Expat's guide to the pandemic

We’ll be updating this article as often as possible. Last update: 30 September

Follow the latest news:

  • follow the government restrictions (scroll to “Governmental information”) and the situation in Brno at koronavirus.brno.cz/en/ or a dedicated website of the Ministry of Health
  • about the regulations regarding the administration of residency permits and entry of foreigners follow the Ministry of Interior aka Immigration office website: Information for foreign nationals)
  • information and suggestions from the regional Public Health Office are available here (in Czech only)
  • another platform collating information for foreigners living in Brno can be found at coronahelp.cz
  • detail data for Brno and the South Moravian Region, updated daily data.brno.cz/en

Subscribe to Brno news CTV and Brno Daily to get updates in English in your FB feed, or to the Coronvavirus daily newsletter from Foreigners.cz

Q&As:

  1. Where can I get tested?
  2. How should I protect myself?
  3. What should I do if I’ve been in contact with a confirmed case of infection?
  4. How should I proceed if I have symptoms?
  5. What are the numbers to call?
  6. Is the Brno Expat Centre opened?
  7. How do I reach the Immigration office?
  8. How does this situation affect my residency?
  9. Can I travel in and out of the country?
  10. How can I help?
  11. Where can I get help with shopping, babysitting?
  12. I am self-employed, is there any financial relief?
  13. How can I spend the time at home?

1. Where can I get tested?

A complete list of testing places is available at the Ministry of Health website (in Czech only)

2. How should I protect myself?

1) Stay away from a crowd

Take particular care to avoid those who have symptoms of respiratory tract infection, such as coughing or sneezing. The risk of transmission of infection is greater if there is prolonged contact and exposure in a confined space. Travelling by tram or bus increases the risk of infection.

2) Use a mask

For direct personal protection against airborne infection, use a mask. Check with the government or city regulations if the mask is required in public transportation or shops or even outdoors.

3) Hand hygiene

The strictest possible hand hygiene is one of the key protections against transmission.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap whenever you get home.
  • Avoid touching objects that are frequently touched by others (door handles, elevator buttons, etc.).
  • If you go to public areas more often, get a disinfectant spray for your hands or wear gloves. In particular, give your children gloves to wear.
  • Use cards to pay and remember to wash your hands even after entering your PIN.

4) Avoid touching your face

After touching objects that may have been contaminated, do not touch your face (especially eyes, nose, and mouth) until you have cleaned your hands thoroughly.

3. What should I do if I’ve been in contact with a confirmed case of infection?

1) You should go into quarantine, even if no one has officially ordered you to do so. You must not be in contact with other people, especially those at high risk of developing a serious illness (seniors, immunocompromised people). You should not leave home at all unless you absolutely have to.

If your respiratory tract is not secreting fluid, the risk of transmission of infection by air is quite low, but you should still be cautious of contact. Public health authorities still recommend full quarantine even if you feel healthy and are not showing symptoms.

2) There is no point in being tested for coronavirus at this stage if you don’t show symptoms. A positive result would confirm that you are infected but would not change your situation – you would still have to remain in quarantine. Even if the result were negative you would still have to remain in quarantine, as you could be reaching the end of the incubation period, and you might start showing symptoms the next day. A negative test result cannot be considered as a sure sign you are not infected, as it is only valid for 24 hours.

3) You should remain in quarantine for two weeks after your last contact with the confirmed case of infection. The public health authority should test you at the end of this period. Your quarantine will end only if your test comes back negative. However, the authorities may be so overwhelmed with testing by then that this may not be possible.

4. How should I proceed if I have symptoms of any respiratory infection?

1) During the time of the epidemic, you should behave as if you are already infected with the coronavirus. Above all, stay at home and do not spread the infection to other people.

  • Use online services such as rohlik.cz or itesco.cz as the last resort: if you are in quarantine or at high risk. The services are overwhelmed and there are people who don’t have any other option.

2) According to current regulations, a person with symptoms of lower respiratory tract infection (fever, cough, or shortness of breath) should report their illness by telephone to the staff of the catchment area (your GP, public health office 1212 / 773 768 994 or ambulance 112). They will decide if coronavirus testing is needed. If you have been in contact with a confirmed case of the virus, don’t forget to mention it. They will check the name you give them against their database, and the likelihood of testing is much higher.

  • you can also drive yourself to the Faculty Hospital in Bohunice to get tested in the drive-through tents (these are signposted from Kamenice street), but only if your symptoms are clear (fever over 38) and your GP or the public health authority have recommended testing. Otherwise, an ambulance will come to your home to perform the test, the next day or the day after.

3) The basic sanitary measures to prevent the spread of infection are well known. Cough and sneeze into a disposable handkerchief or your elbow, not into your hand. Use only paper tissues, and throw them into garbage cans or plastic bags immediately after use; they should definitely not go back into your pockets or purses. Wash or disinfect your hands after blowing your nose or otherwise touching respiratory secretions.

4) If for some reason it is necessary to leave home, you are obliged to wear a mask. Direct or indirect contact with the elderly or people with weakened immune systems must be avoided at all costs.

5) Since no effective direct treatments are yet available against coronaviruses, it is recommended to at least support the immune system, by sleeping well, eating well, using vitamin C, and so on. There is ongoing research into possible antiviral drugs and it’s likely that within a few months products might be available to treat severe cases of coronavirus infection. Existing antiviral medicines to treat influenza (oseltamivir, Tamiflu) are completely ineffective against coronaviruses.

6) Call the medical emergency services on 112 if you’re experiencing increased dyspnoea (shortness of breath). In these cases, hospitalization is usually required.

5. What are the numbers to call?

  • contact your GP via phone or mail if you show symptoms
  • or contact the Regional Public Health Office in Brno at (all in English) 516 497 114, 545 113 043, 545 113 037 or 775 216 253,  778 706 499, 728 711 953 – they can tell you what you have to do if you arrived from abroad, or if you were in contact with an infected person or where to get tested…
  • for information, you can contact the City of Brno Infoline at 800 140 800 (ask for an English-speaking operator, they have some)
  • or if you can’t reach a national helpline: 800 129 921 or 1212. They will discuss your case and give you further recommendations.

6. Is the Brno Expat Centre opened?

Our consultants are still hard at work. You can contact us as normal through this contact form.

And from 4 May, BEC will be open for personal meetings with clients again – by appointment. Please, contact our consultants in advance to arrange a meeting and to ensure both its necessity (could this be solved remotely?) and safety (have I been abroad or in a potentially risky contact recently?). And, please, wear a face mask. A virtual meeting via skype/zoom/hangouts can be arranged too.

We sincerely believe that a responsible approach on both sides means we will be able to meet face to face and shake hands sooner.

7. How do I reach the Immigration office?

Your obligations regarding your legal stay are still in place! You have to apply for an extension of stay, report changes, apply for a change of employer, etc. in time.

Read the up to date info at the change of operations of OAMP and the OAMP office Brno contact hours.

Note, that some applications, notifications or any other submissions can be sent by post to the local office of the Ministry of Interior: Address: Ministerstvo vnitra, Odbor azylové a migrační politiky Jihomoravský kraj, Hněvkovského 30/65, 617 00 Brno or to the data mailbox (How to set up a data mailbox?) of the Ministry of Interior of the Czech Republic (ID 6bnaawp).

Please note that if you choose postal delivery, all the required personal documents must be either originals or notarized copies, with the exception of passports, ID cards or EHIC, which can be regular copies and do not need to be notarized. You should send them as a registered letter.

You can arrange your appointment either by phone or electronically at frs.gov.cz. Please note that all existing reservations have been canceled and you have to make a new appointment. Visiting the Ministry of Interior without an appointment is possible only for the purpose of obtaining a bridging visa. Bridging visas will be issued only if the client proves (with a ticket – a reservation is not enough) that they need to travel abroad.

You can find more information at mvcr.cz.

8. How does this situation affect my residency?

More detailed information regarding the stay of third-country nationals in the Czech Republic can be found here and here.

Foreign national whose residence permit or Schengen visa or visa-free stay has run out during the state of emergency (from March 13th – May 17th) can stay in the Czech Republic for additional 60 days after the end of the state of emergency – that is until July 16, 2020. They do NOT need to request an extension from the Foreign Police, but will receive a stamp at the border confirming legality.

Although this applies to all types of residencies, if your residency is anything other than a short-term visa and it is about to expire, and you wish to stay in the CR, you have to apply in time to extend your residence permit via post according to the legal conditions of your particular stay.

If you are a first employee cardholder, from 19 March 2020 until the end of the state of emergency (May 17), you can apply to change your employer even before the legally required period of six months. However, you are still obliged to report the change to the Ministry of the Interior according to the legal conditions. You can do so via post.

The 60-day allowance to apply for a change of an employer after your lost your job is now extended until July 16th if your employment has ceased after January 12.

Czech Embassies

The activities of diplomatic missions of the Czech Republic are gradually resumed. Depending on the epidemiological situation, the conditions for entry into the Czech Republic will also be gradually relaxed. Czech embassies abroad resumed accepting visa applications (from nonEU foreigners) in countries with low risk of infection. The list of countries accepting visas is available at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

But only for

  • workers seeking seasonal jobs (agriculture),
  • those in government programs for health and social care personnel,
  • key and scientific personnel,
  • highly qualified personnel,
  • family members of residents,
  • students applying via “student program”,
  • visas for the purpose of collecting residence permits (D/VR visa)

9. Can I travel in and out of the country?

For the up to date information about the border crossing read the Ministry of Interior website or call the telephone line 974 820 680 for inquiries related to traveling during the state of emergency in English.

If you arrived in the country from abroad, there is no need for a negative test at the border control but you have to self-quarantine and get tested in 5 days after arrival and you have to report your arrival (and later your negative/positive test in two days after testing) to pendleri@khsbrno.cz. If you have any more questions contact the Public Health Office at 516 497 114, 545 113 043, 545 113 037 or 775 216 253,  778 706 499, 728 711 953.

10. How can I help?

  • sijemerousky.cz: For all expats in Brno who want to help with face masks, you can either
    • 1) sew them at home,
    • 2) donate fabric,
    • 3) help deliver by driving around town,
    • 4) help with coordination
  • Masaryk University Volunteering network
    • apply if you can help with babysitting, assisting seniors (shopping, dog walking), as a helpline operator, or with IT services
  • Neighbours help
    • you can help with the delivery of groceries and medicine (in Czech only, please use Google Translator)
  • For further tips, visit coronahelp.cz

11. Where can I get help with shopping, babysitting?

  • Help to Home – if you need help from volunteers, post your request here (in Czech only, use Google Translator)
  • Neighbours help – ensures the delivery of food and medicine to people most at risk of coronavirus infection (in Czech only, please use Google Translator)
  • For further tips, visit cz

12. I am self-employed, is there any financial relief?

A) ‘Insurance Holidays’

Self-employed workers (OSVČ) do not have to pay minimum premiums for social security and health insurance for 6 months from March to August 2020.

There is no need to apply individually. The Czech government will basically grant you up to 30,000 CZK in relief. The minimum premiums are canceled, not only deferred.

Those minimum payments are 2,352 crowns for health and 2,544 crowns for social insurance per month. Anyone who pays more than those amounts will still need to pay monthly health and social taxes, but they can subtract the minimum from their usual monthly payments for the next six months. The new regulation takes effect from March, and ends in September; if you have already paid your March installments, you may postpone the September payments accordingly.

B) ‘Nursing Aid’

Ošetřovné (‘nursing aid’) of 424 CZK per day is now available for a self-employed person enabled to work due to taking home care of a child up to the age of 13 affected by school closure.

You can apply for the past days until the end of April through the form  Žádost o dotaci z programu „OŠETŘOVNÉ“ pro OSVČ (to be filled out in Czech and printed as PDF and sent to the Ministry of Industry and Trade or electronically by your ‘data box’ – datová schránka).

C) Direct financial support

A sum of 500 CZK per day (ie max 25 000 for the 50 days between March 12 and April 30) will be paid to self-employed entrepreneurs who were affected by the state of emergency. The government is also ready to pay 15,000 CZK per month in May or June if needed.

To be eligible for the support, you have to fulfill these requirements:

  • your business is your main activity, or your extra activity but you can’t be employed simultaneously.
  • Your business was active before 12 March 2020, or was interrupted at any point after 31 August 2019 (seasonal business).
  • You declare that you were not able to perform this activity at all or partly, due to
    • health threats associated with the occurrence of coronavirus,
    • government emergency restrictions (such as a closure),
    • being in quarantine,
    • care for your children or other family members,
    • the decrease of demand for products or services, or
    • the decrease or full halt of supplies or services necessary for your business.

You should claim these facts by a sworn statement, delivered together with your bank account number to the Financial office, by electronic data mailbox or a hard copy to special collection boxes.

Applications are open and you need to apply before the end of June. The templates for application is available as a web-based or PDF form here.

More details at the Ministry of Finance website (in Czech).

D) Also

In addition, the EET (Electronic Evidence of Sales) system is suspended during the state of emergency, and for three months after.

If you had to close your business premises due to the government measures since 12 March, you can ask your landlord for a postponement of rent for up to three months (until June). If you’re behind with your rent (but not with payments for services or utilities!) in the period between 12 March and 30 June, the landlord doesn’t have the right to terminate the lease due to such delay. This protection period will last until 31 December, which is also the deadline for paying back the missing rent. Additionally, many property owners (including some municipalities) have started providing discounts, or made a delay possible on their own accord, so talk to your lessor.

The deadline for income tax returns for 2019 is still 1 April, but the Financial Office has promised that they will waive the fine if you submit your return before 1 July.

Non-Czech-speaking taxpayers can send their questions to the Tax Office via podatelna3000@fs.mfcr.cz.

13) How can I spend the time at home?

There’s only that much Netflix one can watch. Intersperse it with:

 


Picture by Jirka Lubojacky.

Edited by Jan Kopkáš, Lucia Konôpková, Katka Báňová, Veronika Kiruščanka and Jack Stephens. 

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