Daily news summary

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Czech government approves cancelation of direct flights with China starting from Sunday

To prevent the spread of the coronavirus epidemic the Czech government has approved the cancellation of direct flights to and from China for an indefinite period. The new measure will come into effect on Sunday, February 9, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš told Czech Television.

The start date is adjusted so that around 100 Czech citizens, who are in China and want to return home, have the opportunity, Mr Babiš said. If some Czechs do remain stranded in China, the state is ready to send a government plane.

Prague Airport currently runs 12 direct flights a week with China, which transported 188,000 passengers in 2019.

Coronavirus: Czech Republic to send CZK 10 million in financial aid to China

The Czech Republic will contribute CZK 10 million to help tackle the coronavirus epidemic currently afflicting China, Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček (Social Democrats) announced on Monday. The aid is to be distributed through international organizations in consultation with the World Health Organization.

A financial contribution was proposed by Mr Petříček during the weekend after Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said that the Czech Republic is unable to send medical equipment such as facemasks, because they are needed in case of an emergency.

The Czech ministries of foreign affairs and health are also in discussions regarding the possible lease of ambulances, which are needed in China to transport infected patients into quarantine zones. Furthermore, government departments are negotiating the possible involvement of Czech experts, such as epidemiologists.

Czech rock guitar legend Ivan Král dies, aged 71

Ivan Král, a rock guitarist an award-winning producer who immigrated to the United States in 1966, died on Sunday at the age of 71.

During his storied career, he worked with the likes of Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, David Bowie and the band Blondie.

Král was perhaps best known for his work with Smith, with whom he co-wrote song “Dancing Barefoot,” listed among Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Dancing Barefoot has been covered some 70 times by artists such as U2, Pearl Jam and Johnny Depp.

Hundreds pay last respects at coffin of Senate Speaker Jaroslav Kubera as country officially mourns his death

Senate Speaker Jaroslav Kubera, who died unexpectedly of heart failure at the age of 72 two weeks ago, is being remembered through an official state mourning this Monday. Hundreds of people including leading state representatives such as the prime minister have paid their last respects at the Senate speaker’s coffin, which is being displayed in the theatre of his hometown of Teplice. At noon, sirens across the country rang out in his memory. In Prague a special memorial service will be held in the Rudolfinum building on Monday afternoon.

Jaroslav Kubera was the mayor of the West Bohemian town of Teplice for over twenty years. In 2000 he became a senator and was elected speaker of the upper-house in 2018. Shortly after his death, President Miloš Zeman announced that Kubera will be awarded the Order of the White Lion in memoriam.

Seznam: Cancelled CZK 400 million electronic vignette system included surveillance data gathering

The tender on an online system of motorway vignette sales, cancelled by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš after IT specialists organised a hackathon where they designed a similar system free of charge, included a sophisticated surveillance system, online news site Seznam Zprávy reported on Monday. Seznam claims that the public data gathering system was agreed to by the Ministry of Transport in cooperation with the Czech secret services and police.

Former Transport Ministrer Vladimír Kremlík, who was sacked because of the overpriced tender, told Seznam that the system was supposed to be capable of photographing license plates and “logically, more than that”. He also admitted that a part of the proposed system was kept under secrecy.

The head of the Czech counterintelligence service refused to comment on the story, but last week the organisation’s spokesman Ladislav Šticha said that intelligence services’ access to data on vehicles and their owners was expected from the beginning and is supported by legislation. However, only in so far as accessing the license plates and vignettes registers.

Police to charge three men of inciting hatred after New Zealand terror attack

The Czech police have finished their investigation of three men who are suspected of inciting hatred following last year’s Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand and it looks like the trio are headed for a court case. State Prosecutor Martin Bílý told Czech Television on Monday that he has received the police investigation file, which proposes charges be pressed. The three individuals, who are accused of supporting the attack on social media and in other circles, could face a jail sentence of between 5 to 15 years if found guilty.

Visitors of two mosques in the New Zealand capital of Christchurch were attacked by a gunman last march. The mass shooting claimed 51 lives in total and was described as “one of New Zealand's darkest days” by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Tennis: Plíšková and Kvitová fall in WTA rankings following Australian Open

Karolina Plíšková is no longer the second best tennis player in the world according to WTA Tour rankings. Following her early exit in the third round of the Australian Open, she fell to third place behind Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep. Meanwhile, Petra Kvitová, who lost to Ms Barty in the quarterfinals of the tournament, has dropped to eleventh place. In the doubles category, Barbora Strýcová fell from first to second place behind Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei, with whom she won the Wimbledon Grand Slam last year.

The highest ranking Czech in the men’s singles category is Jiří Veselý, who is outside the top 100.

Weather: Flood warning and strong winds

Temperatures are set to fall from 9 to around 5 degrees Celsius in the Czech Republic on Tuesday. Aside from rainfall across much of the country and snowing in the mountainous regions, strong winds as fast as 65 kilometres per hour may occur in parts of Southern Bohemia and Moravia. Furthermore, heavy rain may cause floods in the Sušice area around Plzeň.