Daily news summary

State of emergency set to end next week after ANO decision

Government leaders ANO say they will not seek to have the current state of emergency extended beyond April 30. Party chief Andrej Babiš announced the decision on TV Prima. The government initially imposed a 30-day state of emergency on March 13 in view of the coronavirus situation. MPs later voted to extend it to the end of this month.

The chairman of the junior party in the governing coalition, Jan Hamáček of the Social Democrats, had called for a further extension but said if Prime Minister Babiš was against there was no point in taking the matter to the lower house.

As of Wednesday morning, 201 people with Covid-19 had died in the Czech Republic. Over 7,000 cases have been detected to date.

Quarantines can be terminated only after rapid test

Starting today, April 22, people who have been placed in quarantine will need to screen negative for the COVID 19 virus before the quarantine can be officially terminated, according to a new regulation passed by the government.

According to the government regulation the tests should be conducted by GPs and can only be performed a fortnight after the quarantine has started. The move is to prevent infected people without symptoms spreading the disease.

However many GPs say they still lack the rapid test kits required and have had to send patients to the nearest hospital for testing.

Supreme Audit Office to inspect government purchases

The Supreme Audit Office (NKU) will inspect state purchases of protective gear during the coronavirus crisis, its president Miloslav Kala told the news site HlídacíPes.org on Wednesday.

Kala said the office was planning to focus on a number of areas linked to the coronavirus crisis and the state of emergency which allowed the public sector to operate under different legal conditions, such as buying and commissioning materials and services without an open competition.

In recent days, the media reported that the Ministry of Health had purchased protective gear at a much higher cost than the Ministry of the Interior.

Social Democrats slam Klaus for inciting public rebellion against restrictions

The Social Democrats of the ruling coalition have slammed the former Czech president, Václav Klaus, for inciting people to rebel against the government restrictions taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.

In an interview for the news site Novinky.cz Klaus said he was alarmed by the restrictions imposed on businesses and freedom of movement, saying that the looming economic recession was, in his view, a much bigger threat than the coronavirus pandemic and someone should lead a public rebellion against the restrictions enforced.

Social Democrat leader Jan Hamáček said Mr. Klaus was acting irresponsibly by speaking as he did and that by downplaying the danger of the pandemic he was acting like the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un or the Belarusian leader, Alexander Lukashenko.

Most world leaders are listening to the advice of epidemiologists and treating the matter seriously, Hamáček said.

Lidovky: Ministry of Interior also victim of hackers last week

Hackers attempted to get into the computer system at the Czech Ministry of the Interior last week, Lidovky.cz reported on Wednesday. A number of Czech hospitals, the Ministry of Health and Prague Airport have all seen their computer networks face attack recently.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior said somebody had attempted to find weaknesses in its computer system’s defences. The government department had previously received warnings from the Office for Cyber and Information Security and the police’s organised crime division, which investigates serious cyber crime.

Last Friday the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said his country was concerned about cyber attacks against Czech hospitals that had taken place in the preceding days, which he said could cause deadly results during the coronavirus crisis.

Lidovky.cz reported that the local authorities were in contact with the US’s FBI in connection with the attempted hacking of facilities in the Czech Republic.

On Tuesday the Russian Embassy in Prague denied media reports that the attacks had been carried out by Russia.

Czechs raise millions to help save pubs

Czechs have invested massively into an initiative to help tide over pubs during the coronavirus crisis. The "Save the Pub" initiative launched by the Czech Association of Breweries and Malthouses, has raised seven million crowns in less than a month.

Pub regulars and people willing to support the Czech pub culture are buying vouchers for food and drinks at their favourite haunt when pubs reopen.

Pub regulars are spending on average CZK 360,000 a day on beer and food to be consumed “in better times” to keep local pubs afloat.

Approximately 50,000 pubs in the Czech Republic were forced to close as a result of government measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.

Czech scientists mapping wildlife in Congolese rainforests

A team of Czech scientists is helping to map the occurrence of animals in the Congolese wilderness, the ctk news agency reported.

In cooperation with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) they have laid dozens of photo traps in rainforests on the border between Congo and Gabon. They hope that by mapping wildlife in the area they will help protect the forests from extensive logging and other human activities.

According to a member of the team, zoologist Tomáš Jůnek, logging and mining activities in the area have gone further and progressed faster than expected. The damage caused to the environment is irrevocable, Jůnek said in an interview for the ctk news agency.

Weather forecast

Thursday should be bright and sunny around the country with day temperatures between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius.