Daily news summary

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Bird flu detected in Czech Republic after three-year absence

Avian influenza has appeared in the Czech Republic again after a three-year absence, the State Veterinary Administration said on Saturday. An outbreak of the H5N8 virus, which is fatal to birds, was recorded at a small poultry farm by the village of Štěpánov nad Svratkou in Vysočina, officials said.

Twelve hens at the farm were infected with bird flu and half of them died within two days. In line with standard directives, the remaining poultry at the farm has been put down and special veterinary measures have been introduced in the immediate area.

Bird flu has been recorded recently in Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Romania.

Fiala re-elected leader of Civic Democrats

Petr Fiala was re-elected chairman of the opposition Civic Democrats at a party congress in Prague on Saturday. Mr. Fiala, who has led the grouping since 2014, had no challengers for the post of party leader and received over 90 percent of the vote.

Mr. Fiala told delegates the Civic Democrats would be a strong government party at the time of their next congress in two years’ time. He also hit out at Prime Minister Andrej Babiš of ANO, comparing his National Investment Plan to Baron Munchausen.

Minister rejects PM’s call for scrapping of motorway vignette tender

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has called for the abrogation of a tender to operate a new online system of motorway vignette sales. Mr. Babiš said that the contract had been badly organised and put together. The CZK 400 million-plus contract awarded to Asseco Central Europe has been criticised as overpriced.

However, the minister of transport, Vladimír Kremlík of the PM’s ANO party, has refused to scrap the deal. He says he will discuss ways to achieve a better price with the State Fund for Transport Infrastructure.

Current paper motorway passes are set to be replaced by electronic vignettes tied to vehicle registration numbers from 2021.

Babiš respects retention of embattled Válková as human rights commissioner

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš says he respects the fact the government human rights council backed Helen Válková remaining as Czech human rights commissioner. The PM said if he had felt otherwise he would have removed Ms. Válková, who was previously justice minister for his ANO party, from the post.

She had been President Miloš Zeman’s nominee to become the next ombudsman but he withdrew her name after she became embroiled in a controversy linked to a notorious communist-era prosecutor.

Hamáček proposes major change to parliamentary election system

The Social Democrat minister of the interior, Jan Hamáček, has come out with a radical proposal to change the Czech Republic’s system of parliamentary elections. In an interview with Saturday’s edition of the newspaper Lidové noviny he said that instead of the current 14 electoral districts, corresponding to the country’s regions, there would be only one, national voting district.

Mr. Hamáček proposes a system under which each grouping would have one national candidates list, headed by the party’s leader. He said this would do away with debates over the number of votes required for election, which ranges from region to region.

The change would also have an impact inside parties that would weaken regional bosses, he said, adding that he would discuss the concept with President Miloš Zeman.

Czech Republic edging closer to flu epidemic

The Czech Republic is edging ever closer to an influenza epidemic, with a rise of almost 7 percent recorded compared to the previous week, Czech Television reported. At present 1,122 people out of every 100,000 inhabitants have been recorded as having flu symptoms by doctors – an epidemic is declared if the figure passes 1,500.

A particularly high incidence of the illness has been regarded among elementary school children, with a 24 percent increase in recorded flu cases among them this week.

Weather forecast

Sunday should be overcast in the Czech Republic with temperatures of up to 2 degrees Celsius. The following days are expected to have similar weather, though sunshine is forecast for Tuesday.