April 27, 2020, there has been a clear innovation: In principle, now, a Corona test is required on entry into the Czech Republic – “Test RT-PCR-CP testing SARS-CoV 2, with a negative result” – certifying that the person has not contracted Covid-19 (Corona). The test must not be older than four days and the traveller must obtain it at his/her own expense (costs currently up to EUR 300). It is the issue date of the test that matters, not the date of the scrape test, but this is not clear from points III.1 and III. 2 of the Government Resolution No 511 (former IV. 1 of resolutions No 443 or No 495). The Ministry of the Interior has published a specimen on its website, which the physician or the laboratory can fill out in Czech/English. It is not clear whether the use of the specimen is mandatory or not, but according to points III.1 and III.2, this seems to be the case. There is also no indication of when entry is possible in the case of a positive test, e.g. if the test person has already recovered and is no longer contagious.
In principle, the obligation remains for the traveller to notify the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in advance electronically of his/her entry. The link, which is available on the websites of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.mzv.cr) as well as the Ministry of the Interior (www.mvcr.cr) is available below the text within article sources. This form must be submitted prior to entry. The traveller is obliged to provide his/her surname, first name, date of birth, address in the Czech Republic, border crossing point and an e-mail or contact telephone number. After submitting the form, the following message will appear – even in May 2020: „Thank you. In accordance with Government Resolution No. 387 of 6 April 2020 (sic!), the provided information will be handed over to the Regional Public Health Offices and the Police of the Czech Republic. The provided personal data are stored and used by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic only for the aforementioned purposes and are deleted from the register after 30 days from the date of the citizen’s return from abroad.“
Clear is further, that neither visa-applications, nor applications for residence permits will be processed under the state of emergency.
Departure without restrictions, entry with restrictions and under many exceptions
In principle, foreigners and Czech citizens can leave the Czech Republic without restrictions. Foreigners from another EU member state could not be prevented from leaving the country anyway. The restrictions on entry remain. In principle, foreigners without a residence permit cannot enter the Czech Republic, unless they are subject to an exception. If an exception is granted, a Corona test must also be provided. Business people may make use of the option of entering for 72 hours with proven economic activity (Art. IV.1(i) and 6). These persons do not even have to submit a test. However, the entity confirming the exception must ensure that the persons entering the country comply with the conditions for people working in the area of critical infrastructure. These conditions, in turn, are regulated by another Government Resolution. Frankly speaking, a clear and simple regulation might certainly look a bit different. It is recommended to present a test to avoid unnecessary discussions with the Czech police at the border.
Extensive list of exemptions allowing the travel under Corona restrictions
Other exceptions to the entry ban involve family members of EU citizens and third-country nationals as well as of Czech citizens, diplomats, transit travellers (who, however, are obliged to submit a so-called “Note verbale” from their embassy), critical infrastructure staff and persons meeting “exceptional case of urgency” – see point I.1(h). These cases are listed in point III.3 as the following. Under points (a)–(c): Employees of the integrated emergency system or the mountain rescue service or who carry a blood transport; under point (d): persons who comply with an order of a court or other state authority (it is unclear whether this stipulation also refers to an appointment with a notary, for example) or who have to perform a necessary action of a financial or postal nature, e.g. picking up a letter at a post office or a document at a CzechPoint office); under points (e)–(g): transportation, pick-up etc. of family members, in relation to funerals, or under point (h): other emergencies of humanitarian nature. Therefore, business travellers can use either an exception in the case of economic activity for 72 hours (I.1(i)) or in an exceptional case of urgency (I.1(h)), which is exemplified in III.3(d) – court hearing, other appointments with authorities, etc. Obviously, however, these cases must be proven by appropriate documentation.
Notification of the trip or notification to the health authorities
Those wishing to enter the Czech Republic must declare their entry electronically. Following that, they must comply with strict movement regulations. In some cases, the persons must also endure quarantine measures for 14 days. In other cases, the submission of a new test is necessary.
For commuters, basically, the rules have remained the same (point I.3), although a test may be required (points I.9 and III.1/III.2). What is new is that entries and exits, and/or entry and exit for a maximum of 24 hours in the case of farmers, entrepreneurs and persons with an urgent reason, are also possible without the obligation to present a test. For commuters, the 14-day domestic – 14-day international rule remains in place, in some cases, the test has to be provided within 30 days. Privileged commuters, whose travel is linked with the Corona crisis, i.e. in the health and social services, critical infrastructure and basic security sectors are exempt, but only if they can present a verbal note (Note verbale) from their embassy.
Summary and outlook
Even though entry and exit regulations are presented as having been liberalised, it can hardly be said that this is the case – even after three subsequent changes. The same is true for „Evropa bez bariér“ (Barrier-free Europe). An important element of the new regulation is the obligation to present a negative Corona test on entry. The new rules apply for the period of the state of emergency, currently until May 17, 2020. The crucial question will be, whether restrictions on entry and exit will remain in place after the end of the state of emergency and until effective Corona vaccinations or drugs become available. Unfortunately, this is rather likely. At present, the restrictions are disproportionate and, therefore, may be illegal under both national and EU law. This is because the risk of infection is roughly the same both domestically and abroad when the precautionary measures in force in the EU and outside the EU are observed. Therefore, border closures are pointless.
- Government Resolution of the Czech Government No 511 of May 4, 2020 (226/2020 CZ-Coll.).)
- The form downloadable on websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic
- Specimen of a medical certificate of the result of a SARS-CoV-2 PCR test