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Czech Government measures to prevent coronavirus close museums and theaters, including Museum of Romani Culture

11.3.2020 17:25
Czech Culture Minister Lubomír Zaorálek on a visit to the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno. (2019) (PHOTO:  Museum of Romani Culture)
Czech Culture Minister Lubomír Zaorálek on a visit to the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno. (2019) (PHOTO: Museum of Romani Culture)

Yesterday Czech Culture Minister Lubomír Zaorálek (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) decided to close all contributory organizations of the Culture Ministry to visitors. Galleries, libraries, memorials and monuments are now closed to the public until further notice.

The measures have also impacted the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno, which is a contributory organization. "Dear Visitors, in association with recommendations by the founder of the Museum of Romani Culture, the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, the entire building of the museum is closed to the public as of 18:00 today until further notice. The café and exhibition spaces are also closed. This measure is of a preventive nature to emphasize protecting the health of our fellow citizens. All events scheduled for the public are, therefore, currently cancelled. We will inform you of any changes. We apologize for any complications and we thank you for your understanding," the Facebook page of the Museum of Romani Culture posted yesterday.

"We are unable to rule out the possibility that a bigger number of people might assemble in galleries, libraries and museums," the Culture Minister told journalists yesterday. Such facilities closed yesterday at 18:00 and any tickets bought in advance will be refunded.

The state Security Council has decided to require the cancellation of all events where more than 100 people might assemble at one time, for preventive reasons. Zaorálek, referencing the Health Ministry's recommendations on how to prevent becoming infected with the coronavirus, said it would be impossible to maintain the recommended two meters of distance between people if they were to continue using public libraries, reading rooms or theaters.

"This is mainly about public health and about our measures being effective," the Culture Minister said. Independent organizations whose staffers do not have fixed salaries began to close or limit their programs today along with organizations established by municipalities, regions and the state itself.

The loss of revenue could destroy such entities, as Yvona Kreuzmannová, founder of the Tanec Praha (Dance Prague) company, told the Czech News Agency (ČTK). In response to a ČTK query, the Culture Minister said that if the Government agrees to compensate entrepreneurs for lost revenue, he will ensure such measures apply to culture.

So far the Government has only discussed providing loans to affected entrepreneurs. The Culture Minister and the directors of the ministry's biggest contributory organizations, i.e., the National Museum, the National Theater, the National Gallery in Prague, the National Library and the National Heritage Institute, said yesterday that these new measures concern the public above all.

"A way is being sought to ensure, for a temporary amount of time, the functioning of these organizations or their work so they can operate to the maximum possible extent while making sure no events are held at them involving larger numbers of people," the Culture Minister said. Tomáš Staněk, spokesperson for the National Theater, told ČTK that the company will be refunding CZK 700 000 (EUR 27 000) in ticket sales just for yesterday's cancelled, sold-out performance of "Rusalka".

If the National Theater were to refund tickets for all performances between now and the end of March, the sum would be about CZK 20 million [EUR 780 000]. Rehearsals will continue to be held at the theater and everybody is following the recommended hygienic measures.

For bigger productions, the rehearsals are being broken down into sections - for example, the choir will rehearse separately from the orchestra so that the number of performers in the same place at the same time does not exceed the recommended 100 persons, the National Theater spokesperson said. The director of the National Museum, Michal Lukeš, told ČTK the museum will not be hiring any more curators to guard the permanent exhibits.

Employees of the museum are continuing to work on preparing new permanent exhibits, while others are dedicating themselves to their research activity. The program for the public is just part of the content of the activity of many state-established cultural institutions, which are also scholarly workplaces in large part.

ČTK, voj, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Brno, Muzeum, Vláda, Zdraví



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