Daily news summary
Coronavirus: Czechs suspend visas for Chinese citizens, flight ban considered
Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček has announced a temporary ban on the issuance of visas to Chinese citizens due to the coronavirus outbreak. Online applications have also been halted.
So far, five Czechs in Chinese areas affected by coronavirus have requested assistance returning home.
The possible evacuation of Czechs from China is being negotiated with France and British authorities, Petříček told journalists.
Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said a temporary ban on incoming flights from China was under discussion.
SZÚ: Czechia on verge of flu epidemic, most cases among schoolchildren in Bohemia
The Czech Republic is edging ever closer to an influenza epidemic, health experts say. The number of identified cases has risen to 1,452 per 100,000 inhabitants, less than 150 cases short of the threshold to officially declare an epidemic.
According Institute of Public Health (SZÚ) data published on Wednesday, the regions of Central, North and South Bohemia are currently most affected. The greatest number of cases have been recorded among elementary school children.
Many schools have temporarily closed and some hospitals have restricted or banned patient visits in an effort to try to contain the spread of the influenza virus.
Czech Jewish community receives confirmed tombstone fragments paving Prague pedestrian zone
The head of the Jewish Community in Prague on Thursday received three cobblestones identified by city authorities as having being made of Jewish tombstones.
The fragments come from 28. října street in Prague 1, a community official told the Czech News Agency.
Last autumn, Prague City Hall signed a memorandum pledging to remove fragments of Jewish tombstones used as cobblestones in the city centre and return them to the community.
Jewish community of Prague chairman František Bányai said they will be deposited at the Old Jewish Cemetery in the Žižkov district.
Fragments paving parts of Wenceslas Square and the Prague high street Na Příkopě likelty came mainly from a derelict 19th century Jewish cemetery in Chomutov, north Bohemia.
They were used to repair the pedestrian zone ahead of a 1987 visit to Prague by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. A project called ‘Finding the Lost Face of Jewish Cemeteries’ is working with the city to identify the fragments.
Třebíč to donate medical equipment to Chinese sister city Yichang
The Moravian town of Třebíč has been asked by its partner city of Yichang, where hundreds are infected with the Wuhan coronavirus, for aid in medical materials, Czech Television reports. Třebíč and the surrounding Vysočina Region have promised to set aside CZK 100,000 for the purchases.
Town mayor Pavel Pacal says that the raised money can be used to buy some 100,000 facemasks, 150 lab coats, several kilometres of disinfected bedspreads, as well as latex gloves and shoe covers. He told Czech Television on Wednesday that these should be assembled by February 10 and will then be immediately sent to China. Apparently some local citizens have also expressed that they intend to contribute.
Třebíč has been a partner city of Yichang since 2015. Since then, students from both sides have taken part in visitation trips and some local firms have established business ties.
British Ambassador: Brexit will not affect lives of Czech citizens living in Britain
The British Ambassador to the Czech Republic Nick Archer says that Brexit will not have an immediate impact on the lives of Czechs living in Britain nor for Brits residing in the Czech Republic. However, in an interview with the Czech News Agency, the head of the local UK mission said that while the rights of Czechs wil be retained, they will be required to officially register if they reside in the country after the transition period.
Britain is set to leave the European Union on Friday, January 31, at 11pm GMT. There will be a transition period until the end of 2020, while the UK and EU negotiate additional arrangements.
Eurostat: Nearly 15 pct of Czech land organically farmed, twice EU average
The Czech Republic has among the highest percentage of organically farmed land in the European Union. EU statistical office data show 14.8 percent of Czech land is organically farmed, nearly twice the EU average of 7.5 percent.
Neighbouring Austria has the highest proportion at 24.1 percent, followed by Estonia at 20.6 percent and Sweden at 20.3 percent.
The EU country with the lowest percentage of organic farming is Malta at just 0.6 percent, followed by Romania at 2.4 percent and Bulgaria at 2.6 percent.
Czech police note over 10 pct rise in illegal stays by foreigners
Czech police identified 5,677 foreigners in the country illegally last year, 685 more than in 2018, officials announced on Thursday.
The majority had entered the country legally and then overstayed their visas. Of this group, police said most were from Ukraine (1,456), Moldova (825), Vietnam (353), Russia (234) or Uzbekistan (199).
Czech ‘Three Kings’ drive raises record CZK 130 mn for charity
The annual Three Kings Collection, organised since the year 2000 by Catholic charity Caritas, raised a record 130 million crowns this year. The traditional door-to-door charity drive starts on New Year’s Day and runs for about two weeks.
It features children dressed as Kaspar, Melichar and Balthazar – the “three wise men”, later known as kings, who according to the Bible followed the star of Bethlehem to find the new-born baby Jesus.
The volunteer “kings” go carolling from house to house, leaving their initials – ‘K + M + B’ – above the door frames as a symbol of blessing.
Charita Czech Republic is the largest non-state provider of social services in the country. Over the past two decades, the processions have in total raised more than 1.4 billion crowns in aid of the needy.
Press: Czech stray cat population has skyrocketed, posing health risk
The Czech Republic is now home to some 30,000 feral cats, most of which are concentrated in urban areas, the daily Mladá Fronta Dnes reports. The newspaper cites veterinarians as saying that represents a significant rise.
MPs have proposed introducing stricter regulations requiring cat owners to neuter their pets, since feral cats pose a health risk in that they can spread parasites and diseases to other animals, including humans.
Knife-wielding man arrested outside Czech parliament
A 31-year-old man armed with a knife was arrested outside the lower house of Parliament on Thursday.
Police said he demanded to be admitted into the building, where a session was underway, and threatened officers.
No one was injured in the incident. An investigation into his possible motive is underway.
Strong winds are due to hit the country on Friday morning and continue during the day. Gusts could reach speeds of up to 70 kilometres per hour, authorities warn. Light rain is also in the forecast. Average daytime highs should from 10 to 14 degrees Celsius.