March 13, 2020 / 1:28 PM / 25 days ago

Czechs ban most travel in and out of country to fight coronavirus

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech government has imposed a ban on foreigners entering the country and Czechs travelling abroad as of Monday as it tries to curb the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Friday.

There will be exceptions as the government tries to keep imports and exports running in the central European country that is highly dependent on trade and also a transit country for goods criss-crossing Europe. Truck traffic will be allowed.

People working in border areas of a neighbouring country within a 50 km range will be allowed to cross, officials said.

The government has also widened a requirement for Czechs returning from abroad to self-quarantine at home upon arrival from those arriving from just Italy to a total of 15 countries, including neighbours Germany and Austria.

Babis said the ban on the arrival on foreigners, with the exception of those with temporary or permanent residency would come in from midnight Sunday into Monday.

The central European country, which reported 117 cases of the coronavirus and no deaths as of Friday, has already closed schools, leisure and entertainment centres and banned public events for more than 30 people. Restaurants must close after 8.p.m. daily as of Friday.

Reacting to sharp increase in food sales, Babis called on people not to stockpile food, saying there would be no restriction on food sales under any future scenario.

“It cannot happen that food would not be available. There is no reason to make inventories,” he said.

Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Robert Muller; Editing by Catherine Evans and Alison Williams

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