People wearing face masks watch a film in a cinema on May 11, 2020 in Prague as shopping malls, restaurant outdoor seating, hairdressers and cinemas may reopen after a two-month pause in Czech Republic as lockdown measure eases. (AFP/Michal Cizek)
After two months under a coronavirus lockdown in the Czech Republic, 16-year-old Tomas Fohler was eager to go to the movies -- a novel outing that now comes with new rules in a world gripped by a pandemic.
"We wanted to see what it's like just to go and see a film with my friends again," the teen told AFP before settling in for a Czech film with two pals in Prague.
"We'll sit further from each other, in a single row, and we'll probably shout at each other," he joked, wearing a face mask which is now required in all public places.
The theater -- which requires all guests to sit two metres (over six feet) apart -- is among the first to open in Europe, where strict lockdowns have hemmed in huge swathes of the population for weeks on end.
The Czech Republic is joining several countries in easing some restrictions, allowing citizens out of the house for simple activities that now feel unfamiliar.
But many businesses, the cinema included, did not receive a rush of customers, even with new safety measures now on the menu.
Fohler and his friends were the only three ticket holders at Monday morning's screening, and all seats remained empty for the next two showings.
Other theaters in the country opted to keep their doors shut, waiting instead for other lockdown restrictions to be lifted.
The Czech Republic is not the first country to allow moviegoers back to the big screen.
Some cinemas have opened in Norway, also asking guests to respect social distancing measures, with several theaters limiting the number of guests to 50.
'Strange to be back'
Museums, galleries, theaters and cinemas were among the first businesses to shut down in Europe as governments rolled out strict lockdown measures to stave off the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak.
The Czech Republic was spared the worst of the outbreak endured by hotspots such as Italy and Spain, but took similarly drastic steps to stem the virus' spread.
It is now emerging from its months-old lockdown, and along with cinemas, pubs, cafes and restaurants are allowed to serve customers again, but only on open-air terraces.
Shopping malls were also open for business, though for some it was odd to be back on the job.
"I was really looking forward to the reopening, but it also feels a bit strange to be at work after such a long time," Ivana Madarova, working in a mall, told AFP.
"I spent the free time with my boyfriend and family, we had a good time doing barbecues and being in the garden," she added, looking out into the empty aisle.
And after weeks of closures, steep discounts did little to lure customers at her shop.
"We expected a shopping boom but it's been pretty quiet so far," she told AFP.
Business, however, was brisk in a nearby barber shop.
"We're absolutely full today until 8:00 pm and bookings keep coming," receptionist Karolina Mazakova said to the hum of clippers and clicking of scissors.
Church services and events with up to 100 people, including sports training sessions, are also allowed again, while elementary and secondary schools opened partially.
The Czech Republic registered over 8,000 cases of the virus, including 281 deaths as of Monday.
A "collective immunity study" testing the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in people without symptoms released last week showed a low incidence of the disease.
Some credit the success to the mandatory face mask rule, which will be eased as of May 25, when they will only be required in shops, offices and on public transport.
Restaurants, hotels, zoos and tattoo shops will also open then.
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