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.
New health minister aims to replace fear of Covid-19 with respect for virus10/29/2020
The new minister of health, Jan Blatný, has outlined his vision for the post his first news conference since being appointed. Dr. Blatný said the main goal for him and his government department would be to change the situation with regard to Covid-19 and the mood in society. He said fear of the virus, which was paralyzing and dividing people, needed to be traded for respect.
The new minister said the current strict measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus would not need to be tightened further in a significant way. However, people need to respect them, he said.
Man faces terror charge after threatening to drive truck into crowd over closed bars10/29/2020
Police have charged a man from Pardubice who is accused of saying on Facebook that he would drive a truck into people if restaurants and bars were not reopened. They are closed under Covid-19 restrictions.
The man, who is 62, faces from five to 15 years in jail for threatening an act of terrorism, a police spokesperson said.
Farmers’ markets want loosening of new Covid-19 restriction10/29/2020
The Czech Association of Farmers’ Markets have called on the government to reconsider restrictions on such sites imposed in a bid to curb Covid-19 infections. A new measure says there may be no more than 20 persons in a 400 metre square space at farmers’ markets. However, this amounts to far more than the standard two-metre distance required and makes markets unfeasible to hold, say operators.
Restrictions introduced this week allow the sale of agricultural products only at markets. No consumption of food or drink is allowed on site.
Babiš expresses horror over fatal attack in Nice10/29/2020
The Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, says he is “absolutely horrified by the barbarous attack in Nice” on Thursday. Three people were killed in the apparent terrorist incident. Mr. Babiš wrote on Twitter that he stood by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and all French people.
The Czech minister of foreign affairs, Tomáš Petříček, said whatever the motivation nothing could excuse the brutal attack in Nice, another attempt in Avignon and an attack on the French Embassy in Saudi Arabia. He also expressed sympathy with the victims.
It should be overcast and rainy in the Czech Republic on Friday, with an average daytime high of 14 degrees Celsius. The following days are also expected to be overcast.
Prague wooden church fire blamed on technical fault or human error10/29/2020
Fire service investigators say a blaze at a wooden church in Prague was probably caused by either a technical fault or human error. The Church of St. Michael in the city’s Kinský Gardens park was burnt to a cinder in Wednesday’s fire. It was originally built in Carpathian Ruthenia before being disassembled and transported to Prague in 1929.
The fire service said the cause of the blaze should be established by Friday.
Medical chamber chief: New minister must demand full lockdown10/29/2020
The head of the Czech Medical Chamber says that the new minister of health needs to insist on a total lockdown to contain the Covid-19 emergency. Speaking to Czech Radio, Milan Kubek said the country’s hospitals were headed for disaster. The doctors’ leader said the government’s bit by bit “salami technique” was not working.
Mr. Kubek said that the Czech Republic should follow Israel’s lead by imposing a full lockdown, adding that the tougher the restrictions the shorter they would need to be in place.
Doctor Jan Blatný appointed health minister10/29/2020
Doctor Jan Blatný has been named Czech minister of health. He was appointed by President Miloš Zeman at his Lány residence near Prague on Thursday. The move came less than a week after the previous minister, Roman Prymula, was photographed leaving a restaurant, which should have been closed under Covid-19 restrictions. Mr. Prymula was only appointed in the latter half of September.
Dr. Blatny specialises in paediatric haematology and has international experience. He has previously served as deputy head of Brno’s University Hospital.
Data analysts: lockdown will be inevitable10/29/2020
According to the Centre for Modelling of Biological and Social Processes (BISOP) a strict lockdown will be unavoidable if the epidemic is to be brought under control by Christmas.
It should also include a ban on people meeting outside work and family, the centre said in a press release. The BISOP research team consists of seventeen scientists from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Charles University and the CERGE-EI institute.
According to the centre’s executive director René Levínský a strict lockdown would mean a reduction in contacts by 60 to 70 percent, presence in the workplace by 50 to 60 percent, compulsory face masks and a high level of compliance with the protective measures enforced.
A recent survey showed that a third of Czechs oppose the restrictions and 27 percent still refuse to wear face masks.
Number of newly registered Covid-19 cases hits new high10/29/2020
The number of newly registered Covid-19 cases reached 12,977 on Wednesday, the highest number yet on a non-work day.
The number of people hospitalized and those in a serious condition continues to grow steeply, as does the death toll.
175,000 people are currently fighting the infection, over 6,600 people are hospitalized with Covid-19, of which close to a 1,000 are in a serious condition. The death toll has reached 2,675.