Junior coalition parties step up pressure on defence minister over suspect EU contract
The two junior parties in the Czech government coalition have stepped up the pressure on Minister of Defence Alexandr Vondra to explain an inflated contract when he was previously in government. The contract relates to audiovisual aids contracted for the Czech EU presidency in 2009 which Mr. Vondra was largely responsible for as deputy prime minister for European Affairs. Mr. Vondra has blamed a junior official for the contract placed without the required tender and which according to some estimates cost 10 times what it should have. Representatives of the TOP 09 party and Public Affairs called for the police to be brought in to investigate on Tuesday. Mr. Vondra has said he will step down if he is found responsible for any wrongdoing.
Covid-19 restrictions impacting how Czechs travel10/31/2020
The coronavirus situation is impacting how Czechs travel, Czech Television reported. The country's public transport system has seen a major fall-off in passenger numbers, with figures currently at around 30 percent of the norm. In spring, during the first wave of the virus, public transport used by only around one-tenth of the usual number of people, Czech TV said.
While the share of Czechs getting about by car has risen, there has been a fall of around 15 percent in the number of vehicles on Czech motorways since the current Covid-19 restrictions were introduced. This is a smaller decline than seen in the spring.
It should be overcast in the Czech Republic on Sunday, with an average high temperature of 13 degrees Celsius. The start of next week is expected to see highs of 17 degrees Celsius but from Wednesday they will be down to 9 degrees Celsius.
November weather expected to be relatively mild10/31/2020
This November should be slightly warmer than usual for the time of year, according to a regular four-week forecast issued by the Czech Hydrometeorolgical Institute.
Average daytime highs will hover around 11 degrees Celsius next week. Temperatures should then drop through the month, with snow possible in low-lying areas by the end of November, the meteorologists said.
All Soul’s Day exemption for sales of candles and wreaths10/31/2020
Because of All Soul’s Day (Dušičky in Czech), before which many Czechs visit and tend family graves, an exemption is being made this weekend to restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.
While all shops must close on Sunday, stands near cemeteries selling candles and wreaths will be allowed to operate until 8 pm after the government approved the exception on Friday.
Covid-19 deaths in Czech Republic pass 3,000 mark10/31/2020
The number of deaths with Covid-19 in the Czech Republic now exceeds 3,000, reaching 3,078. The great majority of those deaths have occurred in October and there were over 170 on Thursday alone.
Some 13,605 new cases of the virus were registered on Friday. That was around 1,650 fewer than the previous Friday, though the total number of active cases now stands at over 183,000.
The number hospitalised with the coronavirus now stands at 7,281, with over 1,000 in intensive care.
Blatný admits once signing petition calling for Babiš’s resignation10/31/2020
The new Czech minister of health, Jan Blatný, has admitted that he did in the past sign a petition calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. Mr. Blatný had previously evaded questions on the matter, telling the newspaper Právo that it was possible somebody else had signed under his name.
The new minister told journalists on Friday evening that he had been selected for the post because of his professional expertise.
For his part Mr. Babiš said the most important thing was handling the current public health crisis, regardless of party membership of political views.
Smart Quarantine project to cost CZK 400 million next year10/30/2020
The operation of the national Smart Quarantine programme focused on Covid-19 will cost around CZK 400 million next year, the Czech News Agency reported on Friday.
The programme will be operated by the Ministry of Health in cooperation with the National Agency for Communication and Information Technologies.
The programme, which was launched in the spring, assists regional hygiene stations in tracing potentially infected people by mapping the contacts of positively tested individuals for COVID-19 with the use of modern information technologies.
Lower house votes to extend state of emergency until November 2010/30/2020
The lower house of Parliament has voted to extend the state of emergency in the Czech Republic until November 20. The present state of emergency was announced in the country on October 5 and is in place until November 3rd.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said the extension was necessary to keep in place the emergency measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, including restriction of free movement and closure of non-essential businesses and services.
The government’s original proposal for an extension until December 3 did not win approval.
Deputies approve CZK 5,000 bonus for pensioners10/30/2020
The lower house of Parliament on Friday approved a proposal to give pensioners a one-off bonus of CZK 5,000, in view of higher living costs and additional expenses linked to the coronavirus crisis.
The sum is to be added to pensions in December. The bonus should cost the state CZK 15 billion altogether.
The proposal still has to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president.
Mandatory testing of clients in social facilities to start on Wednesday10/30/2020
A mandatory testing of clients in senior homes and other social facilities in the Czech Republic will probably begin next Wednesday, the head of the Czech Association of Social Services, Jiří Horecký, told the Czech News Agency on Friday. The mandatory testing in these institutions was approved by the government on Tuesday.
The first wave of testing will use antigenic COVID-19 tests, which are less reliable, but are able to indicate the level of spread faster than normal PCR testing. A second, more reliable wave of tests will follow.
On Thursday, over 3,000 clients and nearly 2,200 employees of social facilities tested positive for Covid-19.