PRAGUE: The Czech government has approved its first loosening of coronavirus curbs this year, including re-opening shops selling children's clothing and stationery, Industry Minister Karel Havlicek said on Tuesday (Apr 6).
Limited outdoor operations at zoos and botanical gardens will also be allowed, he told CTK news agency.
The relaxation will coincide with a return of 1st to 5th graders to school, which the government is likely to approve later on Tuesday, and the end of curfews and limits on movement around the country when a state of emergency expires Apr 11.
The Czech Republic has been one of the hardest-hit countries by COVID-19.
Shops, restaurants, services and most school classrooms have been closed almost continuously since October. In March, the government shut all schools and used state of emergency powers to restrict people to their home districts.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis's minority government has come under criticism from opposition parties for its handling of the pandemic. It will let a state of emergency expire over the weekend after struggling to win approval to prolong its use in recent votes.
The government is also seeking to re-open schools, which have faced the longest period of full or partial closures in the European Union, according to UNESCO data.
The loosening comes as the number of daily infections has dropped below a seven-day average of 5,000 for the first time since mid-December. Hospitalisations have also eased.
However, the death toll has more than doubled to over 27,000 since the beginning of 2021 and is the highest in the world on a per-capita basis, according to Our World in Data.