Czechs mark November 17th - Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day
Commemorative events are taking place around the Czech Republic to mark the events of November 17, 1989, when communist police cracked down on students on Prague’s Národní třída, sparking the Velvet Revolution which brought down the regime which had held power for more than 40 years.
On Friday, the first politician to visit the memorial at Národní třída was Andrej Babiš, a former businessman turned politician who heads the ANO Party and has been tasked with forming a minority government after winning the election in October.
He was flanked by other members of his party including Defence Minister Martin Stropnický, Justice Minister Robert Pelikán, and Prague Mayor Adriana Krnačová.
Mr Babiš was met by several vocal demonstrators who brought up allegations he had collaborated with the communist-era secret police and allegations of subsidy fraud in the Stork’s Nest scandal. Mr Babiš said that they had every right to express their opinion, one of the gains of the Velvet Revolution. He expressed the view that 28 years since the events of 1989, Czech society was too divided and polarised. Long-time political opponent Miroslav Kalousek, who lit a candle at the memorial later, reacted to Mr Babiš’ words by saying that society’s strength was built on variety, not union.
Other politicians from the major parties, such as Civic Democrat leader Petr Fiala but also presidential candidates as well as regular citizens continued to visit the site of the memorial throughout the day, lighting candles. Absent this year was the head of state, Miloš Zeman. His spokesman, Jiří Ovčáček, said the president as someone who had been an "active participant" in 1989 would mark the day in private.
November 17th also marks the 78th anniversary of brutal Nazi repression and murder in 1939, after students had organised a march to commemorate the death of Jan Opletal, a young man killed by the Nazi occupiers. One witness to those events, Vojmír Srdečný (who is 98 now and was a 20-year-old student at the time), said that the Gestapo and German soldiers had swept into student dorms in Prague, Brno, and Příbram, and dragged students off to Ruzyně prison. Nine student leaders were murdered by the Nazis and more than 1,000 sent to Sachsenhausen, he said at a commemorative event on Friday.
Events on the day are scheduled at a memorial on Narodní třída, as well as Albertov and on Prague’s Wenceslas Square which saw the number of demonstrators in the days of the Velvet Revolution swell to almost one million.
A concert called Concert for the Future will take place on the square beginning at half-past four in the afternoon. Performers include Zrni, Ema Smetana, Švihadlo, and Laco Deczi.
Security on November 17th has been increased accordingly and police are monitoring events closely: some 24 events were officially registered – nine of which are marches through the city. Police will be aiming to prevent right-wing and leftist extremists from crossing paths and clashing or any other potential violence.
Centre-right opposition parties sign alliance memorandum for 2021 elections10/27/2020
The leaders of the Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats and the TOP 09 party met at the statue of former president T.G. Masaryk on Tuesday morning to sign a memorandum on forming an alliance for next year’s 2021 elections into the Chamber of Deputies.
A similar coalition is currently being negotiated between the opposition Pirate Party and the Mayors and Independents.
Candidate for next health minister Jan Blatný meets with president10/27/2020
The Deputy Director of the Faculty Hospital in Brno Jan Blatný, who is according to all indications the man to succeed Roman Prymula as Czech Minister of Health, met with President Miloš Zeman in the latter's Lány residence on Tuesday afternoon.
News site iDnes.cz broke the story on Monday that Mr. Blatný was the proposed replacement for Mr. Prymula, citing a source familiar with the ongoing negotiations. However, Mr. Blatný can only assume office once he is approved by the president.
Jan Blatný is a pediatrician and hematologist. He has previously served as the Chief Physician at the Faculty Hospital in Brno and lectures at the Medical Faculty of the Masaryk University in Brno. He faced controversy during the spring first wave of the coronavirus pandemic from the NGO League of Human Rights, because he did not allow the parents of coronavirus infected children visits.
The current health minister, Roman Prymula, is set to leave office after being dismissed by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš for breaking the government’s coronavirus measures. He was caught visiting a Prague restaurant last Wednesday.
Wednesday is set to be cloudy, with temperatures around 11 degrees Celsius. No rainfall is expected.
State of pandemic means Czech schools have to remain closed, says health minister10/27/2020
Czech schools will not reopen at the beginning of next week, Health Minister Roman Prymula announced on Tuesday. This despite an earlier promise that primary schools would definitely re-open from November 2. He said that the government will decide on when it plans to reopen schools after reviewing data towards the end of this week.
Both the opposition and the current Minister of Education Robert Plaga have cticisised the delay, saying that it is necessary to provide information on when schools will reopen now.
Czech schools, including primary education facilities, have been closed in the Czech Republic since October 14, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which is regularly reaching new height in terms of infections and numbers of hospitalised. Classes are currently being taught via distance learning.
Government proposes extending state of emergency to December 310/27/2020
The Czech government has proposed that the current state of emergency be extended until December 3, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš announced on Tuesday. The proposal will have to be approved by the Chamber of Deputies, which is set to discuss the issue on Friday morning.
The prime minister said that the extension was necessary to keep the several emergency measures, that have been put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, in place.
The Czech Republic has been in a state of emergency since October 5. It is currently among the most affected countries in Europe by the pandemic.
Care home residents to receive fast coronavirus tests, says labour minister10/27/2020
Czech social services have successfully tested the use of antigenic COVID-19 tests (sometimes also referred to as fast coronavirus tests), Labour and Social Affairs Minister Jana Maláčová announced on Tuesday. The tests are to be used for wide-range testing of senior citizens in social facilities, such as pensioner homes.
Antigenic tests take around 15 minutes to provide a result. However, they are also less reliable than standard testing. According to Minister of Health Roman Prymula, the tests will be used in social facilities such as pensioner homes, because they will be able to indicate the level of spread faster than normal PCR testing. The second, more reliable wave of tests would then follow.
Hundreds of police to be deployed during October 28 protests against coronavirus measures10/27/2020
Hundreds of police officers are set to be deployed to monitor demonstrations in the centre of Prague, planned on the occasion of the creation of the independent Czechoslovak state on October 28. Protests and associated events are planned on the Náměstí Republiky square, on Old Town Square and in the area of Klárov. Their primary goal is to protest against the ongoing government measures that restrict movement and have closed most shops and restaurants to curb the spread of COVID-19.
A previous protest against coronavirus measures, which took place less than two weeks ago, ended in a violent clash between protestors and the police. However, Prague Municipal Police spokesman Jan Daněk has said that the local police force does not expect this to happen on Wednesday.
Adam Sandler to star in adaptation of Spaceman in Bohemia book10/27/2020
The popular American comedy director Adam Sandler has signed a contract to play the main role in an upcoming Netflix movie based on Czech writer Jaroslav Kalfař’s 2017 book Spaceman of Bohemia. The film is set to be directed by Emmy Award winning Swedish director Johan Renck, with the screenplay being written by Colby Day.
The plot of the book’s story revolves around a Czech astronaut sent on a one-man mission to the planet Venus, where he has to gather “intergalactic dust”. Along the journey he runs into a giant arachnid and a competing Russian mission to the planet.
Czech Centres to stream Dvořák's New World Symphony on Czechoslovak Independence Day10/27/2020
Celebrations of Czechoslovak Independence Day have been severely curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic and events marking the establishment of Czechoslovakia on October 28, 1918 have had to go online both here in the Czech Republic and abroad.
In a celebration aimed at reaching Czechs and friends of the Czech Republic worldwide the Czech Centres network will stream the historical recording of Dvořák's New World Symphony under the baton of conductor Václav Neumann. The start is scheduled for 6 pm CET. For more information go to www.facebook.com/Ceskacentra.
Slight drop in Covid-19 cases registered on Monday10/27/2020
The Czech Republic registered 10.273 cases of Covid-19 infections on Monday, which is a drop from last week’s highs of 15,000, but is still the highest Monday figure registered since the start of the epidemic in March.
Currently over 162,000 people are fighting the infection. Over 5,600 people are hospitalized, of which over 800 are in a serious condition. 2365 people have died.
The reproduction figure has dropped slightly to 1.3, down from 1.5 at the start of October.