Daily news summary

Russia filing criminal charges over removal of Konev statue

Russia has announced it is filing criminal charges in connection with the recent removal of a statue to Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev by the Prague 6 district authorities.

The statue of the controversial marshal who liberated Prague in 1945, but also had an active role in crushing the Hungarian Uprising and building the Berlin Wall, has been at the centre of a diplomatic row between the two countries for some time.

Moscow sees the staue's removal as a diplomatic insult and a dangerous attempt to rewrite history.

The statue has aroused controversy in Prague where it was repeatedly vandalized with red paint on significant anniversaries.The Prague 6 authorities voted to have it dismantled in order to prevent further controversy.

Russian president Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed a law that made damaging such memorials a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in prison. However it is not clear how Russia intends to implement this law outside its territory.

Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček has summoned the Russian ambassador for consultations.

EP’s Budgetary Committee says Czech PM has conflict of interest

A report by the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control, made following a fact finding visit by committee members to the Czech Republic, confirms that Prime Minister Andrej Babis has a conflict of interest due to his continued influence on Agrofert, the multi-billion crown empire he founded and later placed into trust funds.

The ctk news agency, which gained a copy of the report, says the committee concludes that the situation must be dealt with and the Czech Republic must return the EU funds lost as a result of this conflict of interest as soon as possible. The recommendations of the committee are not binding, but will be taken into consideration when the European Parliament debates the issue.

PM urges Czechs to stay home during Easter

In a Thursday evening address to the nation Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš urged his fellow Czech citizens not to take the coronavirus threat lightly during Easter and respect the ongoing quarantine rules as well as refrain from going outside too much. He also said contact with older family members should be avoided.

Easter could be a holiday of hope of better things to come, he said, if the people hold on to their discipline. The coming four days will be crucial in the fight against COVID-19, according to the prime minister.

His words were echoed by Interior Minister Jan Hamáček who tweeted that infection rates were low because people were staying at home and that things could take a turn for the worse if the population wavers from its discipline.

Number of coronavirus cases at 5589, number of deaths at 113

The number of people with confirmed coronavirus infection reached 5589 on Friday morning, up by 257 in the last 24 hours.

The number of people who have died is now at 113. 440 people have been hospitalized, 96 of them are in a serious condition.

Czech labs tested over 8,000 people for COVID 19 on Thursday with the overall number of tested at close to 115, 000.

The highest number of infected is in the 45 to 54 age bracket, altogether 1007, around 18 percent of the infected are seniors and only 291 are children under 14.

Care home workers to receive regular COVID-19 testing

From Friday, care homes and similar institutions in the Czech Republic will begin regular testing of their employees. Tests have to take place every two weeks and kits are to be supplied by the respective local regional administrations, the Ministry of Health ordered on Thursday.

Social care workers and members of academia have been calling for such tests for some time already as seniors and those with chronic diseases are particularly at risk from COVID-19.

Shops will gradually reopen after Easter

More shops will gradually re-open after the Easter holidays, with the process phased-out over several weeks, Deputy Prime Minister Karel Havlíček said at a press briefing on Thursday.

He said the ministries of trade and health would work out the details of the plan over the Easter break. State institutions, most of which were open just a few hours a day on two days of the week, should be fully functional by April 20th, he said.

Farmers markets will be able to re-open in the coming days, under strict hygiene conditions. Czech Railways will start selling tickets on board trains again from next Tuesday.

Weather forecast

Saturday should be clear to partly cloudy with day temperatures between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius.