Czech Government in Times of Coronavirus

Bartosz Mogiełka // CC

I work in the Czech Republic at a large international company for an international client. They both keep us informed, provide regular and understandable updates, and support us to work seamlessly from home. Meanwhile, the Czech government decided to print a leaflet and do what it does best – ban stuff.

First, the government banned manufacturers to sell respirators and masks to anyone but the legal entities established by the state. Public hospitals are NOT legal entities established by the state in the Czech Republic. Ouch! No protection for them and the public, and destroyed distribution channels.

Then, the government introduced typical restrictions – banned people’s gatherings, closed non-essential stores and border crossings. Regulations have been getting stricter every day, eventually forbidding even walking around without a mask, when people cannot actually buy masks anywhere.

Luckily, the government has a solution for everything. They allowed the stores selling cloth and sewing supplies to open. So people can make their own masks. Problem solved, another job well done. Bravo.

People did not actually wait for the government’s blessing to help themselves and each other. They started sewing masks even earlier. Many support initiatives have been emerging – focused on helping the elderly, increasing grocery delivery stores’ capacities, minimizing chances of getting infected by changing internal store rules, etc.

It does not stop with individuals, of course. Companies have started changing their product lines (despite price ceilings) or directly purchasing protective equipment abroad. To celebrate the private sector’s success, half of the government went to the airport to take a picture with the received supplies.

Surely, when in crisis, everyone needs to react in a timely manner. It is also important to clearly communicate the measures and the reasons behind introducing them, even if they are changing daily. Private companies try to manage somehow. Meanwhile, the government sends the public mixed messages.

At the same time, very little protective equipment reached the front lines (doctors, nurses etc.). As a consequence, and not surprisingly, they also start to get sick now, thus possibly infecting their patients as well.

So we have a nice Italian scenario unfolding in the Czech Republic. 

So what is happening with all those masks? Every middleman on their way wants their cut. We know this from the communist era, we shouldn’t be surprised. So, probably, the public officials are now better equipped than the doctors.

The Czech Prime Minister is clearly not a good crisis manager. Quite the contrary – he is such a loser and crybaby that he started pointing towards other countries saying: “Oh, but look, they don’t have protection in Belgium either!“ Normally, it would be at least funny, but it’s not even that.

But we are saved! Somehow the government found out that there are some masks stored in a random warehouse. So what to do? Let’s just confiscate it, right? And people start clapping and cheering. But then it turns out that those belong to the Red Cross and were meant to help Italy in crisis. Yet, no one apologised.

Then, there was this laboratory that confirmed some of the early cases. Cheaper, faster, better. The government, of course, forced them to stop testing. So the same company came up with an alternative and an even faster test, now used by many. Alas, the method has been forbidden in the Czech Republic.

Testing seems to be vital in fighting COVID-19, as seen in South Korea or Taiwan. Here, we do not really test. The government practically gave up on actively containing the virus. They hope the quarantine will do, which is simply unrealistic.

The bans should have ended here in the Czech Republic last week. But, of course, they didn’t. The situation only worsened as anyone could have expected.

What are the next steps? Is there even any plan, apart from ad hoc banning of stuff?

COVID-19 will not disappear next week, month, or probably even three months. But the world cannot stay locked up at home. Otherwise the consequences will be much, much worse. So what is the exit strategy? What is the way out?

I do not have the answers, but at least I have questions. I am not sure, however, whether the Czech government is even asking them.

I already have some predictions: “temporary“ taxes, helicopter money, GDP decline will occur. Significant changes in economic and personal freedoms will likely follow.

Governments showed they have feet of clay. Most of them are unprepared, unable to face the crisis. And we have front-row tickets to the shitshow. Unfortunately, the result of all this will be more government and less freedom.

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