May 1, 2020 / 9:59 AM / 25 days ago

No popcorn at movies as Czechs prepare to reopen cinemas and other businesses

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech Republic outlined rules on Friday for cinemas, hairdressers and other businesses to re-open on May 11 that include a food and drink ban at the movies as the country eases restrictions aimed at slowing the coronavirus’s spread.

FILE PHOTO: People stand on the Vltava river bank amid an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Prague, Czech Republic, April 29, 2020. REUTERS/David W Cerny

Hairstylists will need to wear both a mask and a protective shield and manicurists and pedicurists must also wear gloves, Health Minister Adam Vojtech told a news conference. Their customers must keep two metres apart.

“When it comes to barbers and hairdressers, it is essential that operators have double respiratory protection,” Vojtech said. “So, in addition to the mask, there is also a protective shield.”

The central European nation of 10.7 million is cautiously opening up its economy amid signs the outbreak has come under control. Schools, shops and restaurants were shut down and a lockdown imposed in March.

The Czech Republic has reported a total of 7,689 cases and 237 deaths. On Thursday, it recorded 103 new cases, the first time since April 21 that daily new infections climbed above 100. Active cases have steadily declined.

The government said on Thursday it would allow the opening of cultural and sport events with up to 100 people as part of a next phase of relaxing restrictions, to start on May 11. That will also include shopping malls and larger shops.

At theatres, audience members must leave every other row empty and couples can sit together at cinemas but must be separated by a seat from others.

“It will not be possible to consume or sell any food, including drinks,” Vojtech said, adding that masks need to stay on during the film. “That means no popcorn.”

At restaurants with outdoor areas, customers not dining together must sit 1.5 metres apart but can remove their masks while eating and drinking.

The government is hoping a system of tracing and testing contacts of infected people, newly boosted by an army of testers, mobile apps and location data from phones and payment card transactions, will be enough to contain any flare-ups without re-introducing blanket restrictions.

Stores of up to 2,500 square metres reopened Monday, and restaurants, pubs and hotels should open their doors on May 25 in the next reopening stage.

Reporting by Michael Kahn and Jason Hovet, editing by Larry King

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