Smiles were visible again as Czechs ventured out without masks on Monday and returned to restaurants and schools after some of their country’s last coronavirus restrictions were lifted.
The Czech Republic has reopened its hard-hit economy in stages since April 20 as new cases stay low and more people recover. Of almost 9,000 cases reported, two thirds have recovered, while 315 deaths have been recorded.
However, the country has seen two hot spots emerge in recent weeks, including at a coal mine in the east where 221 employees have been infected.
While that has pushed up overall numbers, health officials say the outbreak is under control and reopening can continue.
From Monday, face masks are required only on public transport or in enclosed spaces. Many people have said they will still wear the coverings.
“It is not over, I think that one can be never too cautious. (But) it is more pleasant without the mask,” said Zuzana Kirajova as her 18-month-old son ran across Prague’s medieval Charles Bridge, now almost empty without tourists.
Hotels and other accommodation have now reopened, while some services like tattoo parlours have also resumed work. Children have begun returning to elementary schools on a voluntary basis.
Limits on public gatherings will be relaxed next month, with 500 people permitted from June 8 and 1,000 two weeks later.
That will let soccer matches be played in front of at least some supporters.