Daily news summary

PM rejects call for dismissal of health minister

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has rejected a call from the governors of the Vysočina and Pardubice regions for the dismissal of Health Minister Adam Vojtěch for mishandling the distribution of facemasks, respirators and protective gear to the regions.

Prime Minister Babiš said this was no time for a change-of-guard at the Health Ministry. He said the lack of protective gear was a serious problem and the government was doing its utmost to secure a sufficient amount for everyone.

The prime minister also dismissed as fake news a report on social networks that the government was preparing a total ban on leaving the house which would come into effect at midnight on Sunday or when the number of coronavirus cases reaches 1,000.

The audio was posted by a young woman and the police is reportedly investigating the matter as scaremongering.

Government expecting state deficit to reach 200 billion crowns

In view of the increased costs from the coronavirus pandemic the government is expecting a budget deficit of up to 200 billion crowns this year, Prime Minister Andrej Babis told Czech Television on Friday.

The government is counting on a steep drop in projected revenues and a significant increase in expenditures. It is currently preparing an aid package for small and mid-sized companies and will need to inject billions into the economy during and after the crisis.

It is now paying nursing care to millions of people who are at home with their children due to the closure of schools.

Billions of crowns are being spent on protective and medical equipment to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

More protective gear to arrive on Saturday

More respirators and face masks are expected to arrive from China in the course of Saturday.

A China Eastern plane carrying seven million facemasks is expected to arrive at Václav Havel Airport at around midday and a heavy freight plane loaned from Ukraine should arrive at Pardubice airport this evening with 100 tons of masks, respirators and coronavirus tests.

The deliveries have cost the Interior Ministry 1.5 billion crowns so far.

The projection is that with every new week that the epidemic lasts the country will spend another billion crowns on medical equipment.

Stricter measures in place for cross-border workers

Stricter measures are in place for cross-border workers as of midnight Friday.

Cross-border workers employed within a 100-km distance in Austria or Germany will have to have a certificate from their employer, freshly stamped every day to confirm they have been to work. The document will be checked by police at border crossings.

The measure was introduced because some people abused the exemption for cross border workers to travel out of the country and back.

The local authorities in western and southern Bohemia were so concerned about the situation they called on the government to scrap the exemption.

Coronavirus cases at 995

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Czech Republic reached 995 on Saturday, with 106 new cases registered that day.

Friday saw 124 new cases, the biggest increase -205 cases – was registered on Thursday.

Seven patients are in “very serious to critical condition”, but no deaths have been reported so far.

Over 13,700 tests have been conducted to date. Five people have fully recovered from COVID-19.

Bank card data show many quarantined Czechs behaving irresponsibly

Bank card data collected last week show that a large number of Czechs quarantined after returning from Italy or some other high-risk destination do not respect the restriction.

The data collected by the initiative COVID19CZ showed that 46 percent of Czechs back from holidaying in a high risk destinations violated their quarantine at least on one occasion, using their card to pay in restaurants or shops, according to Petra Bednaříková from DataSentics.

According to the news site Seznam.cz, data from bank cards may be used to map quarantined people’s movements, similarly as is happening with mobile phones.

Majority of Czechs happy with government’s handling of coronavirus crisis

Two thirds of Czechs consider the measures taken by the government to fight the coronavirus epidemic as “adequate“ with regard to the threat posed.

In a poll conducted by the agency Kantar CZ for Czech public television 80 percent of respondents said they approved of the measures introduced. The majority of people said the restrictions were „tolerable“.A third of respondents said the measures should have been even tougher.

As regards the government’s performance during this crisis, 11 percent rated it as “excellent”, 30 percent as “very good” and 39 percent as “good”.

Weather forecast

Sunday should be partly cloudy to overcast with rain or snow showers and day temperatures between 0 and 4 degrees Celsius.