Daily news summary

US ambassador to Prague warns lawmakers against introducing digital tax

The US ambassador to Prague, Stephen King, has warned Czech deputies against introducing a government-proposed digital tax of seven percent, which would primarily hurt large US companies.

In a letter to the lower house, cited by the daily Hospodarske noviny, Mr. King says a 7 percent tax is discriminatory and warns that the US could effect retaliatory measures. He says it would be wiser to wait for broader regulation agreed on by the OECD.

Czech exporters also recently urged Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to reconsider the government’s proposal to introduce a digital tax. They said they feared damage to Czech-American business relations and possible retaliatory measures from the US administration.

The proposed digital tax of seven percent would apply to Internet companies in the Czech Republic with a global turnover of over 750 million euros (about 19 billion crowns), and domestic sales of at least 100 million crowns per year for taxable services.

It would hit companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. The tax, which should come into effect later this year, is expected to bring about five billion crowns a year to state coffers.

CVVM: Czechs increasingly critical of President Zeman

President Miloš Zeman is trusted by 51 percent of Czechs, but a January poll conducted by CVVM indicates that many Czechs are increasingly critical of his behaviour.

While 59 percent of respondents said they appreciated the president’s contact with the public and his awareness of people’s problems, only 41 percent said the president conducted himself with the dignity that the post requires.

56 percent of respondents said he debased the Office of the President with his behaviour. 44 percent of respondents said they are happy with the way he represents the Czech Republic abroad, 51 percent were not.

Government votes to raise poverty benefits

The government has voted to raise poverty benefits referred to as the living minimum and the existential minimum as of April 2020. The living minimum is to be raised to 3,860 crowns per month from 3,410 while the existential minimum will be raised to 2,490 crowns from 2,200 crowns per month.

The Social Democratic Party proposed the increase in view of the fact both minimums have been at the same level for eight years while inflation has increased by 13 percent during that time.

“We need to respond to growing living expenses. It is one of the last debts this government is paying, ” Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček told journalists after the government session.

Czech Republic to send more humanitarian aid to China

The Czech Republic is to send an army plane with over 7 tons of humanitarian aid to China to help tackle the coronavirus epidemic in the country, Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček told journalists on Monday. According to the Foreign Ministry, which is coordinating the effort, the aid should be sent at the end of the month.

It will be the second big aid consignment from this country. On Monday the Czech Republic sent 4.5 tonnes of medical equipment,including facemasks, respirators, latex gloves, disinfectants and protective medical uniforms to Vienna where it will be put on a plane to China together with aid from other EU member states.

Five Czechs out of Wuhan released from quarantine

The five Czechs who returned from Wuhan city, which is at the centre of the coronavirus epidemic in China, a fortnight ago and were held in quarantine at Prague’s Bulovka hospital, were released on Monday.

All their tests have come out negative and none are showing any signs of illness, according to the head of the department for infectious illnesses Hana Roháčová.

Seventy-seven people have been tested for coronavirus in the Czech Republic to date and all the tests have been negative.

Second bird flu outbreak recorded in Pardubice district

A second outbreak of avian flu in two months has been detected in the Czech Republic. The disease was discovered on a commercial poultry farm in the Pardubice district. The veterinary authority has ordered 140 000 birds to be put down.

The first Czech outbreak of the H5N8 virus, which is fatal to birds, was discovered at a small poultry farm in Moravia in January. Previously bird flu had not been seen in this country for three years.

Weather forecast

Tuesday should be partly cloudy with scattered showers and a fresh wind and day temperatures between 5 and 9 degrees Celsius.