Daily news summary

Epidemiological Commission discusses crisis measures for coronavirus

The Central Epidemiological Commission met on Thursday to discuss measures which would be implemented in the event of the spread of the coronavirus to the Czech Republic. At a press briefing following the meeting Health Minister Adam Votěch warned against mass panic and food hoarding. He said doctors had been given instructions how to deal with suspected cases of coronavirus infection and that facemasks would be available within a fortnight.

More than 135 people have so far been tested for the COVID-19 virus with all results negative. However a number of Czechs who have returned from high risk areas in northern Italy are in quarantine and preventive measures are in force at the country’s international airports.

With the spread of the virus to more European countries Czechs have been buying up face-masks and have started hoarding food in the event of a crisis. Some companies have ordered employees who have recently been to Italy or Asia to work from home for a fortnight.

US senator asks Trump administration to review planned CME sale to PPF Group

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio has asked the Trump administration to review the national security implications of AT&T’s Inc’s planned sale of its majority stake in Central European Media Group Enterprises (CME) to the Czech-owned conglomerate PPF Group.

Rubio, a Republican who chairs the l Congressional-Executive Commission on China, wrote that the Czech company has a record of acting as “China’s proxies inside the Czech Republic” and added that PPF-owned telecommunications firms are working with Huawei Technologies Co to develop 5G networks.

The CME Group operates in the Czech Republic as well as Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia, reaching around 97 million people and owns some of most-watched news programming in Central and Eastern Europe, Rubio said in the letter.

PPF said in a statement it appeared Rubio was relying on “false information” from a Czech politician and disputed his characterization of CME’s market.

The company said it had only inherited Huawei’s technology as part of its acquisition of the Norwegian telecom operator Telenor last year.

Culture minister to shut down “megalomaniac” online heritage project Czechiana

The CZK 449 million project known as Czechiana, which planned to create a publicly accessible database of Czech cultural heritage online, is “megalomaniac” and will be cancelled, Culture Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said on Thursday.

He went on to say that the project had been “strangely managed” and that it would have to be audited.

Similar to the EU’s Europeana website, the Czechiana project aimed to create a sort of online super museum, where images, as well as audio and video files from the country’s leading cultural institutions would be uploaded. The whole project was supposed to be finished in October this year

Václav Havel posthumously honoured as resistance fighter by Defence Ministry

Former Czechoslovak and Czech president Václav Havel has been posthumously recognised as a member of the so-called “Third Resistence“ (Třetí odboj) by the Ministry of Defence, which issued a corresponding certificate on Wednesday. The document states that Havel fought against Communist power all his life regardless of his own freedom.

Havel was an active campaigner for human rights in Communist Czechoslovakia since the 1960s and spent several years in prison due to his actions and beliefs.

The Third Resistance is a term used for those who resisted Communist rule especially during the early years after the party’s takeover of the state in 1948. However, it continued until 1989.

Respilon says facemasks against coronavirus to be available soon

The company Respilon from Brno which recently announced it had developed special facemasks which would provide protection against the coronavirus says it will be able to market them within a few weeks.

The company is producing the masks, made of nanofiber and copper oxide which are capable of effectively eliminating the virus, in Israel in cooperation with its Israeli partners. Production in Brno should start in May.

Respilon cooperated with three Chinese companies and has around 750,000 masks in China but cannot get to its supplies in view of the present situation in the country.

Coronavirus scare cuts number of flights at Václav Havel Airport

Prague’s Václav Havel International Airport says the coronavirus scare has reduced the number of outgoing and incoming flights by around 25 a day. A further decline is expected in the coming weeks.

All direct flights to and from China were suspended at the beginning of February and as of Thursday February 27th Czech Airlines suspended all direct flights to South Korea, which has the second largest number of coronavirus infections after China.

The airport has introduced monitoring of passengers arriving from other destinations where the coronavirus has been confirmed and passengers from northern Italy go via a special gate attended by medics.

Weather forecast

Friday should be partly cloudy to overcast with snow or sleet showers and day temperatures between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius.